In line with the Federal Government’s plan to diversify the Nigerian economy beyond crude oil, attention has been turned to micro-businesses in the informal sector. Rather than focus solely on the formal sector, the Muhammadu Buhari administration is working with an overlooked, yet critical, contributor to the Nigerian economy. The informal sector remains vital to reducing unemployment; it also bridges several gaps between the formal sector and the masses.
There are different data on the number of players and economic contributions of the informal sector to the Nigerian economy. However, one thing remains clear: there are millions of players in this sector. The informal sector not only provides jobs, and puts food on many families’ tables, it also adds its own quota to the economic well-being of the nation. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the informal economy in Nigeria is estimated to account for 57.9% of Nigeria’s rebased GDP. However, one recurring challenge for the sector in Nigeria remains lack of access to capital. Consequently, many rely solely on supplier credit which usually has negative implications for their businesses: reduced profits and an inability to expand their businesses.
Many members of the informal sector are largely unbanked for several reasons. They do not have the luxury of time, the collateral needed to access loans nor the turn-over to repay the high interests on bank loans. Thus, money exchanges hands for products/services. It then moves between the market to either buy more products, pay for the goods bought on credit or to meet personal needs. While different parts of the Nigerian economy are being digitised, the informal economy remains largely cash-based. This makes it complicated to track transactions, monitor profits and trace growth of the businesses.
In order to maximise the benefits of the sector, the sector needs to be better understood and even more organised. More than this, the sector needs to be mapped in a way that better connects it with the formal sector and makes it more sustainable for players to be recipients of credit. In response to these, in 2016, the FG provided a lifeline through the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) which targets petty traders and artisans who make up a large chunk of the informal sector. With GEEP, the Federal Government is taking steps to gain a better understanding of the activities in this sector. Over 4,000 TraderMoni enumerators across the country meet traders at their trading posts, educate them about the scheme and enumerate them by taking their details.
TraderMoni emphasises the Federal Government’s decision to diversify the economy through a deliberate people-driven, technology-focused approach. So far, over 1.5 million Nigerians have benefitted across the country. By targeting these people, the FG enhances financial inclusion which will give the beneficiaries an opportunity to not only have a knowledge of how their businesses are expanding but also contribute their quota to the growth of the economy. Through these investments, the FG also charts another path to digitise and harness the potentials of the informal sector in a way that it ultimately contributes to weaning the national economy of crude oil.
By choosing to invest in Nigerians at the bottom of the pyramid, this administration, through the GEEP products, is charting a new course for Nigeria: one where every Nigerian regardless of educational qualification, political class or economic status is empowered to pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations.
Behind GEEP are faces of real change, and stories of hope: “I have been selling in this market for over twenty years, this is the first time a government will do something like this. There are several people who have come and made promises but we did not see the money,” – Bunmi Olujobi, a meat seller, a TraderMoni beneficiary.
Ifeoma Obi; foodstuffs trader at the Dutse Ultramodern Market, Jigawa
“I will add the loan to my capital, buy more stock fish and maggi so that I can expand my business…”.
Grace Daniels, Food-stuff seller in Oyo
“With this ten thousand naira, I will add some extra gallons of palm oil to my business. Even small extras sacks of yam flour,”
Nasiru Hassan, a suya seller and beneficiary in Maiduguri.
“I go buy better net for my business…I go open account make I fit collect another one after I don pay this one”