During lunch break, you pop to the street corner to buy ‘bole’, grilled plantain and fish. You wait for your portion with a crowd of hungry people. Driving back from work in the evening, you get a flat tyre – luckily, there is a street-side ‘vulcaniser’ to repair it. Stuck in a traffic jam, you buy cold water and snacks from people carrying goods through the traffic on their heads. The next morning, you drop off two pairs of shoes to be fixed by the roadside cobbler. You pick up a newspaper and buy a new shirt from the stall next to the cobbler. The road side offers so many services that each of us use everyday. And these roadside hustles don’t only feed hungry workers at lunch, they feed the families of the vendors, they send children to school, they pay the rent. These roadside hustles are people’s livelihoods. At least 67% of Nigeria’s economy is what some economists call ‘informal’.
The government of Rivers State, like too many governments across the continent, treat these roadside entrepreneurs as criminals. Rather than service providers, they are cast as troublemakers. Rather than developing infrastructures and systems to support them, the government has gone to war against them. The violence can be overwhelming.
Listen to our story of roadside hustle.