• Friday, July 19, 2024
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BusinessDay

Survival in spite of government

Nigeria’s economic growth still far from reducing poverty

Today, many Nigerians both educated and illiterates are setting up small businesses to put food on their tables and make ends meet. This was due to the high level of unemployment in the country, especially in the formal sector of the economy, where workers are being laid off every day to cut cost, and the retained ones even get salary cut.

BDSUNDAY understands that about 20.9 million Nigerians are currently unemployed while 18.2 million are underemployed. This brings the total of unemployed and underemployed Nigerians to 39.1 million out of a total labour force of 90.4 million.

As a result, many people are now seeking an alternative means of surviving in the midst of joblessness. This was why Nigeria has several citizens earning their living from the informal sector of the economy. Most of them borrow or even save up small capital that enables them to start without having to go to the bank.

They do businesses ranging from photography, catering, hairdressing, motorcycle services, tailoring, fashion designing, carpentry, painting, buying and selling, among others.

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For instance, BDSUNDAY spoke with a 46-year old Mojisola Abiodun, a widow with four children. She lives in Ajegunle area of Lagos State with her children and she does her petty trading in Apapa, the city that not only houses the two major seaports in Nigeria (Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports) but is also notorious for its persistent traffic congestion.

Abiodun has been in the business of buying and selling small household items especially provisions for over 10 years and it is from the same business that she has been taking care of her home front.

“I have been managing my small business since my husband died 10 years ago. When he died in 2009, and left me with our four children to care for, there was nobody to help us at that time. So, I started by borrowing small money from people to start small buying and selling business. Then, there was no money to rent a shop. So, I had to hawk until I was able to save little money to rent a small space in Apapa where I am today.

“Today, my children have been going to school, though, it has not been easy for me. Just recently, I had to stop one of my sons from going to school because there was no money to pay for the school fees of four of them at the same time. As you see me, I owe several people because I had to borrow money from them to stock up my shop and pay most of them back in a flexible way with little interest on it,” she said.

“The truth of the matter is that God has been helping me because today I am able to pay my house rent, feed my children, pay their school fees and also provide all our needs from the little money that I generate from this business without depending on anybody or even government,” she further said.

By the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimation, Nigeria’s informal sector stands at about 60 percent of the entire Nigerian economy, representing about $240 billion in revenue.

When BDSUNDAY cut up with another young man in his late 30s, named Suraji Alao, a mechanic that repairs power generating set, he shared his experience.

“I am a Yoruba Muslim, who hails from Osun State. My father married three wives. We are 15 children. Where I come from, we are predominantly farmers and my parents were not different. At my growing up stage, my father did not have enough money to send all of us to school and I was the first from my mother but the eighth child in the family.

“So, after my secondary education, I had to drop out because my father could not afford the tuition fee for my tertiary education. Then, I relocated to Lagos with one of my elder brothers, who was a generator mechanic. This was how I learnt to repair generators.

“Today, I am married with three children and two of them are in the nursery school. But, when I got married in 2013, the money I was making from generator repairs was no longer sufficient to take care of my wife and children, pay house rent, because one could stay in the shop for whole day without getting any repair job to do.

“So, I decided to save some money to buy a motorcycle to enable me start an Okada business. With the bike, any day I don’t have repair job, I will ride my okada in the morning and break in the afternoon, to return in the evening.

“For instance, after paying all the daily levies as an okada rider, I can go home with N3,000 ($8.3) or more on a day when business is good. But on a day when business is slow, I may go home with just N1,500 ($4.2). Though, the money is small but my family and I will be able to have decent meals for at least two times that very day.

“Meanwhile, as a mechanic, I charge my customers about N1,500 ($4.5) to repair one generator and that was just my service charge because if there is any parts to replace, the person will give me money to buy new parts. So, in one day I can make N3,000 or more if I have two or more generators to repair. On that same day, I can still do my okada riding later in the evening to earn extra money for the family upkeep.

“I started running two businesses because the economic situation in Nigeria was getting tougher for average homes. This was because family needs increases by the day and when you add that of the extended family members, you will agree with me that there was every need to keep hustling to make ends meet,” Alao added.

In her own case, another woman in her late 60s, who gave her named as Nneka Udochukwu, is a widow from one of the Eastern states in Nigeria. She told BDSUNDAY her experience in running her small businesses.

Udochukwu is into the business of making white hard pap popularly known as agidi and she supplies her products to restaurants, especially beer parlors, that uses the agidi to serve pepper soup to their customers.

She said that those days when her husband was still alive, that she was making enough money from the business even more than my husband, who at that time was an okada rider. “With the resources from my business, I was able to send two of my children to tertiary institutions.

“Today, things are no longer the same as my agidi business hardly put food on our table. This was why I also started the business of planting seasonal vegetables such as green leaves and pumpkin vegetable.

“Most times, when I wake up in the morning, I will go to my small farm to irrigate the vegetables and if it was the day I will pluck the vegetables, I will do that very early in the morning and supply them to my customers before going to prepare agidi for my restaurant customers,” she said.

According to her, “It was not every day that I harvest the vegetables but on the day I will harvest, and also make agidi, I will go home with nothing less than N2,000 ($5.6) or even more. But on the day that it will be only agidi, I make between N1,000 ($2.8) to N1,200 ($3.3). The only thing I know is that with both businesses, my family and I will be able to eat for at least, once in a day.

AMAKA ANAGOR-EWUZIE