…Before the outbreak of coronavirus, I used to sell at least 3 shoes per day, but now I struggles to sell a single shoe in a day Says Busari, a small shoe-making business owner
Since the confirmation of Nigeria’s first coronavirus also known as COVID-19 case on February 27, the country has gone under many changes. The Federal Government has imposed both complete and partial lockdown on various states in the country at different stages.
In a country where a large number of the populace did not understand the implication of the virus and therefore did not prepare for the effects it would have on them financially, the government-imposed lockdown has had a drastic effect on individuals and their businesses.
For Ayoola, who runs a local bet shop, coronavirus has had a positive effect. Ayoola has gotten even more customers since the pandemic started. According to him, the bet rate in his shop is increasing.
The pandemic has left many Nigerians financially descript and in urgent need of money so they can eat and sustain their daily lives. Betting is one of the ways to get money quickly and so many people have turned to bet shops like Ayoola’s to earn quick money.
Ayoola says because there’s no work outside and people need money, they decide to try their luck and see if betting can help turn their financial situation around.
Ayoola is one of the few lucky business owners. For most others in Nigeria, coronavirus has had a devastating effect on their sales.
One of such Nigerians is Mr. Uche, a trader who sells foodstuff in Lagos. For him, the virus and consequent lockdown have caused a reduction in the quantities customers purchase from his shop. Uche, who initially did not consider the virus to be a serious thing, has had to adjust to making a lower number of sales. During the complete lockdown in Lagos, Uche, like most other business owners, could not open his shop every day. He had to open only on regulated market days. This was the first hint to the potential effects of the virus.
With customers complaining about having less income, and suppliers increasing the cost of supplies, Uche has had to navigate setting the right price. According to Uche, the cost of his items have increased because his suppliers have increased their prices, even on items unaffected by the lockdown, such as locally-sourced items.
Uche has also had to deal with customers buying items in very little quantity. According to him, people no longer buy in bulk as they used to. When the pandemic was in its early stages, customers needed to stock up and so they bought food items in bulk. However, with the progression of the virus and the lack of steady income for many Nigerians, customers who would previously buy items like rice in bags, are now buying them in small cups.
Like many Nigerian adults, Uche has to support his family. With his money stream being slower, they have had to cut costs and he has had to increase the prices of his wares so his family’s needs can be met.
Despite the lockdown regulations, many Nigerians do not wear face masks when outdoors. Uche says he regularly has to deal with customers who do not follow the safety guidelines dictated by the government. However, because of his current financial state, he cannot simply turn them away. He, however, keeps himself safe by wearing a face mask and gloves on his hands.
Uche is one of the lucky ones though. He sells foodstuff, which is a necessary commodity for all people. This means that no matter what, he would make sales, albeit it might be a little less than he normally would make.
There are other business owners in Nigeria who are not as lucky. Nofiu Busari is one of them. Busari runs a small shoe-making business in Lagos. Because shoes are not necessary commodities the way food is, Busari has suffered a massive reduction in his daily income.
Busari, whose savings are already depleted, has faced problems since the lockdown started. According to Busari, before the outbreak of the virus, he used to sell at least 3 shoes per day, but now he struggles to sell a single shoe in a day.
Because a lot of the materials Busari used to make his shoes are imported, he has been forced to pay a higher price in procuring them. Items that he used to purchase for one thousand naira,for example, now have over a 50% increase in price, costing about one thousand, five hundred naira.
However, Busari cannot afford to let this affect the price he sets for his shoes. Even at regular prices, Busari has struggled to make sales since the advent of the pandemic. If he increases his prices, he would lose a large number of his customers. Because of this, Busari has to bear the burden of the increased cost of materials on himself and his profit.
With his entire family at home, Busari has faced an increase in his expenses. As the breadwinner of his home, he has to provide for his wife and children who are now at home 24/7. Unlike some other parents, he cannot afford to arrange private lessons for his children so they do not stay idle during the lockdown. Instead, he has designed a system where his older children pass on their knowledge to the younger ones. That way, his children are never idle and act as tutors for each other.
Because of the current lockdown rules in Nigeria, public transportation is more expensive. Buses, cabs, and the local tricycle otherwise known as “keke napep” can only carry half their normal capacity and this means that commuters have to pay twice the normal fee. Busari is one of such unfortunate commuters. He dreads going out because of the toll it would take on his already steep finances. However, he needs to go out to get more materials to make his shoes.
Busari says he also tries to follow the corona virus safety guidelines and keeps a safe distance from customers when they come into the shop. He also wears a facemask whenever a customer comes into his shop.
All of these factors have caused Busari’s finances to suffer. He has to deal with an 100% increase in his expenses with no increase in his income.
The dilemma Busari is in is one many business owners in Nigeria are facing. Olufemi Adeosun, a cab driver in Lagos also faces a dilemma similar to Busari’s.
Adeosun was already balancing driving both as a taxi cab operator with the Lagos State Taxi Association and as a driver with one of the most popular ride hailing apps in Nigeria, Bolt, before the pandemic hit. He says that things were going well before the virus became more prominent in Nigeria and the government imposed the lockdown. He was juggling customers from Bolt and the regular Lagos State Taxi Association.
Adeosun’s problems started immediately the total lockdown was imposed in Lagos. He says that he could not work during that period, as people were not going out at all. After the complete lockdown was lifted though, things got a little better for Adeosun, and people started going out more.
However, people were scared. No one wanted to risk catching the virus and so, Adeosun still had only a few customers. Even on Bolt, the requests for rides were low. In fact, according to Adeosun, Bolt reduced the rates for rides to get more customers to use them. This meant that Adeosun got paid even less. In his words,
“Sometimes, you’ll get to the destination and find out that the client has a promo code, so you’ll only collect about seven hundred naira (₦700) and Taxify would send the balance to you. But sometimes, you might not even get the balance because Taxify will remove their own 20% rate. For now, income is very low. It’s only God that is helping us.”
Coronavirus has changed transportation in Nigeria. In states like Lagos where buses are usually packed uncomfortably with commuters, it is a change of pace to see commuters sitting with lots of space between them. Apart from keke drivers and bus drivers who have to carry half their capacity, cab drivers like Adeosun cannot carry more than three passengers at a time.
According to Adeosun, before COVID-19, he could get ride orders with 5 passengers sitting in his car at a time. But now when Adeosun gets such orders, he has to decline or convince the passengers to divide their numbers into two batches, otherwise he could get arrested or fined by the police.
Unlike the other transport workers, Adeosun cannot increase the price of his rides. Because ride hailing apps like Bolt are the ones who set the prices that commuters will pay, Adeosun has no control over his profit margin.
When he is not driving as a Bolt driver, Adeosun has more power over his prices. However, because people would rather use cheaper transport options like Bolt, Adeosun cannot increase his prices without facing a reduction in patronage.
One of the major determinants of patronage for Adeosun is safety. Because people are concerned about getting contamination of the virus, Adeosun has set measures to ensure the safety of his passengers.
Adeosun always wears his facemask when he has a ride order. He also has a bottle of hand sanitiser, which he offers to his customers as soon as they get into the vehicle. In addition, he ensures that all his customers have and use face masks. For customers who do not have one, he convinces them to purchase one on the way. If they refuse, he simply declines the ride.
Adeosun is fully aware of the seriousness of the virus. Unlike some Nigerians who do not believe that the virus is real or serious, Adeosun is cognizant of the implications of the virus. He follows major news platforms to keep up with the latest news or the virus. He says he is overjoyed that the death rate in the country isn’t as high as that of other countries.
“Some people have been saying the virus is not real, but I know it is. I just thank God that the rate is not as high as in other places. Some people say it’s because of our weather or because our immune systems here are better. I don’t know if that’s the reason, but I’m happy with the outcome.”
Because Adeosun is aware of the seriousness of the situation, he makes sure that all measures are in place to ensure the safety of his passengers, as well as himself.
Since the lockdown started, Adeosun claims he has tried to use Bolt less. He relies on private customers who he is more familiar with and who he can trust. These customers are concerned about their safety and inquire about what measures he has in place to ensure it, and so he has to be very careful and follow all safety guidelines. According to Adeosun, that is why his customers trust him and prefer him.
Adeosun has to navigate higher expenses and lower income, so he can provide for his family. His wife also contributes to the family income.
Adeosun’s wife was a teacher at a private school, but has been unable to work regularly due to the closure of schools in accordance with lockdown regulations. Unlike public schools, private schools cannot afford to pay their teachers when school is not in session. To meet the needs of students who cannot go to school during the lockdown, Adeosun’s wife holds private lessons at their home and in the homes of students, to help make ends meet.
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