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Nigeria: Strengthening Artisans, Kiosk, Micro and Nano Businesses in the Informal Economy

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Timi Olubiyi Informal economy

By Timi Olubiyi, PhD

The expression “informal economy” encompasses a huge diversity of situations and phenomena in the country.

However, working in the informal economy is often characterised by small or undefined workplaces, unsafe and unhealthy working conditions, unregulated, low levels of skills and productivity, low or irregular incomes, long working hours, and lack of access to information, markets, finance, training, and technology.

The activities that occur outside the legal framework are considered informal. The informal economy can be seen either as the nature of the enterprise operation or the nature of the employment relationship that exists in the business.

That said, millions of Nigerians especially those that reside in the economic hub of the country, Lagos State –live, work, trade and produce in this informal economy and also engage the vulnerable citizens.

From context observation, the informal sector in Nigeria is bigger than the formal sector in terms of employment and output year on year. In some cases, the informal economy is referred to as a shadow economy if associated with illegality and illicit activities such as internet scams, black markets, crime, production, and smuggling of illegal drugs, and money laundering, or as the case may be.

For the informal economy, one thing is sure, informality provides critical economic opportunities for the poor and the vulnerable.

In Lagos State alone, the informal economy is said to employ about 5.5 million people – about three-quarters of the state’s 7.5 million labour force recently, and in the country as a whole with nearly 200 million people, over 80 per cent of the population work in the informal sector according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

There is no doubt that the majority of enterprises and entrepreneurs around are in this informal sector considering the labour intensity. Though, unlike the formal economy, activities in the informal economy are not included in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.

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Therefore, it can be said that the GDP number computation is a severe underestimation of the country’s GDP considering the exclusion of the large informal economy.

Meanwhile, the informal economy in the country continues to expand in many contexts and may even be the largest in Africa by estimation considering the population and economy.

Agreeably, across the country, it is easy to notice street traders, artisans, vendors, nano and micro-businesses, commercial buses, tricycles, and motorbikes (Okada riders) domestic workers, market traders among others all operating informally, broadly speaking you can easily see informality all around the country.

The informal economy has witnessed a massive expansion in the last two decades in Nigeria and the root causes of these include elements relating to the economic context in the country, decreasing levels of market regulation, weak policy frameworks, and socio-demographic drivers such as population growth, urbanization, rise in unemployment, widening inequality between the rich and poor, low-level education, including poverty. The key driver of the informal economy, however, is that such businesses in the sector do not need registration with any relevant government agencies.

When workers cannot find opportunities in traditional wage employment, the need for subsistence demands they find work somewhere else. Most times the alternative is usually in the informal sector of the economy where there is no minimum wage and workers are unlikely to pay taxes, have no holiday rights or labour rights, and often work in dangerous conditions.

Most times, it is usually a struggle for them to access microcredit, they lack income security and stable employer-employee relationships. In the midst of all these, it only offers the most vulnerable and often uneducated Nigerians a foothold for survival. This expanded and large informal economy is perceived by the majority of the elite to be at the bottom rung of the economic system when in truth, they are the major driver of the economic system because they are too large, important, and relevant to be ignored.

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For instance, it is unclear if the country has reliable data on the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) activities in the country or the volume of transactions in Ladipo auto spare part market in Oshodi Lagos State and the popular computer village in Ikeja Lagos State, Balogun Market, and Alaba International Market to mention a few. These are visible informal business locations set-up within the country with multi-million daily business turnover, yet the operators are unrecognized or uncaptured by policymakers or relevant authorities.

This part of the economy is particularly large in Nigeria, with the IMF estimating it to constitute about 60 per cent of the entire Nigerian economy, yet not subject to full government regulations.

Meanwhile, working in the sector is attractive due to the ease attached to operations as a result of the absence of a bureaucratic regulatory framework, and little or no formal educational requirements.

There are multiple perspectives on the informal economy, some associate it with lost revenue, unfair competition, low productivity, human rights abuses, and environmental degradation; while others associate it with entrepreneurship, flexibility, and resilience.

Overall, the informal economy is enduring; but suitable regulations and policies are required to improve the sector and introduce formalization. The decision for these businesses to formalize depends on the benefits that are derived from formalization over the risks of remaining in the informal economy. If the former outweighs the latter, only then does formalization seem like a viable option to the operators.

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Clearly, there is a need for the government to embark on a series of measures, interventions, and support to encourage the formalization of these businesses to sustain economic growth and development.

As mentioned earlier, this informal sector is too large and important to be ignored, concerted effort to identify and protect them is crucial for sustainability and economic development.

In recent times, the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has negatively impacted these informal businesses greatly. Because they rely on daily income and most of them can rarely “work from home”, so the harsh reality is that most of these businesses need government support. Therefore that presents a good avenue for the government to have a mass registration and identification and equally reach out to them through social interventions and palliative.

Besides, the IMF is urging national statistical agencies to gather information on the informal economy to help in policy formulations and for gathering reliable data for economic planning. In this context, careful attention must be paid to the informal economy and policy solutions need to be in place to encourage and induce their formalization. These suggestions, if efficiently considered might, in turn, reduce the size of the informal economy in the country. Good luck!

How may you obtain advice or further information on the article?

Dr Timi Olubiyi is an Entrepreneurship & Business Management expert with a PhD in Business Administration from Babcock University Nigeria. He is a prolific investment coach, seasoned scholar, Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI), and Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) registered capital market operator. He can be reached on the Twitter handle @drtimiolubiyi and via email: drtimiolubiyi@gmail.com, for any questions, reactions, and comments.

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Feeding the Present and Future Nigerians: The Role of Government, Businesses and Society

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Timi Olubiyi Data-driven Economy

By Timi Olubiyi, PhD

Undoubtedly, the demand for more food consumption is the case globally, mainly due to the increasing population year on year.

One of the extreme challenges that Africa faces particularly Nigeria is that of feeding its growing population amidst other perennial issues.

Consequently, this makes hunger, undernutrition, and food insecurity prevalent across the continent despite government agriculture and food business sector supports. Without mincing words, food insecurity might worsen if the population continues to grow and a corresponding reaction to arrest the situation is not in sight.

In Nigeria, each year the country losses and wastes a substantial portion of its total food production which is never preserved despite hunger and undernutrition that exist. One of the key reasons is that food loss and food waste continue to grow without any significant intervention by the government or businesses.

The magnitude of food loss and waste (FLW) is undeniably common and high in the country along the food supply chain, particularly from the North to the South of the country.

The loss and waste problem have been neglected for so long and the last few years have witnessed a consistent increase as a result of heightening insecurity, movement, and transport restrictions due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, street trading, open animal grazing, decrepit infrastructure, illiteracy, inconsistent power supply, environmental pressure, lack of innovation and climate change.

Though food loss and waste are a global problem, it appears it is more prevalent in Nigeria now with the current realities. Therefore, persistent food loss, and food waste amid starvation should not be overlooked, this piece should trigger a wake-up call.

While I agree that both “food waste” and “food loss” signifies the food portion that is wasted and not eaten, the terms are different but often use interchangeably.

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Painfully, both are damaging to the economy, businesses, households, and the well-being of the populace. The fact is food loss and waste are quite different anyway in terms of origin and scope and the true difference lies in exactly where the waste occurs.

According to literature food loss typically takes place at the harvest, storage, transportation, and sometimes at processing, and distribution stages in the food value chain. Staggeringly, in Sub-Saharan Africa, post-harvest food losses are estimated to be worth the US $4 billion annually – or enough to feed at least 48 million people, this is a disclosure in a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. In my opinion, the large chunk of this may likely be from Nigeria, considering the population and economic size of the country in Africa.

Further findings in the report indicated that some of the leading causes of food loss are poor storage, insecurity, loss during transportation, insufficient and inefficient agro-processing skills among smallholder farming communities, and lack of innovative approach to preservation, and insufficient infrastructure.

It is not out of place to mention that with the current realities particularly with the disruptions occasioned by COVID-19 and increasing insecurity, food waste must have increased exponentially in the last two years. Indicating a major barrier to food security and development in the country and this obviously requires attention.

On the other hand, food waste” refers to the food that is of good quality and fit for consumption, but does not get consumed because it is discarded―either before or after and it is left to spoil. Surveys of families in Lagos State the economic capital of the country to understand the causes of food waste elicited packaging and preservation as a key aspect of the problem. One of the root causes of food waste is a lack of power and some restaurants equally mentioned lack of proper packaging techniques. It was easy to conclude from the survey that food waste occurs at various stages of the supply chain due to a lack of constant power and adequate packaging.

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Though funding and investing in agriculture or the food sector can improve food security and promote sustainability, in my opinion, improved food sufficiency can be achieved by considering the reduction of food loss and food waste. This can be a more effective and cost-saving strategy for a developing economy like Nigeria at this time. Because when food is lost or wasted, all the resources that are used to produce the food, including water, land, power, labour, and capital, are also wasted. So, a reduction in loss or wastage will more than likely reduce wasted resources and increase profits along the food supply chain.

To address this prevailing huge problem, businesses and the government must result in policy responses to enhance storage, cooling technologies, and packaging for the preservation of perishable foods and to lengthen food shelf lives.

The good news is that there are a variety of ways to prevent food loss and waste throughout the supply chain, for example, investment can be made in the importation of cooling and refrigerated trucks for transportation of perishable fruit and vegetables. Farm produce such as tomatoes, plantain, or even catfish can be preserved with the cooling system from the farms directly to urban businesses or consumers, thereby reducing food loss and increasing fresh produce availability in the country.

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Furthermore, innovative smart food packaging and smart sensing technologies for monitoring food quality can be also be introduced for the sustainability of high-quality standards and improved product safety.

These are lines of business opportunities for investors to explore or for the attraction of foreign direct investments(FDIs). Sincerely, the government, businesses, and decision-makers need to target investments deliberately in the food supply value chain because opportunities are bound. The government also needs to create incentives to boost efforts to reduce food losses by businesses and smallholder farmers.

In conclusion, no single solution can tackle this whole issue but having an innovative mindset, can get the government, businesses, researchers and the populace started.

In fact, reducing food wastage will strengthen and enhance general food security in the country. Indeed, investments in training, technology, digital agriculture, innovation, and behavioural change are key to reducing food loss and waste. Therefore, innovative initiatives in the agriculture sector should be encouraged because it will create more job opportunities and also improve urban-rural migration, increase food exports, and reduce food imports. Good luck!

How may you obtain advice or further information on the article?

Dr Timi Olubiyi is an Entrepreneurship & Business Management expert with a PhD in Business Administration from Babcock University Nigeria. He is also a prolific investment coach, seasoned scholar, Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI), and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registered capital market operator. He can be reached on the Twitter handle @drtimiolubiyi and via email: drtimiolubiyi@gmail.com, for any questions, reactions, and comments

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Christianity, Economics, Politics & Why Education Does not Work

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Education Does not Work

By Nneka Okumazie

There are at least two guarantees of most education – procedure and profile: a procedure that shows how to reach an outcome and a profile that shows that the procedure was passed. There are other possibilities with education, but many get through both destinations and park.

There are lots of places around the world, developed and developing, where people rail about education quality or inefficiency. But, maybe those aren’t the ways to look at education if procedure and profile are achieved.

Looking broadly at education – there are 3 Fs to consider: fiction, fusion and fission.

There are many things anyone can read, learn or be taught but not understand. There are things that are real that can be explained but would seem like fiction to many.

It is possible to explain how telecommunication works to anyone, but many may not get the concept of waves. It is possible to see rockets and explain the science to many but would be too complex to understand.

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There are lots of new technologies, advances that people can be told about and shown, but would remain as fiction to them.

There are people who learn many procedures, get the profile, but remains fiction to them.

Knowledge – in general, is fusion, information coming together to become a unit or adding new units to existing.

Procedures – are a fusion of stuff. Fusion is common, happens often and can be informal.

Fission is the hardest and rarest of education.

Though people have spikes of fission on some aspects of what they have learned at some point, splattering and effervescing of extraordinary magnitude is the origin of major paths of advances through time.

It is true that many advances take years with continuous tests and efforts, but the intellect of fission does much at any time in the process.

Thinking about one thing and having several spectrums of it – towards accuracy is the height of the result of learning that the world needs more of, but gets less and less of.

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Quality of education may guarantee some fission, quality of tutor, sources, or mentor may try, but sometimes, it is either innate or something electrifies at some point.

Intellect fission results in hyper passion, courage, etc. different from those possessing procedural education that have to passion – [positive or negative] or courage – [positive or negative].

There are people with passion against something who don’t know much, only swinging around procedural knowledge.

There are others too, with some courage to hate, for wickedness, greed, factionalism, etc. that have procedural education, but not intellect fission.

They may get information, but they are not the intellect of fission for progress.

So how is intellect fission achieved?

How is it possible to learn something and the immanent mind reams, flips and sprawls it towards what others cannot just see?

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Maybe focus on how fission intellect.

As progress has glided in the world, so have troubles.

There are solutions and answers needed that education of fission would have provided, or education to spark fission.

But because profile education or stage is in demand – there is less and less care for the education of fission.

Many positions are filled with people who have profiles, but unlikely to move anything forward.

Though some curiosity, observation, creativity, analysis, understanding, great memory and insights may be results of some fission – but just like rungs of a ladder, difference abounds per reach and height.

Criticism is mostly a procedure. Deceit is a procedure. Getting rich is mostly procedural as well.

There are many things that are procedures – input and output.

[Proverbs 20:13, Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.]

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Christianity, Government, Ideology, Dumbness & Politics

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Cambodia Tyrant

By Nneka Okumazie

Is falling for false information dumbness or a factor of human limitation? Assuming this, in the most difficult to verify situation suggests human limitation, there are limitless amounts of things that people fall for – signifying dumbness.

It is easy to get people provoked, happy, moody, emotional or whatever expression is desired, by characteristic twists or turns for those outcomes.

It is almost impossible to be smart all the time. It is rare to be smart most times, but it is possible to be dumb most times – with few flashes of smartness.

Dumbness is probably the nucleus of behaviour – with smartness as the shells. Dumbness pulls many but smartness takes work.

Dumbness sometimes is the default of thoughts, sight or other senses. If it appears or speaks like this, it means this; if it acts or moves like that, it is that – without question.

It is far easier to predict that people would be dumb than to predict they’ll be smart. Lots of irrationalities come from dumbness. Deception, though a popular tool, uses dumbness.

It is not often the smart or sensible paths that draw many, but the simple, or feels part. Something can feel so good to taste, smell, or other senses, but does not mean it is good for behaviour, health, etc. Many take the feel-good and damn the consequences.

Something may be so good at present, so easy, so advantageous, so acceptable, but does not mean it is good for the future. Some answers may seem so right, so appraisable but dumb, cheap and impractical.

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It is possible to have gone somewhere to get something at some point, but – would – years on, cause major problems for the people.

There is so much dumb thinking – so much outsourced thinking that turns out to be wrong.

One of the most common spots of dumbness is power. It is often assumed that people in powerful positions manoeuvre to get there and stay there, but predicting the behaviour of the powerful is quite easy because of how power drives dumbness because many assume that just being powerful means smart or better than others – it doesn’t. Ideology can take over power so dumbness can be the leader.

Do whatever you like as long as it does not affect anyone is another dumb statement that does not account for the possibility that private habits can be triggered externally depending on the situation, or say calculation – that assumes it is possible to get away with it, or not get away, but to do it regardless.

In science, evidence determines much. In justice, evidence matters a lot. But some justice failed because the evidence was not presented, or was countered, or ignored not because the crime was not committed. So the supremacy of evidence as the determinant of real true or false – isn’t that smart, it’s just the established rule.

Be careful what you think, or guard thy heart with diligence may seem odd to some, but the heart is the point of pull or plan for most wrongs. Thinking in certain ways is to have done it.

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Selfishness – or the best for one person or group, seems like what is preferred by most, but this classic dumbness becomes a loss, starting from the ones who think it’s of maximum benefit.

The present in all its hardship for many – is a matrix from the past, in how some took to selfishness, for the advantage of the day, to become the loss of the future for things linked to them.

The circuitousness continues.

There is the smart spectrum and there is the dumb spectrum. Some choose or it chooses them. There are those in the dumb spectrum that no knowledge, exposure or information does much to get them away from it. As a fact, as some get more exposed, their dumbness deepens.

Some people often feel others are smart while others feel others are dumb. Smartness or dumbness is not often determined by sides. Most times, dumb people throw dumbness to everyone else, as in the playbook of critics. Criticism – most of the way – is dumbness repackaged and responsibility defenestrated.

Understanding is relevant in how smartness navigates, but dumbness convolves into what many would choose.

Though technology was supposed to make smart, it powered mass social media that lets dumbness go wide. Most people hear, see or read there, they sometimes forget about it, but sometimes end up behaving in ways that express those actions – without tracing it back there.

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Also, most people say stuff as themselves, but often just channelling from that source or acting in ways that blend with what the source would like.

It is important to have internal strength, not just seeking always for the external, but to have this strength to wait a bit or a little, to process things through and properly, before going along the easy, one-way-think option available to all.

Though smartness is far better than dumbness and maybe should not be compared, but smartness at its best is limited. It is possible to be smart, using the information available and be wrong. So even at the peak of smartness, it should be understood that limitations abound.

God is a spirit.

This means God does not exist in the physical or cannot be seen, or instruments used to find distant physical object cannot be used to find heaven or see the Almighty God.

God ways, thoughts and judgement are different.

This means using statements like if God loves why to suffer – isn’t an expression of that understanding.

Genuine Christianity is what Christ wants, but many combine their Christianity with sin and all kinds of acts. Christianity as an ID is not answering the call to be truly born again.

Everyone can be right in their own eyes, but the Creator of the world, Jehovah Almighty knows all.

[Matthew 22:29, Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.]

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