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Standing tall in a pandemic

No country appears free from the icy touch of the covid-19 pandemic. At its peak, countries all over the world felt various degrees of its negative impacts. It has killed, amplified gender inequalities globally and contributed to reduction in global trade. In Nigeria, the most relatable impact would be the latest unemployment rate, which increased to 33.3 percent in Q4 2020 from 27.1 percent in Q2 2020 according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Covid-19 is undoubtedly an exhibition of ‘ugliness’, but there are business opportunities it has thrown up, especially in the area of prevention. Some Nigerians leveraged on business opportunities likes face masks, sanitizer production and sales, just as more logistics companies leveraged on delivery services to meet demand, which surged during the lockdown.

This photo story focuses on three businesses that leveraged on Covid-19 pandemic that kept many Nigerians away from work during the lockdown.

Facemask production

Olusola Babatunde is the founder OSC Mask Production Company in Lagos. The company was producing school uniforms and outsourced clothing lines before the onset of the pandemic. The idea to go into masks production began when the world started locking down, making importation difficult in attempts to curb the spread of COVID-19. The shortage of medical masks (mostly recommended) drove prices up. Unaffordable and scarce, it soon forced world leaders to recommend local production using clothes. This became the opportunity she needed to delve into mass production.

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OSC became one of the few first licensees to get approval to mass-produce in Nigeria after series of testing its samples. The production of masks led to the production of other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including medical scrubs, which passed all the tests by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON).

Olusola Babatunde with workers at the nose masks factory. “It’s important to be very innovative and creative and to work fast. I think that was one of the advantages we had,” she said.


A cloth mask under production (sewing). The opportunity led to the production of other products such as medical scrubs, isolation gowns, medical gowns, lab coats — things normally imported.

Facemask hawking

Covid-19 response in terms of prevention created a value-chain in its distribution channel.

Mask-hawking has become a common business since the virus began spreading. Many Nigerians, especially low-income earners and players in the informal small business sector, delved into the business to stay buoyant during the lockdowns and till date.

L- James (surname withheld) and his colleague brandish their wares of nose masks around Landmark Event Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos. He earns twice what he got from his former job as a security guard within a week. “On the average, we make N5,000 (13 USD) daily on weekdays, and roughly around N12,000 (31 USD) during weekends. But profit could jump to as high as N20,000 (51 USD) during festive seasons as more people troop into Landmark for leisure and entertainment. I’ve really benefited a lot. I can even eat four to five times a day now,” said James.



A hawker negotiates with a potential customer. “We source our products at CMS area of Lagos State. Where we sell, the least price is N200. While three pieces are sold for N500, a pack of five sells for N1000. If you buy two packs for N2000, you have a profit of N8,000 per pack. So, if you’re able to sell two to three packs a day, you will be smiling home,” a hawker explains.


A mask-hawker sits on a sack of sand, tired from running after clients in vehicles seeking entrance at Landmark Event Centre.

Homemade sanitizers & liquid soap

Briggs Sotonye, an ex-banker, started producing sanitizers way back in 2014 on a low key because people were not really interested in it. However, the pandemic offered an opportunity for her to produce more with the increase in demand for the product.

Briggs mixes raw materials for the production a 50-litre quantity of liquid soap in a 180-litre container. “I supply about 2,000 litres in of soap in a month and I hope to increase it 50 litres in a month. Overall, the business is profitable, though with little margins mainly because I am is yet to increased my prices, despite maintaining a high level of quality in her products,” she explains.
Briggs fills a branded container with liquid sanitiser she had just produced. “This sanitiser can also be used to disinfect surfaces,” she said. “you can spray it on someone too.”


Briggs pours finished liquid soap in a 4.5-litre keg. “In this pandemic, I supply to schools that practice hand-washing with my soap. It is a business that will outlive me. I’m building a dynasty. It’s not just about me, but I’m building a business that will empower lives, equip young people and train them,” she said.

Logistics supplying

Marcu Aniah, a former security guard, has been working with a logistics company as a dispatch rider in Lagos for nearly three years.“The job has been helping to pay my bills especially during the peak of the pandemic. I prefer it to my previous job because it comes with a lot of freedom. Once it’s six o’clock you’re done, though it depends on the time you’re asked to close and when it’s time, you return the bike and go home and continue the next day,” Aniah said.


Aniah receiving a payment from a client and printing out a receipt for the transaction using a POS device.“Although the lockdown affected business mainly because businesses were closed, food delivery was on high demand as dispatch riders were used to pick up food around Lagos,” he said.


Aniah riding off to make another delivery in Lagos.“The job is profitable and has kept me in this covid time, but it comes with a lot of risks as dispatch riders could get involved in an accident if you are not careful enough. Riders need to be well-dressed and kitted to avoid serious injuries in case of accidents. They should properly fix all bike issues before resuming work because life is more important,” he suggested.

This report was facilitated by the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under its Free to share project.

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