Alleviating Poverty among Low-Income Traders

Mrs. A is a micro trader in the city of Abia. She sells roasted plantain, traditionally called Bole under the heat of the sun in Aba market. A widowed mother of 3 with daily returns of barely 500 naira, Mrs. A and her family live deep below the poverty line. Her full merchandise at full stock, including the coal pot and tray for roasting cost below 4000 naira. With this economic condition, healthy wholesome living is unaffordable.
According to the African Development Bank, 152 million Nigerians live below $2 a day. This is to say that nearly 80% of the most populous black nation in the world live below the poverty line. It is even more disheartening to know that a large portion of this group consists of people that are actually involved in some form of profession or business however menial or petty it might be.
Every day, both young and old are seen on the streets of Nigeria, trading under the sun and in the rain, but having the entire worth of their businesses far less than $15 dollars. The high energy input can only yield barely enough for the traders and their families to feed on. A roasted corn seller like Mrs. A by the roadside having probably less than 50 pieces of maize for the day has a business worth far less than the above amount. This is the same condition millions of traders across hundreds of trades in Nigeria live in.
The survival and sustenance of families who are fed, housed and clothed by the returns from such businesses become something beyond the mind. This makes the existence of numerous slums and unhealthy living environments inevitable in our cities. The possibilities of quality and basic education of children from such homes is farfetched.
One major reason for this is simple: these businesses cannot grow. The returns on the trade is exhausted daily trying to make ends meet. This gives little or no room for saving. Hence, these businesses cannot grow in capacity. To make matters worse, a majority of these traders are illiterate and unbanked. There is a near zero access to loans for such people who are willing to borrow no more than $50 to $100 (less than 40,000 naira) for their businesses to have a significant breakthrough. The current banking system does not accommodate these majorities with no collaterals for loan acquisition. The Microfinance banks can barely cater for 20% of this micro traders.
A Trader Moni loan was just what Mrs. A needed for the business upgrade she desired. Under the same market conditions, getting 2 extra coal pots and an increased supply of plantain would enable her to multiply her income since she can now comfortably and simultaneously roast her Bole on three pots. Trader Moni is a timely intervention for the foot of the pyramid through economic empowerment through zero-interest loans. An initiative of the Federal Government through the Bank of Industry, the Trader Moni scheme aims to increase the capacity of petty traders and menial workers in Nigeria thereby boosting their incomes. This has an unimaginable ripple effect on the state of national economy and poverty.
With proper planning and saving, Mrs. A can save and afford some more comfort, either in terms of housing, feeding or clothing. Her savings can now be projected and budgeted to afford basic education for her children and probably even transition into a more lucrative venture. The socio-economic implication of her affording basic education for her children cannot be underestimated. Also, the possibility of scaling her business higher attracts a greater possibility of providing employment for one more person from the high population of unemployed citizens.
As minute and gradual as these effects turn out to affect the entire economy noticeably, we never forget that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step. Trader Moni is one true and right step towards poverty elevation in Nigeria in line with the SDG 1.