Urban Forum

pp 1–21 | Cite as

The Enabling Environment for Informal Food Traders in Nigeria’s Secondary Cities

  • Danielle ResnickEmail author
  • Bhavna Sivasubramanian
  • Idiong Christopher Idiong
  • Michael Akindele Ojo
  • Likita Tanko


Informal vendors are a critical source of food security for urban residents in African cities. However, the livelihoods of these traders, and the governance constraints they encounter, are not well-understood outside of the region’s capital and primate cities. This study focuses on two distinct secondary cities in Nigeria, Calabar in the South-South geopolitical zone of the country and Minna in the Middle Belt region. Interviews were collected with local and state officials in each city on the legal, institutional, and oversight functions they provide within the informal food sector. This was complemented with a survey of approximately 1097 traders across the two cities to assess their demographic profile, contributions to food security, key challenges they face for profitability, engagement with government actors, and degree of access to services in the markets. The analysis highlights two main findings. First, informal traders report less harassment by government actors than has been observed in larger Nigerian cities. At the same time, however, the enabling environment is characterized by benign neglect whereby government-mandated oversight functions are not comprehensively implemented and service delivery gaps remain a major hindrance to food safety. Second, there are important differences in the needs of traders across cities, suggesting that policies focused on food safety and improving the livelihoods of this constituency more broadly need to be properly nuanced even at the subnational level.


Informal economy Nigeria Secondary cities Street vending Urban food security 



The authors are grateful for funding for this research from the USAID Nigerian Agricultural Productivity Project (NAPP) and from CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). They also thank the CLEEN Foundation and NoiPolls Nigeria for their implementation of the surveys with informal traders in Calabar and Minna. Mekamu Kedir provided excellent research assistance by developing maps of the survey locations. All errors remain those of the authors alone.


  1. Abe, T. (2012). Bracing the odds in the face of double tragedy: The dilemma of street trading in Ibadan Metropolis of Nigeria. Journal of Sustainable Development in Africa, 14(8), 104–118.Google Scholar
  2. Abrahams, C. (2006). Globally useful conceptions of Alternative Food Networks in the developing south: The case of Johannesburg’s urban food supply system. Institute of Geography Online Paper Series, 1–39.Google Scholar
  3. Adamtey, N. (2015). Informal economy budget analysis: Accra Metropolis. Cambridge: WIEGO.Google Scholar
  4. Adedeji, J. A., Fadamiro, J. A., & Adeoye, A. O. (2014). Spatial implications of street trading in Osogbo traditional city Centre, Nigeria. Architecture Research, 4(1A), 34–44.Google Scholar
  5. Aker, J., Klein, M. W., O’Connell, S., & Yang, M. (2014). Borders, ethnicity and trade. Journal of Development Economics, 107(March), 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Banks, N. (2016). Youth poverty, employment and livelihoods: Social and economic implications of living with insecurity in Arusha, Tanzania. Environment and Urbanization, 28(2), 437–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Basinski, S. (2009). All fingers are not equal: A report on street vendors in Lagos, Nigeria. Abuja: CLEEN Foundation.Google Scholar
  8. Bhowmik, S. & Saha, S. K. D. (2012). Street vending in ten cities in India conducted by Tata Institute of Social Sciences. School of Management and Labour Studies Tata Institute of Social Sciences.Google Scholar
  9. Bromley, R. (2000). Street vending and public policy: A global review. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 20, 1–2),1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chukuezi, C. O. (2010). Food safety and hygienic practices of street food vendors in Owerri, Nigeria. Studies in Sociology of Science, 1(1), 50–57.Google Scholar
  11. Crush, J., & Frayne, B. (2011). Supermarket expansion and the informal food economy in southern African cities: Implications for urban food security. Journal of Southern African Studies, 37(4), 781–807.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dipeolu, A. O., Akinbode, S. O., & Okuneye, P. A. (2007). Income generating potentials of street food vending businesses in Ogun state, Nigeria. ASSET Series, C, 2(1), 180–189.Google Scholar
  13. FAO. (2016). Minimum dietary diversity for women - a guide to measurement. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization.Google Scholar
  14. Filmer, D., & Fox, L. (2014). Youth employment in Sub-Saharan Africa. Washington, DC: The World Bank.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Grossman, S. (2016). The politics of order in informal markets: Evidence from Lagos. Palo Alto, CA.Google Scholar
  16. Holland, A. C. (2016). Forbearance. American Political Science Review, 110(2), 232–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Iwuagwu, O. (2011). The cluster concept: Will Nigeria’s new industrial development strategy jumpstart the country’s industrial takeoff? Afro Asian Journal of Social Sciences, 2(2), 1–24.Google Scholar
  18. Jaffee, S., Henson, S., Unnevehre, L., Grace, D., & Cassou, E. (2019). The safe food imperative: Accelerating progress in low- and middle-income countries. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  19. Lawanson, T. (2014). Illegal urban entrepreneurship? The case of street vendors in Lagos, Nigeria. Journal of Architecture & Environment, 13(1), 33–48.Google Scholar
  20. Lindell, I. (2010). Africa’s informal workers. Collective agency, alliances and transnational organizing in urban Africa. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  21. Liverpool-Tasie, S., Omonona, B., Sanou, A., Ogunleye, W., Padilla, S., & Reardon, T. (2016). Growth & transformation of chicken & eggs value chains in Nigeria. In Feed the future innovation lab for food security policy research paper 22. East Lansing: Michigan State University.Google Scholar
  22. Lyon, F., & Porter, G. (2009). Market institutions, trust and norms: Exploring moral economies in Nigerian food systems. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 33(5), 903–920.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mangdon, T. A., & Chintem, W. D. (2014). Hygiene and sanitary practices of street food vendors in southern Kaduna, Nigeria. International Journal of Health and Medical Information, 3(2), 49–57.Google Scholar
  24. McDonald, D. (2008). World city syndrome: Neoliberalism and inequality in Cape Town. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  25. McMillan, M., Rodrik, D., & Sepulveda, C. (2017). Structural change, fundamentals, and growth: A framework and case studies. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Neuwirth, R. (2011). Stealth of nations: The global rise of the informal economy. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  27. Nigerian Bureau of Statistics. (2014). Nigerian Labor Force Survey. Abuja: Central Bank of Nigeria.Google Scholar
  28. Nwanna, C. (2018). Right to the City: Lagos, an emerging Revanchist City in Nigeria? Advances in Social Sciences Research Journal, 5(4), 59–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nzeka, U. (2011). Steady growth of Nigeria’s retail food sector. Washington, DC: Global Agricultural Information Network, United States Department of Agriculture.Google Scholar
  30. Olurinola, I. O., Fadayomi, T., Amoo, E. O., & Ola-David, O. (2014). Occupational health and safety among street traders in Nigeria. International Journal of Economics and Finance, 6(4), 59–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Omemu, A. M., & Aderoju, S. T. (2008). Food safety knowledge and practices of street food vendors in the City of Abeokuta, Nigeria. Food Control, 19(4), 396–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Onodugo, V. A., Ezeadichie, N. H., Onwuneme, C. A., & Anosike, A. E. (2016). The dilemma of managing the challenges of street vending in public spaces: The case of Enugu City, Nigeria. Cities, 59, 95–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Resnick, D. (2017). Informal food Markets in Africa’s cities. Global food policy report. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.Google Scholar
  34. Resnick, D. (Forthcoming). The politics of crackdowns on Africa’s informal traders. Comparative Politics.Google Scholar
  35. Resnick, D., & Thurlow, J. (2015). African youth and the persistence of marginalization. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Roberts, B. H. (2014). Managing systems of secondary cities: Policy responses in international development. Washington, DC: Cities Alliance.Google Scholar
  37. Roever, S. C. (2005). Negotiating formality: Informal sector, market, and state in Peru. PhD Dissertation. University of California, Berkeley .Google Scholar
  38. Skinner, C. (2008). Street trade in Africa: A review. School of Development Studies Working Paper No.51, Durban, South Africa: University of Kwazulu-Natal.Google Scholar
  39. Skinner, C. (2016). Informal food retail in Africa: A review of evidence. Consuming Urban Poverty Working Paper No.2. Cape Town, South Africa: University of Cape Town Africa Centre for Cities.Google Scholar
  40. Tinker, I. (1997). Street foods: Urban food and employment in developing countries. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Food Policy Research InstituteWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.University of CalabarCalabarNigeria
  3. 3.Federal Technical University of MinnaMinnaNigeria

Personalised recommendations