Like most other Nigerians in the diaspora, there are certain creature comfort that one gets used to that our country never offered us growing up. Moving back home to seeing young entrepreneurs shifting the paradigm and bringing these ‘foreign’ concepts into our space is very comforting. This is why we can have platforms like TheStyleHQ, an emerging café culture, concept stores, sushi bars and many other things that were never here before. It seems, however, that the sustainability of these businesses can only be possible in a risk-free operation; one there is very little room for in Nigeria as can be seen from what happened yesterday in Lagos.
Yesterday, over seven business structures at 7-12 Rumens Road, Ikoyi were torn down to rubble by the government with no prior warning. This is not a new phenomenon unfortunately as it happens very often in market places throughout the country. Tejuosho Market’s entirety was torn down 5 years ago while Sura and Sandgrouse Markets were also demolished 2 years ago. In light of this very sad occurrence, there is a serious question about whether the country realises and appreciates the value of Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises.
SMEs are crucial to the economic growth and development of our country. They account for over 60% of employment and 55% of the GDP. The Nuli Juice Company, Nuts about Cakes, Activ Danzz Studios and others are just some of the value-adding companies that were literally torn down in the unjust exercise. It goes beyond the loss of the services that they provided us. There’s a loss of the hope that was brewing that we could start legitimate, sustainable businesses in Nigeria. Hope that we got from young CEOs like Ada Osakwe of Nuli Juice Company (read here). Nigerians get shot in the foot after almost every try and are left wondering whether there is even any point.
Given the country’s current recessive economic climate, right and moral behaviour should have led the government to deal with these issues in a way that does not cause such detrimental effect to the businesses. The lack of empathy towards the spaces’ occupants is very disturbing, and if this is the best a government that is for us could do, how much worse is it going to get? How do SMEs grow if there is a constant fear of being smashed under someone else’s big feet? Where do these poor people who have been left without jobs begin from now?
This is a slap on the wrist and a wake up call for all of us and I hope that it is not something we will have to accept as a new normal. Our thoughts go out to all the people affected by this on any scale.