June 24, 2015

Will we all be rich?

I was chatting with a friend about small scale traders I see around my neighborhood. They keep selling their wares till late at night, sometimes up until 10:30pm. Yet, what I realize is that there is really not much progress in their lives. How did I know? My friend who left the country like 3 years ago asked me recently if the woman frying akara and the suya man were still selling around the neighborhood. My answer was yes, they’re still on the exact spot you left them. No expansion, nothing. And it’s really sad because they work hard, work late and yet, nothing. All they get is enough money to last them for a while, and probably to pay for their children’s school fees sometimes (Thank God for that!). No extra cash to expand, go into another business line, get a decent house, take a vacation…they can’t afford not to sell for one day. It got me thinking about what could be done to help these people rise above their current situation.

The first thing that comes to mind is that they need funding to help them expand. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to get funds from formal financial institutions without collateral; small businesses usually have no tangible assets to be used as collateral. Since small businesses are often not formally registered, it is hard for financial institutions to employ the services of credit bureaus to confirm their credit worthiness. Even when financial institutions lend, they do so at a high interest rate to cover up for the high risk from lending without adequate collateral.

Some micro-finance banks (MFBs) have somewhat broken through the ‘collateral barrier’ by disbursing money to groups of small businesses (rather than individuals) and money is repaid as a group. This way, group members monitor each other to ensure they make their contributions in order to avoid bearing the burden of another person’s loan if a member absconds. Even though there are over 700 MFBs in Nigeria, it is still inadequate to cater for the needs of all small businesses. Besides, some of these MFBs have operated fraudulently in the past, which causes distrust amongst other issues.

I think this is an important issue the new government should look into to help fight poverty. The government’s proposal to distribute N5000 monthly is unlikely to yield any meaningful results especially at this time of dwindling government revenues (Some state governments can hardly pay salaries, so where will the money come from?) I believe if the government prioritizes its spending and focuses on bridging the infrastructure gap including fixing electricity, it will create an enabling environment that can go a long way to help. Perhaps, the suya man can also start selling cold drinks to go with the suya if there is reliable power supply. Creating an enabling environment gives everyone an opportunity to make the best of life.

What do you guys think?

Two Other Unrelated Issues

Enforcing Law through Awareness
It’s painful when you’re punished for a crime you weren’t aware of. I think the first response should be to make the culprit aware that what they have done is wrong and show them the right way. You can punish the person if they fail to comply afterwards.

Did you know that it is compulsory by law for professional drivers in Lagos to go through the Lagos State Drivers Institute (LASDRI) for training, after which the driver will be issued a sort of certification card that looks like the regular drivers’ license? That is, professional drivers ought to have the regular drivers’ license and a LASDRI card. Well, I just found out recently after a professional driver I know was asked to pay a fine 20 times the cost of the LASDRI card (N1000), even after explaining that he wasn’t aware of this rule. Whilst I commend the LASDRI initiative as its aim is to ensure that professional drivers are properly trained and reduce road accidents, I think there is need to create more awareness instead of blindly punishing people. To add to the wahala, you’ll still pay tax on the fine, which is sometimes more than the fine.

If you are the owner of a vehicle or you don’t get paid to drive someone then you’re safe and don't need the LASDRI card. If you know of any professional driver (your driver, your parents’ driver, etc), kindly pass this message. You can check out their website at www.lasdri.org

Don’t talk about everything
When a celebrity is in the limelight because of some negative news, it’s tempting to judge them and speak out your mind. Sometimes it’s necessary for correction but other times it is unnecessary. Personally, I feel the fact that some kind of bad news got leaked is embarrassing enough for the celebrity in question. Adding your own insults can sometimes be really cruel. So the next time you’re tempted to insult a celeb, please remember that they too are human beings (As M.I and Tu-baba sang) so they make mistakes.

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