Jam today: Nigerians cash in on stifled Lagos traffic | Global development

Jshortly after 6 a.m., Omowumi Adekanmbi leaves the studio where she lives with her four children. An hour later, she’s at work in jammed morning traffic – her clients the frustrated Lagos commuters.

Balancing a bowl on his head, Adekanmbi deftly hands over cans of soft drinks with one hand and retrieves naira banknotes with the other. When the bowl is empty, she buys more and returns to the lines of cars that have barely moved in the meantime.

A 2018 report showed that Lagos residents spend on average 30 hours per week in traffic, one of the highest figures in the world. The city – that of Africa seventh economic pole although Smallest state in Nigeria by land area – is home to around 24 million people.

This contrast between size and population means that the city’s 9,100 roads accommodate 5m vehicles carrying eight million people.

The effect on life in Lagos is enormous. School children lose hours of sleep because they have to get up so early to avoid trafficand workers are stressed and quick to burn out. This year, the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Lagos as the second worst city in the world live, behind only Damascus. And with a population expected to reach 88 million by 2100, things can only get worse.

Traffic jam at Iyana Ipaja in Lagos

Traffic jams are so constant that some residents have built their lives around trading in the middle of traffic. Adekanmbi has been selling drinks to exhausted drivers and passengers for 11 years, she says, taking a 9 a.m. break from a bus shelter as rain falls.

“I started trading in traffic after my husband died in 2010. Before his death, I was a food trader. I changed jobs to take care of our children.

“Selling food requires more capital, and you can only make a profit after selling everything. Selling beverages in this traffic generates profits at a faster rate. Most of the time I collect the goods on credit, sell, take my profit and repay the debt to the wholesaler so I can collect more goods,” she says.

Omowumi Adekanmbi with the cold drinks she will sell

On good days, Adekanmbi makes a profit of around 3,000 naira (£6).

In Nigeria, where 80 million Nigerians live below the poverty line, according to the country’s statistics officethe plight of people like Adekanmbi reflects widespread economic problems, says Adesola Afolabi, an economist and editor of the business news site Stears.

“When we look at the cost of their day-to-day livelihood under the harsh conditions involved, you will start to count things like the cost of health, physically and mentally,” she says.

Street vendors sell their wares amid Lagos traffic jams
Street vendors sell their wares amid Lagos traffic jams
Street vendors sell their wares amid Lagos traffic jams
Street vendors sell their wares amid Lagos traffic jams
Christiana James sells Mentos and chewing gum

“When you also consider other socio-economic costs, including the days they don’t sell as much as they want, what happens to all the benefits? Does that mean they don’t eat that day? ” she asked.

Ojo Nduka, a father of four, also works on the city’s congested roads. “I started selling in traffic 10 years ago. There was no other job I could get that was better.

Ojo Nduka offers darts and

Last year he was offered a job as a driver, with a monthly salary of 30,000 naira, the equivalent of the federal minimum wage, but he refused.

“I have four children and that will not be enough for us. By selling in traffic, I earn more. It varies depending on how much I sell per day. If the market is good, I earn more than 50,000 naira in [monthly] profit.

“All my children are still in school and I pay their school fees with my profits,” he adds.

Raphael Ike sells phone chargers as a steady stream of traffic by

The state government has street peddling prohibited twice. But, like many Nigerian bans imposed without offering alternatives, enforcement is non-existent. In Lagos, commuters who have to battle traffic all day find it useful to buy items from their cars.

Salespeople adopt different tactics. While some, like Adekanmbi, have a regular patch where they sell their wares, others like Nduka don’t have a permanent base. “I have friends who also sell in traffic across town; I’ll call them to check the flow and decide the best place to sell for the day,” Nduka says, as he pushes his way through the exhaust fumes of traffic jams.

Another sale for Christiana James, who sells mints, gum and sweets through bus and car windows

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