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