Can the ₦30,000 Survival Fund actually help artisans survive?

One characteristic of successive Nigerian governments is supposed poverty alleviation schemes. Some examples are Maryam Babangida’s ‘Better Life for Rural Women,’ former president Olusegun Obasanjo Administration’s ‘National Poverty Eradication Program’ and now we have Tradermoni and the Artisan Support Scheme. The incumbent Nigerian Government is particularly good at many money sharing schemes designed to help poor people across the country. Despite these, Nigeria remains the world’s poverty capital.

Money sharing schemes like Tradermoni have come under fire for being avenues to siphon money by politicians and for the meagre amount being shared. While this might be true, the situation requires critical examination.

The ongoing scheme recently announced by the office of the Vice President is the Artisan Support Scheme – a track under the MSMEs Survival Fund. Vice Presidential Spokesman, Laolu Akande said ‘Under the ESP, the Survival Fund is generally designed to among other things, support vulnerable MSMEs in meeting their different obligations and safeguard jobs in the sector.’

A cursory look at the statement suggests that it is a noble scheme. However, a critical look at it would invalidate it. There is no way ₦30,000 will safeguard jobs in the informal sector.

In today’s Nigeria, there is little that ₦30,000 naira can do. It cannot even buy a bag of rice which is a staple in many Nigerian homes. For small businesses that run in shacks or from homes, ₦30,000 might help them to expand but it will not help them move forward significantly.

It is useful to people only because they are significantly poor but it is not the ideal. I think the general disconnect that is between the rural and urban poor and the middle and ruling classes is obvious in the conception of these schemes. While a significant number of Nigerians are poor, many of them are not so poor that 30,000 will make any significant change in their lives or businesses. An analysis of the cost of tools used by many MSMEs would show that 30,000 Naira would not help them significantly. Perhaps the Presidency might want to really ask who the beneficiaries are so that they can assist appropriately. The survival fund can make the poor survive because it will buy them food to last for a while but it would not help a dying artisan’s business survive.

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