6 February 2016
If there is a business that would always thrive, regardless of its level, it is food business. Even if you fried a few sticks and add some seasoning, as long as it is edible, people will buy, and possibly order online. If you stood on the side of the road to observe people, you would see many attempting a breakfast, lunch or supper, in the corners of the streets, under the bridge, under a shed and every available space usable.
In one way this solves a lot of problem for Nigerians, because people can buy what they want to eat, when they want to eat and perhaps where they want to eat. The famous ones are the boys that sell drinks and snacks in traffic… everyone in Lagos knows this, even AlikoDangote, he probably bought ‘gala’ on his way back from work yesterday.
Street vending is an integral component of urban economies around the world and has become a common phenomenon in most of the developing countries. There are several ways to look at this phenomenon; the most critical views are, the safety of it and what opportunity it creates. Of course, food vendors are scattered everywhere around the country and have formed an informal community of small businesses, providing solution to an all-time need, food. This is of course possible, because it requires little capital and a mild ability to conjure things together and make sure it is edible, either as a company or as an individual.
To the hungry man, the concern is what he eats, how much it costs and how available it is. Moreover, to the country at large, what is the true value of street food?
According to the Journal of Marketing and Consumer Research, Anetor (2015), in his research, he estimated that street food vending accounts for 15-25% of employment in African cities, that roughly estimates about 5.4million street food sellers in Lagos state alone. If that is true, it further states that 60% of that number, are women and about 87% of them have no recourse any other source of income. This means that the government must only find a way to organize and regulate this sector, and not in any way eradicate it. However, the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) Brigade operates in somewhat opposite direction to this critical form of employment. One of the agency’s vision statements is to eliminate all forms of Street Trading and Hawking, how this works in favour of the people is still being debated heavily, especially when the government has not devised a sustainable system to contain the rate of unemployment in the country.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation’s research; the innumerable street food industries, usually individuals or families, involve huge amounts of capital and millions of people yet they are often not given the official recognition they deserve. In many countries the street food industry is merely tolerated. Because the industry is spread over a myriad of locations and is not systematically coordinated in any way, it is common for clusters of vendors to be considered impediments to urban planning and hazards to public health.The negative attitude of officials toward street food vendors frequently reflects concerns about poor hygiene and the spread of disease. Lacking staff to enforce rules and regulations, governments have difficulty monitoring street food enterprises. These businesses may be seen as a hindrance to the “modernization” of the traditional food distribution system because they compete with licensed eating establishments that have considerably higher operating costs. Furthermore, there is the weak assumption that, in food processing, bigger is better. Finally, vendors may obstruct traffic in the centers of increasingly congested cities. This has led some governments to attempt to remove vendors from certain sections of a city, usually without success.
The economic value of street food however should not be undermined as negligible, especially when seen as the poor man’s survival strategy. On a daily basis, it possibly runs into millions of naira that passes through the economy because of this phenomenon that cannot be ended easily by any government, policy or law.
People eat, it’s as simple as that!