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Eking out a living through street hawking and the dilemma of coping with government harassment in Lagos state, Nigeria

Oct 5 06:50 PM


This research seeks to address the lives of the hawker as witnessed by many people in the major towns. It seeks to define the meaning of the hawkers, their work and the limitations they face while carrying out their business.

Analysis has been done to show the composition of the hawkers regarding their marital status, educational levels and the number of hours that these hawkers carry out their work in a day.

Challenges the hawkers face as far as the government is concerned has been discussed at length. Various people have criticized hawkers relationship with the government. The government has been adamant in legalizing the hawking business, but this report has come out with the underlying benefits of the hawking industry if well established and promoted by the government.

Hawking has been a source of employment for thousands of people both the educated and uneducated due to expanding levels of unemployment in the country. In turn, many people have finally found themselves in the informal sector so as to earn living from it.

At the end of the research, recommendations have been discussed that can effectively deal with the ongoing government-hawkers relationship. 

Chapter 1 Eking Out a Living

1.1 Introduction

Poverty remains one of the greatest and severe manifestations of human deprivation that is indefinitely associated to human capital development; it is, therefore, a matter of global concern (Adebayo, 2013:13). .street vending activities have become highly visible in the urban spaces of the developing world (Asiedu, & Agyei-Mensah, 2008:191). It has been brought about by the growing limitations on formal due to national and people in search of better livelihoods, Given the importance of employment for poverty reduction, job creation strategies. Such strategies may include the adoption of the labor intensive methods in production to create more job opportunities.

Street hawking has become a global concern and a global phenomenon. The United Nation has estimated there are 100 and 200 million hawkers in Africa. In Nigeria alone, there around 20 million hawkers many concentrated in Lagos. In Lagos, hawkers comprise about 20 percent of the total national labor force. This number is predicted to grow as the population rises in Nigeria. The dramatic increase in street hawking in Nigeria and particularly in Lagos can be attributed to several factors. The rapid population growth does not match development in Nigeria. It has lead to high rates of unemployment, low wages, inflation and deplorable working conditions. People have resulted into hawking so that they can support their families and earn a daily living (Adebayo, 2013).

In Lagos, Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa’s largest city-state government has downsized the street hawking (Neuwirth, 2013:  65). With the idea to make Lagos Africa’s prototypical megacity and international economic and financial center, the Lagos State government considers informality as being unharmonious with the Megacity Plan (Basinkski, 2009; Kamunyori, 2007). By itself, the underprivileged and poor, forced to survive in informal systems, are repetitively confronted with institutional aggression.  It can either be through the affirmation of their livelihoods (informal economic activities) as unlawful or the recurrent intimidation of expulsion from their homes (Brown et al., 2010; Brown et al., 2014). “Particularly, vulnerable are the street traders whose activities are prohibited severely by the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Law of 2000, the Lagos State Street Trading and Illegal Markets (Prohibition) Law of 2003.  Lagos State Waste Management Authority Law of 2007 and the Lagos State Road Traffic Law of 2013” (Lawanson, 2014:45). Surprisingly, half of the Lagos population live below the poverty line despite the fact that Lagos has an economy of about $50billion and accounts for about 20% of Nigeria‘s GDP. The 75% of the working population are involved in the informal economy (NBS, 2011, UN-Habitat, 2012).The Lagos Government even went further to threaten those that are patronizing street hawkers with a jail term.

However, the more street hawking become more visible, the more, the more people will creep in such of employment (Neuwirth, 2013: 68). The urban government seems to downplay the importance of hawkers in the economic growth as an alternative source of employment to the low-income urban inhabitants (Yinusa, 188: 103). It is evident in the response of the government treating street hawkers as hardened criminals (Neuwirth, 2013: 68), thus banning out rightly or restricting the activities of street hawkers to limited areas and space that might make them remain in or fall back into absolute poverty as a result of fall in sales.

The general view of the majority of people is that Hawking is a business related to poor people. Lack of employment, formal skills and the low capital involved is attributed to this opinion. Hawkers lead a hard life as their working conditions are poor and the low income they get from hawking goods in the streets. Prohibition of Hawking leaves hawkers at mercies of the authorities as they are harassed and manhandled by the authorities. As a result, hawkers are not happy and satisfied with their occupation. Hawkers gladly abandon this business if an opportunity comes across to start a more comfortable employment and a more dignified business. However, this research will give suggestions and recommendations to alternative business or social, economic empowerment to help hawkers get out the street and settle down (Adiko, &Anoh2003 pg, 115).  Nevertheless, the research is desired to achieve the following results

    To identify the  who are the actual people involved in hawking in Lagos

    To determine the limitations the hawkers undergo while at their work

    To determine and identify health and other hazards that hawkers are exposed to in streets of Lagos

    To determine workable solutions and strategies that can be implemented for the economic and social empowerment of hawkers in Lagos.

1.2 Street Hawkers Dilemma

The arising problem here is that, despite the fact that Lagos contributes one-third of Nigeria’s GDP, and it is acknowledged that much of it comes from the private sector. (Neuwirth, 2013: 66). The Lagos government continues to target poor people that are trying to eke out a living from street trading. Considering the alarming rate of unemployment in Nigeria, the controversial crackdown on street vendors has been a central part of Governor Babatunde Fashola’s effort to “clean up” and reshape Lagos. The unprecedented for the enforcement drive -- cleanliness, congestion (Basinkski, 2009:  2) can be considered as an attack on a venture that has been supported empirically to be capable of pulling the poor out of absolute poverty.  The government continues to limit the capability of the poor to generate income for themselves so to at least meet up with basic needs. Nonetheless, Yinusa (188: 103) suggests that there is a need to manage and control hawking behavior other than discontinuing it necessities and nature of their developmental problems. In a sequence of moves that are having severe drawbacks on the citizens one can come across—urban street vendors/ hawkers eking out a living to graduate out of poverty. In most cases, government actions portray the little understanding of the interconnected nature of the urban informal economy or widespread poverty impacts that made street traders feel ostracized and often describe themselves as refugees (Brown et al., 2014). It implies that the government policy lacks connection with the characteristics of the street hawkers.

I will be looking at the reason for the skepticism of Lagos governments of the informal economy that made them treat street hawkers as hardened criminals for not generating taxes. Do they not consider street trading as jobs that can create opportunity and contribute to greater political stability by lowering income inequality? Therefore, making a lot of people graduate out of poverty and be self-dependent. This study intends to investigate the real reason Lagos State government prevent her citizen from doing legitimate businesses without committing a crime to graduate out of poverty. Most especially, in a country that has more than 70% of her population living under a dollar per day. It is important to bring to the fore the challenges the street hawkers/vendors face about the hostile policy of the government. Most importantly, how they cope with such challenges and the possible solution that might be suitable to resolve the dilemma of balancing the government interest while protecting the poor means of livelihood. Besides, to ascertain the extent at which the street hawking venture is a sustainable livelihood out of poverty for the poor.

1.2.1    Research questions

Main Research Question

How and to what extent do repressive policies exacerbate street vendors’ vulnerability to poverty?

Sub Questions

What is the nature of street trading activities in Lagos?

What is the importance of street trading within households’ livelihood strategies?

How are traders affected by policies and practices such as eviction, confiscation, harassment, and bribe extortion? What are their coping strategies?

1.2 Methodological strategies and methods of data collection

1.2.1. Introduction

The methodology is a set of rules or procedures for scientific inquiry. It gives a comprehensive understanding of the methods that were adopted in carrying out the research study and the justification of such method. It describes the method of data collection,  area of study,  study population,  instrument of data collection and method of data analysis about their essence and justification. According to O’Leary (2010:92), before a researcher start thinking of a methodology that can be used in conducting research, the researcher must consider if such methodology is within his/her capacity, interest, doable and practical.

The design of this research was the use of questions and survey that employed informal comparative approach. This design was preferred for this research as this phenomenon has been already under investigation. The research was to determine causative factors and substantiate the existence of the same. As such, in this research the status of hawkers in Lagos has found already in existence and people themselves in this business. Manipulation of variables was not done at the same time.This study design uses interviews and questionnaires to collect data from participants in their views about their options, characters and experiences to generalize the views of the entire hawker’s population. Surveys are carried out with the target of determining the nature of existing theories and phenomena so as to apply the data in justifying or explaining current practices and conditions. The design, therefore, was preferred for this research as the study was set to get attitudes and opinions of hawkers in Lagos. The research had no dependent, and independent values as the research only focused on hawkers

 I picked these techniques because my research design meets up with all the criteria stated by O’Leary as a prerequisite for successful research. In this chapter, I shall discuss the rationale behind the choice of the research area or rather the case study, the methods of data collection, sample size and selection techniques among others. Moreover, most importantly the limitation and challenges encountered during the field study in Lagos

1.2.2 Research Location

The research targeted hawkers with Lagos central business districts. Although, the research could have included all major towns in Nigeria due to financial constraints I settled in Lagos first. This city was chosen as it is the capital center and where the majority of the hawkers are located. Hawkers who were involved in this research are from different parts of Nigeria who comes to Lagos to try eking a living through Hawking. First and foremost, the study area was at four different locations in Lagos State. These areas were selected because of their strategic importance to commercial activities and the dense population of various street hawkers and vendors. The study was conducted in four different Local Government area in Lagos. They included Agege (with a population of  1,033,064), Oshodi-Isolo (1,134,548), Eti-Osa ( 983,515.), and Mushin (1,321,517) Although Lagos states has 52 Local Government Areas (LGA) and Local Council Development Areas (LCDA). The choice of the four LGA to conduct the study was based on the fact that they are essentially an urban area and one of the densely populated areas in Lagos  (Lagos State, 2005; Idowu et al., 2011). Therefore, its density has made it a probable area for my study. The choice of Lagos was influenced by the fact that Lagos is the largest metropolises in Nigeria and one of the largest commercial centers in the world with a population of over 18 million people. The main reason for choosing four different locations is to investigate if the street hawkers encounter the same problem across all the zones and district in Lagos.

1.2.3. Target population

The study targeted hawkers who are aged between 13 and 55 years old including men and women. Both male and female hawkers are actively involved in this business in Lagos. I had prepared one hundred questionnaires, and there was a total respondent of 45 male and 55 female hawkers.

1.2.4.Population Sampling Procedure

Because the study population was huge (the entire street Hawkers in four different areas in Lagos state), it was not feasible for me to study every component of this enormous population. I, therefore, resulted from using survey design strategy that comprises of the gathering of data through responses to different relevant questions from a sample of individuals (Schutt, 2004). There were tens of thousands of people engaging in street hawking in the four local government areas. Nonetheless, it was not possible for me to establish interaction with all of them in the course of data collection for this study. Therefore, one hundred (100) of street hawkers that cut across different categories (such as age, gender ) were at the end of the day sampled out of all the street hawkers in this study area.

 The respondents’ selection designs were in multiple stages.  The choices of my study sites were judgmentally or on purpose sampled. I judgmentally selected the areas as a case study with explicit purpose at the back of my mind as suggested by   Adler and Clark (1999) and Neuman (2003). It is because I believed that the area will expedite my analysis. Then, I adopted the convenience sampling that is also known as accidental or haphazard sampling to select the one hundred street hawkers that partook in my survey although, random sampling was adopted in the process of administering the questionnaires. I considered non-random sampling as the most suitable because it involves “a limited sample using criteria chosen to assure representativeness, e.g., selecting your sample based on a clearly defined population profile, individuals with the average age, income and education you are studying” (O’Leary, 2010, 165). The purposive sampling procedure is relevant to this research topic and convenient sampling techniques. In this sampling technique, the researcher purposely chose respondents who in his opinion were thought to be relevant to the research topic. The basic assumption behind this sampling technique is that of good judgment and appropriate strategy one can handpick the cases that was included in the sample and thus developed samples that were satisfactory for one's needs.

1.2.5. Alternative Tools of Data Collection are employed in collecting data in research; however, for the purpose of this mixed study methodology was applied through the use of semi-structured interview and survey research methods as the primary source of my data collection. The choice of mixed methods was used to corroborate results from the different methods and to enhance further clarification of the results from one technique with the results from the other method (Onwuegbuzie & Leech, 2005; Johnson & Christensen, 2008). A semi-structured interview was considered more pertinent because they are most likely to provide the In-depth information useful for the success of the research work.  They are mostly appropriate for policy-based research and apply to the research questions raised in this study. The methods also give the respondents the platforms to express their views and share their experiences on the job, which they can hardly do using a survey method alone. While the semi-structured interview was deemed necessary, survey method was equally considered as an essential data collection tool for this study. It appears to be a useful method for investigating the opinions and feelings of people concerning an issue or a phenomenon. The adoption of these two methods ensures that data or information was collected in a very standardized and scientific manner, which resulted from incredible, rich and verifiable findings. The questions of the semi-structured interview and those on questionnaire guide were generated from the research questions and the literature review.  It was done to proffer answers to the research questions and achieve the research objectives

For a collection of data, Interviews were conducted for two officials of Lagos state government from 2 different ministries and parastatals, mainly, Lagos State (LASTMA) and Ministry of Environment. Conducting interviews with these respondents offer insight into the factors that inform the policies of Lagos State government on banning street trading and how best they could maximize the economic potential of street hawking. Interviews were also conducted for twelve (8) street hawkers that volunteer to be further interviewed after they filled the questionnaires, three each from the four selected locations in Lagos.

To maintain balance from the data collected from all the areas I mentioned earlier, I administer questionnaires to 25 hawkers each for the four locations while waiting for them to fill it. I couldn’t give out the questionnaires and ask them to return it later because the respondents are not stable in one place due to the type of business they do and the harassment from City Council task force. Therefore, he most prudent actions to ensure that I collect the questionnaires back from them is to wait and allow them to fill it on the spot. In total, all questionnaires given out were 100 and all were collected back.  The questionnaires used in this study have both opened-ended and closed-ended questions. Each questionnaire contained 30 questions that help us to answer the research question. The opened ended questions are meant to solicit the respondents own opinion and answers they considered most appropriate in their way and words on a certain aspect of the study. The closed-ended questions are also meant to ensure that respondents chose the option with which they agree most. 

Also, the non-participant observation was carried as a complimentary effort that to have details that can enable me to analyze the data without any bias. Thus, observers study their subjects from outside the group without being involved in the life of the group.  In the administration of the questionnaires, I was able to assist the respondents to complete the questionnaires since there are some of the respondents that are illiterate. Nevertheless, some the respondents were able to do the filling of the questionnaires by themselves with little or no hindrance. I tried to elucidate on some aspect of the questionnaire to them which they did not perfectly comprehend.

1.2.6. Ethical Issues

As social researchers, it is my responsibility to protect the respondents’ interest. Therefore, it is imperative for me to be cognizance of various issues related to research ethics. First of all, I sought the contents of the respondents that partook in the research before the commencement of the research. I told them the purpose and the importance of the research. It goes without saying that all the respondents partook in the research through their free-wills. This anonymity approach was followed duly throughout the study because the questionnaire did bear any means that can be used to identify respondents. For the interviews respondents, pseudo names were used to reference respondent’s responses. All responses that formed the basis of the data for this research were in due course interpreted and analyzed in aggregate without any connection to any particular respondent. Besides, the data was kept confidential and was used strictly for the purpose of this study.

1.2.7. Limitations of the study

The major limitation of this study or challenge faced in the administration of the questionnaires is its limited reference to numbers. It owes to the problem of inadequate information on the urban informal economy in general and street hawking in particular. It was difficult to get the hawkers to answer the questionnaires as the nature of their jobs compelled them to move from one part of the street to another to sell which lead to less attention given to me or in filling the questionnaires. Also, while some asked me for money as a prerequisite for cooperation, to get the majority of the respondents to fill the questionnaire or agree to an interview was very difficult. It is connected to the fact that they thought I was working for the government trying to trap them to get them arrested. Also, the non-availability of government officials coupled with bureaucratic protocols are some of the challenges I faced in carrying out the research. However, I have already planned for contingencies by going through some family members that worked in the two government ministry and agency to book the appointments with the government officials as early as possible so that I can be put on their schedule.


CHAPTER 2. Literature Review /Theoretical Approach


2.1. 1Introduction

This research was conducted under functionalist perspective. It is a theory that explains social phenomena that view society as a living organism. This theory is also referred to as an equilibrium model or consensus society theory. It interprets the society as a system made of several subsystems and institutions. The society is viewed as complex under the functionalist theory that is made up of stable parts that are interdependent yet separate and are functioning for the continuity of the whole society. Under functionalist theory, religion, education, family, legal and economic organs are viewed as parts that make up the society (Kunkel, 2001pg, 78).  The social structure of a state is derived from social institutions. These social institutions are viewed as stable, persistent and interdependent and well-connected elements of the state that perform their unique roles for the continuity of the society and the state. This theory also indicates that there is consent of values among and between the different social institutions that are contained in the system. The main view of functionalist theory perspective is that every economic activity in the society is very important regarding contribution to survival and functioning of the society. Any activity or element that is rendered useless in the society and poses threat to the survival and functionality of the society is eliminated through natural interaction process (Maloney, 2004:67).

Largely, the theoretical framework for this study is deeply embedded in the assessment of the different approaches and activities of people entrepreneurship, informality regarding informal sector and informal employment, the street vendor’s typology and how the vulnerability of street hawkers can push them deeper into poverty are considered carefully. In achieving this goal, the concepts of vulnerability to poverty, entrepreneurship and informality were adopted. They addressed the research questions and objectives of this study. These concepts are considered to be more plausible because of the robust study and empirical evidence that supported the nexus of these ideas as a panacea to poverty alleviation. However, this chapter is divided into five sections with the first part discussing the different nature of street vendors as a premise that will help us understand why the above mentioned concepts are germane to the success of this study. In the second section, the concept of vulnerability to poverty was discussed, the definition, measurement, and challenges were also brought to the fore. The relevance of the concept of the research topic was also highlighted in this section. While the third section addresses the concept of entrepreneurship about the street hawkers from the perspective of the survivalist and growth-oriented model, the fourth section focuses on the concept of informality and informal sector. Critical engagement with the concept of informality became necessary because street hawkers fall under the informal sector of the country economy. The last section is the overall conclusion and summary of the chapter

2.2 Street Vendors Typology

Street hawkers and street vendors were one of four categories of informal workers identified by the 1993 International Conference of Labor Statisticians in their efforts to address the “place of work” of informal workers (Becker 2004: 13). The categorization gives no further details or clarification of who comprise the two groups of informal workers. Perera and Amin (1994: 5-6) also identify a class of “street-operated businesses,” by which they mean the informal economic units who located “inwards to the streets from the building line or in circulation areas of public places.” Similarly, Yankson (2000) identifies informal units that operated in public spaces in central city areas and residential neighborhoods. Exactly who qualifies as a street trader or street vendor remains unclear. There are interchangeable usages of the expressions, market vendor, the street vendor, street trader, vendor and hawker in the informal economy discourse, and these terms are loosely defined both across and within cultures. In some countries, the term, “street vendor” encompasses vendors in organized marketplaces, pavement sellers, mobile street hawkers, and home-based vendors. In others, marketplace vendors are a separate category and depending on the context, street vendors may be legal or illegal (Cohen et al. 2002).

In order not to present a picture of street vendors as a homogenous group, it important to note that Hawkers offer varying goods and services. Also, their challenges differ. The types of products sold, the vendor’s gender, etc., however, are likely to have a strong influence on their situation. The characteristics of street vendors are very wide ranging from age, gender and for some it has become permanent employment or occupation while others do it as a temporary form of eking out a living to survive. However, the study conducted by Roever (2014) reflects on three classifications of activities with different challenges.

The first category as suggested by Roever (2014:8-9) is Buy-Sell: This category involves the process whereby vendor’s sources for goods from the wholesalers and transport them to a hawking post in a public place. While selling the goods at a small margin, their profit share depends on selling strategies amongst their competitors. On the other hand, they face the challenges of getting decent prices from suppliers, keeping other costs (e.g., transport and storage) to a minimum and sell volumes to generate profit by carrying what they can carry along the street sidewalk.

The second category is Transformation: A category that involves vendors selling directly to consumer’s goods that they transform or manufactured. This category of street vendors although usually makes their goods at home but sometimes still need to find unused space on the street to make their goods and then should involve themselves in the acquisition of the customers. Also, they should be sure of where to store their commodities.g., portable stoves or juice machines for cooked food or prepared drink).

The third category is Services: This is a broad category of vendors that offer or perform services from street to street on street vending posts. This service provider includes dressmaking, hairdressing, knife sharpening, tailoring, shoe repair, watch repair, among many other examples. Hawkers engaged in service providing have fewer challenges than their counterparts. On the other hand, they are every so often dependent on electricity and requires advanced skills in carrying out their work.

2.3 Vulnerability and Poverty

 Without a strong dissimilarity between material deprivation and other forms of vulnerability, the concept of vulnerability has been used frequently and extensively about poverty in the scholarly discourse over a long period. While erudite understandings of the idiosyncratic contribution that vulnerability analysis can add to our determinations at improving well-being have increased over the past decades (Lucas et al., 2013:16). The concept of vulnerability, as theorized by Heesen et al. (2014) appeared in diverse fields of study with the understanding of the likelihood of a physical or social structure to suffer harm in case of particular events. Though, the definition or meaning of vulnerability is keenly disputed within both the economics and scientific groups (Adger, 2006: Yamin et al., 2005).  The vast majority of studies in economics ponder more on how best to measure and assess vulnerability, in particular, the outcome of shocks on the wellbeing (Lucas et al., 2013:17). Irrespective of the conflict in defining vulnerability or how to measure it from a different school of thought, there is some mutual agreement and common ground on how this should be done (Dutta et al., 2011:1). Hypothetically, “human being is prone to external forces. It is these forces that make us strong” (Lucas et al., 2013: 17). In this context, Vulnerability can simply be referred to as the weakened capability of a group or an individual to foresee, deal with, resist and recuperate from the effect of a man-made or natural hazard. The choice of this concept to analyze the situation of the street hawkers in Lagos is pertinent. Apart from the fact that the concept is relative and dynamic, it is every so often connected with poverty albeit in some cases when people are defenseless, isolated, and insecure in the face of risk, shock or stress.

To understand how repressive policies exacerbate street vendors’ vulnerability to poverty in Lagos? The relationship between vulnerability and poverty can be well understood when applying the concept of “vulnerability to poverty”. Just like poverty and vulnerability are confronted with the challenges of definition, the concept of vulnerability to poverty is not excluded from the same challenges. However, for the purpose of this study the World Bank definition of world bank as reiterated by Celidioni (2013a:2) is considered more appropriate for less complexity, “vulnerability to poverty is the probability of being into deeper poverty in the future”. Celidioni maintained the analysis of vulnerability is poles apart from the typical analysis of poverty for the reason that it recalls a forward-looking perspective rather than an ex-post assessment. Although in theory, vulnerability to poverty is virtually well-defined as the risk of undergoing poverty, empirically. ( Celidoni,2013a:2). The measurement of vulnerability to poverty is fundamentally more difficult than the measurement of poverty itself because of the unrealistic predictions of the future (Haugton and Khander, 2009: 234). It is because an individual can be vulnerable to falling below a threshold in multidimensional. these may include health, food consumption and income, and across a period (Dutta et al., 2011:1). Relating the concept to how street hawkers fair regarding the income generation or shock that arises from the policies of the Metropolitan Lagos government will help us make sense of the data collected that will discuss in details in chapter four of this study.

2.4 Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship has been documented as a significant characteristic and functioning of economies (Dickson et al., 2008). It because it contributes in an endless ways toward poverty reduction, the creation of new job, wealth, and revenue generation for both individuals and government (Garba, 2010: 141). While it is accepted that entrepreneurs have enormous capabilities to boost the economic growth and sustainable development of developing countries most especially among African states. The Nigeria government does not embark on entrepreneurial activities to empower its citizenry (Oghojafor et al., 2011: 2). It makes entrepreneurship a must important step to ending poverty and brings income opportunities for the majority poor (Oghojafor et al., 2011: 3). But who is an entrepreneur; can we say street traders are not entrepreneurs? Moreover, what does the concept of entrepreneurship means? So as to apply the concept to the situation of street traders in Nigeria, it is important to understand the concept of entrepreneurship. From my perspective entrepreneurship is the process of coming up with a viable business venture. The most obvious example of entrepreneurship is the starting of new businesses. Even though Drucker (2014) argued that entrepreneurship and small business are different despite the fact that people use the concept to address both. I still believe that entrepreneurship business can be small or medium scale, sole proprietorship or partnership, formal or informal. Without doubt, street trading falls under the entrepreneurship.

According to Kao (1993), the concept of entrepreneurship was first identified by Richard Cantillon in 1730. 300 years ago Cantillon defined “entrepreneurship as self-employed with uncertainty return” (Kao, 1993:70), up till date there are several definition of entrepreneurship that has even given birth to typologies of entrepreneurship and entrepreneur. For study purposes, I shall adopt the definition of entrepreneurship as suggested by Kao: “Entrepreneurship is the process of doing something new and something different that can create wealth for the individual as well as the entire nation. (Kao, 1993:69). I found this definition more appropriate to the situation of street traders in Lagos because they are doing something different from what they would have done if they were employed in the formal sector to eke out a living and graduate out of poverty. The dominant interpretation or general assumption of what entrepreneur should look like and the need for entrepreneurs to possess certain skills have relegated street traders to the obscure side of the society. The dominant discourse that surrounds the meaning of entrepreneurship will inform the policy of the government towards the use of entrepreneurship to reduce poverty. “The successful contribution of entrepreneurship to poverty alleviation and economic development in Lagos State depends on entrepreneurship training and orientation” (Ogundele et al., 2012: 149). 

On the other hand, Berner and colleagues argued that a closer look at these street trades seem to challenge the basic logic of entrepreneurship: “to invest available capital, apply specialized skills, and make a profit while accepting a risk” (Berner et al., 2012:383). They maintained that, virtually from the time that the ‘informal sector’ of urban economies has been discovered in the 1970s, “ researchers have noticed the existence of a subcategory that faces particular barriers to growth. It has been termed ‘street economy’, ‘(sub-)subsistence production’, ‘necessity driven entrepreneurs’, ‘informal proletariat’ or ‘survival(it) enterprises’ (Berner et al., 2012:382). Though, the inability to have a unique acceptable definition of entrepreneurship led to various scholars to come with entrepreneurship typologies (see Filion, 2000: 3-4).individuals may be involved in more than one entrepreneurial  ventures. In such a case, the classification of entrepreneurs becomes complicated.  (Kunkel. 2001:2). Going through the literature on entrepreneur typology, the majority of the of scholars are more of the growth model. However, I considered the survival and growth-oriented entrepreneur’s analysis of Berner et al. (2012) more suitable to the research objectives and questions surrounding the street trading in Lagos.

Although Bener et al. (2012) notes that the growth potential of survival entrepreneurs are restricted even if they are targeted with well-intended business development programs. Nevertheless, street hawkers in Lagos eking out a living that are placed above the poverty line of two dollars per day will fall into chronic poverty if restricted from selling on the street.  There was a reason they started selling on the street in the first place. By and large, this concept will help us to understand why the government believes that the acquisition of entrepreneurial skills favorable in the current economic situations. Also, the application of this concept will give clear insight into why government ignore the survivalist instinct that did not need any training but rather an open platform that can lessen the burden of the poor that are trying to make a living from their initiative.

2.5 Informality: Informal Sector and Informal Economy

The ongoing unemployment rate has resulted in the growth of a  substantial private sector which absorbs the unemployed persons at compromising wages (Timalsina, 2011:2 the private sector has played a great role in the provision of employment and generation of government revenue. It is because the informal sector offers the best opportunity for the upward mobility. However, this type of private source of employment has been downsized by the local authorities. (Bhowmik, 1999:4). It has been termed as unprofitable and also does not generate any revenue to the government. They are preferent because they provide the urban population with much-needed services that neither the municipalities nor the larger retailing outlets can provide (Timalsina, 2011:3).

Before we can explore and identify the set of related issues to street hawking, it vital to bring out the composition of both the formal and informal sectors. The concept of informality has been defined and measured in several ways since it was first introduced by Keith Hart (1973) about four decades ago in his work in Ghana and Kenya describing the range of subsistence activities of the urban poor. About Kanbur (2009), the findings of Hart shows that the poor were not necessarily ‘unemployed, rather they work casually most often for inconsistent and largely low-income and revenues, but the fact remains that they were without doubt working. The summary of the finding painted a picture of private incomes coming from regulated economic activities and formal’ incomes, both legal and illegal, lay beyond the scope of regulation.” (Kanbur, 2009:3). . The Commonly the informal sector is often simply thought of as comprising businesses that are not registered and are as a result unregulated by law (Devey et al., 2006: 4) but ruled by personal ties or customs (Godfrey, 2011:231).

Suharto argued that “informal sector encompasses largely unrecognized, unrecorded and unregulated small-scale activities and the governmental failure to regulate or unavailability of institutions that provide job security and benefits,  this sector comprises the major proportions of the developing countries. However, Chen (2006: 76) argued for expanded definitions that focus not only on the unregulated enterprises but also the unregulated relationship of employment legally. In brief, the new definition of the ‘informal economy’ focuses on the nature of employment in addition to the characteristics of enterprises.”

The known definition is that contained in the International Labour Organisations Kenya Report (1972:6). It states that informal activities are defined as ‘a way of doing things,' featured with ease to entry, reliance on indigenous resources, family ownership of enterprises, the small scale of operation, labor intensive and adapted technology, skill acquired outside of the formal school system, unregulated and competitive markets. Nonetheless, Devey et al. maintained that the term informal sector masks a substantial degree of heterogeneity of the informal sector. It because Informal activities comprise various categories of economic activity (trading, collecting, providing a service and manufacturing). The diverse employment relationships (the self-employed, paid and unpaid workers and disguised wage workers) and activities with different economic possibilities, for example, survivalist activities and successful small enterprises (Devey et al., 2006: 4-5).

Considerably, quite some scholars(Maloney, 2004; Chen, 2004; Chen 2012) have demonstrated that the incomes of the employees running from the public sector to the private were inconsistent.  Those that engage in the informal employment in the informal sector are not necessarily doing it on a short-term basis. The term informal sector hides a significant degree of heterogeneity in informal enterprises, workers classified to be under informal employment operate in a wide range of economic units and their employment relations falls somewhere along a continuum between what is considered formal (i.e. regulated and secure) and informal (unregulated and insecure). According to Hussmanns (2004b), regardless of the fact that the concept of employment in the informal sector’ and ‘informal employment’ refer to different aspects of the ‘informalisation’ of employment and different targets for policy-making.  Both are useful for the analytical purpose, and they cannot replace each other even though they the two concepts need to be defined and measured in a coherent and consistent manner so that one can be distinguishable from the other (Hussmanns, 2004b:1). “Employment in the informal sector includes all jobs in informal sector enterprises or all persons who, during a given reference period, were employed in at least one informal sector enterprise, irrespective of their status in employment and whether it was their main or a secondary job” ( Hussmanns, 2004a:2).

2.6 Conclusion

Conclusively, vulnerability to the street hawkers depends largely on the vending venture that the hawker is engaged. Those of a service provider varies from those of a goods provider.

The hawking industry if supported accordingly by the government may be a good source of entrepreneurial skills that can be used in coming up with a more viable business. They should set rules that legalize the venture and put the measure that protected them. It could be through setting up designated places that these people can meet and change their goods and services freely without the interruption of the local authorities.

As a result, the Hawking can flourish creating jobs to many jobless citizens in town. The income gained can be used to educate the young school going children whose parents are not financially stable.


Chapter 3: Importance of Street Trading Within Households’ Livelihood Strategies?

3.1 Introduction

Having conducted this thesis investigation in the four (4) city centers of Lagos business busiest areas of Oshodi, Ajangbadi, Idumota, and Agege. The research shows that despite the fact that street hawking is an informal sector, not recognized by any arm of government in the country, it remains the largest employer of labor in the Global South, and contributes, financially, billions of naira to the overall GNP of the country. However, ordinary people face series of persecution as a result of unfavorable government policies, which directly points to the dilemma of surviving through street trading as a result of poverty that indirectly forced many of them into street hawking in the first place base on the data collected in the field. The collected data in Lagos State defines the trends of the population involved in street hawking between the months of July to August 2015 statistically. Nevertheless, to have clarity on how and to what extent do repressive policies exacerbate street vendors’ vulnerability to poverty. I examine and look at the nature of street trading activities in Lagos, the importance of street trading within households’ livelihood strategies and how are traders affected by policies and practices such as eviction, confiscation, harassment, and bribe extortion? What are their coping strategies? It is wrong to focus on the demographic structure of the street hawkers in Lagos. It is done in order first to let us set a preamble that will enable us to grasp the nature of street trading in Lagos city

3.2 Nature of street trading activities in Lagos

Demographically, for example by the conducted interviews, about 45% males and 55% females, have, within the mentioned period have been involved respectively in eking out daily living through street hawking.



Also within this sex composition of the street hawkers, it was gathered that 13% are below 20 years old. About 27% are between 20 and 24 years old. Further still between 25 and 29 age brackets are 20% of the population of the target areas, while 40% are above 30 years of age. Hence, from this age analysis of the data, although difficult to confirm, data explanations of marital status indicate that 30%, 40%, 3%, 12%, and 15% are single, married, divorced, separated and widowed respectively.


 Educationally from general opinions as observed, many street hawkers individually have different levels of schooling. Data analysis shows that most street workers who have a basic or primary education from the sampled population of the four city centers in Lagos are about 10%. Those with secondary level of education are about 50%, those within integrated tertiary levels of education are 25%, and those without formal education are about 15%.


The Evaluated data on the number of years the interviewees have been hawking are between 1 to 5 years for about 21% of the people, and 34% has spent between 6 to 12 years hawking in the street. The  45% of the same sampled group have about 13 to 18 years different experiences in street hawking. Research findings also indicate 45% street hawkers are owners of the wares (good and services) that they sell and 55% are not the owners, rather they are secondary owners.

Further still, it was also evaluated that Lagos metropolis street hawkers have categories of duration they have lived, spent, or been residents. Hence, about 5% of the sampled population have lived as street hawkers in Lagos under 1-year. About 15% have lived between 1-3 years, and 21% have lived within 3-5 years while 29% of these street hawkers have lived five years and more. Additionally, it was collated that 30% this sampled population are born and raised in Lagos metropolis.

The nature of street hawking in the Lagos City was gathered, according to participants that starting periods for hawking each day: 47% of the hawkers say before 6 am; about 33% agreed that they usually hawk between 6 am and 7 are while other 20% of the people gave different time frames.


Number of hours worked

    Percentage of the total hawkers

1 to 5 hours



    6 to 12 hours 



13 to 18   




 Besides 20% do their hawking between moving vehicles in traffic, while a group comprising younger people states that they hawk around the streets pavement, indicating 35% of them are in this category. While 31% from the data analysis show that they do their street hawking around the bus station, the rest of about 8% don’t have a specific location. Hence, they hawk everywhere

. This study also gathered four different sampled perspectives as to the closing hours for street hawkers that include 4 pm for about 19% of younger street hawkers, and 6 pm for those who are married or nursing groups (both males and females). About 40% agree that their closing hours is fixed for 8 pm, while 25% indicated that they could close at any time. Of the three identified categories (buying and selling, transformation, and services).

Hawker Category   


Buying & selling   









Full-time hawkers   



Part-time hawkers   




Hawking workers in a street worker association



Hawking workers do not belong to any street workers association



3.3 What is the importance of street trading within households’ livelihood strategies?

For decades, the government has been evicting street hawker from unauthorized location yet hawkers continue to return to the street a day at most after the eviction. This study came up with two major findings. 1) Street hawking is the only alternative way they (street hawkers) know to take them out of poverty in a country that have a high level of formal employment. 2). Almost every one of them has family members that depend on them. Chinedu that have been selling on the street for more than six years explained to me why it will be difficult for many of the street traders to leave the street.

“I make a minimum of 300 naira profit every day and in some days it can go up to 500 nairas, with this I can take care of my wife and don’t need to turn to a beggar on the street. But the government wants us to turn to crime with this their policy against street traders. I am a polytechnic graduate, and I looked for a job for more than four years to no avail. They don’t give me a job and yet they want to take away the one I have” (Chinedu, Male, 30 years).

Sakiru is an uneducated street trader that have been selling on the street for two years; he supported Chinedu claim that many people turn into street trading because of the increasing unemployment rate in the country.

“People that don’t have jobs will surely find a way to feed their family by all means; this can be through legal or illegal means. Because of city outlook, the government is now going after people that chose not to join gangs to be committing crimes. Which type of government will prioritize the beauty of the city over the wellbeing of her citizen” (Sakiru,).

From the functionalist perspective, street hawkers are part of the majority poor people in the society and are critical to the growth of the economy. However, Hawking is viewed in a different way and outlawed, it is important as it is a means of survival for many households. It is a formality for the poor who face entry barrier in the formal business sector, and they can earn some income. Hawkers contribute a significant amount of income in their families and, therefore, enhance sustain families and to some extension the development of the society. Therefore according to these theory perspectives, Hawking is a compelling and a functional factor that thrives in spite of legislations and regulations against it (Filion, 2000, pg 455).

Obviously, this type of place profit majority of the respondents above the international living standard of the 1 dollar per day, one can read between the lines that most of the street hawkers at least live above the suggested one dollars per day. It implies that poor people will rather stick to a business that offers them a light at the end of the tunnel to graduate out of poverty. Regardless of the fact that numerous attempts have been made by city authorities to expel hawkers operating at these unauthorized locations, the effort to do so have yielded limited results with the number of street hawkers increasing on daily basis. In a bid to understand why street hawkers continue to flourish despite the government predisposition against their activities. The study finds that street hawkers in Lagos will continue to resist expulsion from the street as their survival lies in their ability to sell in the street so as to make daily income. Most especially, when average daily turnover has the potential to more than that of the public sector wage, the propensity of increase in street hawkers is most likely in Lagos with or without strict rules (Owusu, & Abrokwah, 2014:121).

Chapter 4: The Extent of Repressive Policies in Aggravating Street Vendors’ Vulnerability to Poverty

4.1 Introduction.

The majorities of hawkers in Lagos are vulnerable to poverty and consist of people with low skills that have migrated from rural areas. They come searching for employment but due to lack of formal education and skill they end up being hawkers. Income from Hawking is very low as the investment is too low, and no special training and skills are required. The current law in the Nigerian government indicates that Hawking is illegal in any major towns. Experts have termed hawking as undesirable and serious social malaise that needs to be addressed professionally. However, this practice has widespread in Lagos as it is an imperative basis of earnings for the unemployed people in the society (Berner, Gomez, &Knorringa, 2012: 78).The omnipresent nature of street hawking in Lagos and the economic benefits it has for the unemployed, as well as the challenges it poses for people’s well-being in Lagos, led to the necessity and urgency of this research. This study attempted to analyze and identify the challenges of Eking out a Living through Street Hawking and Dilemma of Coping with Government Harassment in Lagos, Nigeria.

Although Nigeria has natural resources that can make everyone comfortable, the majority of the people are poor. This portion of the population is projected to be 70%.However, citizens engage in various economic activities like hawking not for the joy of working but the necessity to eke out a living. The attention of this research was informed by the effects of carrying heavy goods and walking long distances hawking to find potential customers is a difficult and odd activity that has severe health implications, and it represents hard ways of living. Hawkers carry heavy goods moving around Lagos making them very tired at the end of the day. They end up exerting themselves beyond their personal capacity resulting in body pains that depends on the goods the hawker is carrying and how far they travel to get a potential customer. Some of the goods carried make them vulnerable to viruses and bacteria’s that have vital health effects including, flu, typhoid, catarrh, allergies and body pains. Hawkers are regularly knocked down by vehicles as they are most of the times absent minded focusing only on their goods and customers. Motorcycle accidents are very common in Lagos that involves hawkers while crossing streets (Chen, 2012pg, 45).

 Female hawkers who are lactating mothers go about their business with babies on their backs. Thus, babies are also exposed to dangers together with their mothers. Carrying goods alone the whole day is a big burden. Some goods are in big sacks, so hawkers have no rear view in the case of a coming vehicle or motorcycle from behind (Garba, 2010, pg 324).  Before they can put down these goods and run for their lives, it is too late, and they end up being killed or fatally injured making them permanent disabled. During the research, I did not find an empirical record that document health consequences as a result of carrying heavy goods in the streets. I only relied on casual observation and response from hawkers about the incidence they have witnessed their colleagues being involved in motorcycle and vehicle accidents. This research seeks to response to following questions:

To understand the effect of government policies, practice such as confiscation, harassment just to mention a few on the street traders, in particular, their strategies. First, we need to critically access and understand the reason government embarks on such practices. From my discussion with the government officials, their responses were based on four major factors, namely security, city filthiness, revenue generation and health issues according to the findings. For ethical reasons, the officials that agreed to talk to me preferred to be anonymous. Therefore, they shall be referred to in pseudo names. Mr. John of the Lagos State Road and Transport Management Agency  maintained that government actions were born out of necessity to make the city safe because most crimes committed on the roads and street were committed by those that disguise as street traders

“Criminals disguise as street vendors to rob cars, unsuspecting pedestrians of their belongings especially at night, abduction and kidnapping, selling of drugs and stolen goods, and other criminal activities. I can give you examples of various arrested suspects disguising as street vendors” (Interview with Mr. John)

The response of Mr. John, unfortunately, depicted street hawking as a menace in Lagos that has made the city disorderly and congested. The government on the other has not turned a blind eye on this menace and has formulated policies to curb street hawking in Lagos. The government policy includes confiscation of hawkers’ goods, arresting them and fining and jailing those who fail to raise their fines. As a result of the commotion caused during this exercise, the city council official results in harassing and even injuring hawkers while arresting them (Bhowmik, 2005: 231). It true that one can argue that the presence of hawkers everywhere parading their goods on pedestrian paths and in the parking lot contributed to the congestion of the city creating all sort of commotions and traffic jams making investors and tourists to avoid the city. What is not true based on the findings of this study is that majority of street hawkers are criminals in disguise.

Mrs. Adobo, a senior officer of the Ministry of Environment is of the opinion that Street vendors activities have transformed Lagos ( mega city) to an eye sore. In particular, they have created a herculean task to make the city clean. Besides, they are the source of all unhygienic food on the street that is dangerous to the populace

This person (street traders) are out of control, and they don’t follow any regulation, people health is put in jeopardy. If you go to an eatery to eat, and you fall sick, definitely one can trace the source of the food. Who will you hold responsible in case there is a complication?

There are many factors that contributed to hostile government attitude towards the idea of promoting informal economy, most especially street hawking. The informal economy is difficult to control regarding unsafe and illegal activities that mean no guaranty for health and safety in the process of production, storage and selling. As a result, possible undesirable consequences such as loss in budget revenues by reducing taxes and social security contributions are likely to occur (Llanes et al., 2007; Copisarow and Barbour, 2004; Neale and Wickramage,  2006). The issue of tax and income is generating revenue raised by Mr. John; he disagreed with the fact that street traders add value to the state economy. Instead, he maintained that the activities of street traders are inhibiting the government capacity to provide the right infrastructure facilities because their activities are making the government lose money.

“The activities of street vendors are forcing all market women and men to abandon their shops and come out onto the street. Thus, customers don’t even need to go into the shops again since they can find the goods they are looking for at cheaper price on the street. Moreover, they don’t pay taxes, so there is a need that they should be restricted to areas that they can be monitored and not just moving freely”.

On the contrary to the official government argument, it was gathered that about 79% of the respondents were against the view that street hawking activities cause’ filth, congestion, human and vehicular traffic in the city with 80% of the respondents that participated in the survey are ready to pay tax. The remaining 20% that are not ready to pay tax was based on the assumption that their taxes will be embezzled by the government and will not benefit them while others said they were not working to be taxed unsurprisingly. Going by the responses of the street hawkers, one can argue that the majority of the reasons given by the government officials inconsequential because the street hawkers are ready to pay tax if done.

Surprisingly, 23% of the street trader support the ban of street hawking in the Lagos Metropolis while 77% are against it. But I asked further to give their reasons. For those that supported the ban, 13 respondents said that it is not safe, and it exposed them and their children to abuse from both the police and thugs coupled with the danger of an accident. For those that said no, the majority said that when the government is not after them, they use to make big sales and profits. One man even said that he build his house and send his children to school through street vending, but things have been difficult since the government starts to target them. Some said that the types of goods they sell were majorly meant for customers in the street, bus stations and so on. For example sachet water for people stuck in the traffic. So selling in other places will not bring profits.

Since this research devoted substantial attention to dangers and consequences that hawkers face in Lagos, the research found out that hawkers are exposed to many risks such as crime, abuse loss of lives and prostitution. In the streets, hawkers are exposed to many hazards that include the risk of accidents, kidnapping, robbery, violence and loss of good and even ritual murders. They are vulnerable to extreme weather conditions, insect bites, reptile attacks, deprivation, and hunger. Women and men are sexually exploited at the same time. However, the worst of all is government harassment and prosecution (Opafunso, & Okhankhuele, 2014: 122). So one could understand why we have street hawkers that wanted a better option that is safe, therefore supporting the ban on street trading despite the fact that is the source of their livelihood

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