In Nigeria today, second-hand bookselling has become a major source of income for a lot of people. It is a thriving sector which is helping to curb unemployment, whilst silently stimulating economic growth in the little ways that it can. For this reason, it deserves a special recognition.
It is, therefore, in a bid to get more insight into the business that Nairametrics visited the popular Ojuelegba Under Bridge in Lagos where some booksellers and their customers were interviewed. Here, we met Chinedu Alex, a bookseller who was standing beside his wares that were displayed by the roadside. He courteously asked if he could help us find any specific titles; a good customer service skill by the way. But then we were on a different mission.
Before long, Chinedu was telling a little bit about the story of his life. He came to Lagos as a nineteen-year-old with a burning desire to study pharmacy at the University of Lagos. Coincidentally, his uncle with whom he was living, owned a neighbourhood pharmacy store. So, young Chinedu worked in the store as an apprentice, even as he prepared for his entrance examinations into the university. He was so determined to gain admission so much so he bought a lot of books with his spare money and read them all. Eventually, he wrote the exams, passed them but still could not study at the university because his uncle would not pay his tuition.
For years to come, Alex continued to work in his uncle’s pharmacy store even as he kept acquiring various science textbooks and reading them in readiness for when he would finally become a student. Unfortunately for him, that time never came.
In 2012, he had a fallout with his uncle and got dismissed from his apprenticeship without a settlement. All he had in his possession at the time were his many textbooks, his clothes, and a few thousand naira notes. The young man had to decide whether to go back to the village or stay in Lagos and start a business. He chose the latter.
How the second-hand bookselling business works
Second-hand booksellers such like Alex sell everything from textbooks/magazines published in the early 1990s, to more recently published materials. These books are gotten from different sources, including former students who no longer have a need for the books, lecturers and others who need to get rid of their old books in order to create space for newer ones.
A bulk of the second-hand books are also imported. Alex told me that sometimes, containers arrive at Nigeria’s port with sizeable amounts of second-hand books in them. Consequently, people like Alex are notified by their contacts at the ports to come check the books.
“We buy the books In bulk. We do not buy them one by one the same way we sell. What happens is that when we see all the books, we tell them how much we want to buy everything. And so we buy everything.” -Alex
Why do people buy second-hand books?
There are two main reasons why Nigerians buy second-hand books. According to another second-hand bookseller named Favour Chuks whose shop was right next to Alex’s, some buyers of second-hand books are readers who cannot find what they want to read in regular bookstores. He revealed that some of his customers have repeatedly told him how difficult it can often be to get certain books in regular bookstores in Lagos. So, they come to the second-hand booksellers who somehow always have these books.
The second reason why Nigerians buy second-hand books is when the original books are too expensive for them. This situation is particularly peculiar to medical textbooks which Alex said are generally expensive. Sometimes, medical students from the nearby University of Lagos come to give them a list of books to get for them. They prefer to buy from Alex in order for them to save money.
Note that whereas an original medical textbook could cost as much as N20,000, a fairly used copy of the same book may cost just N5,000 when purchased from second-hand booksellers.
Is it a lucrative business?
The least price for a book or magazine sold by a second-hand book is N250. Some books are as expensive as N3500. Now when you compare these prices with how much it costs the booksellers to acquire the books, you’d realise that they make nearly 100% profit in the business.
The question, however, is whether or not they get enough customers to patronise them. After all, there is a widely held belief that Nigerians don’t read; something Alex vehemently refuted by the way. As a matter of fact, he said he makes as much as N8,000 from selling those second-hand books per day. This would not be the case if Nigerian do not read as many people like to believe.
Note that Nairametrics was with Alex and Favour for nearly two hours, during which time at least eight people came around to check out some books. Five of those people made purchases of books ranging from N250 – N1000. People buy everything from novels to inspirational books. But the sale of textbooks to students seemed to be the biggest source of income to both traders.
One of the customers that came around was Susan, a Master’s student at the University of Lagos. She wanted to buy a book on Gender Studies. She told us that she prefers to purchase second-hand books because they are “affordable and reliable.”
What determines the prices of books?
Second-hand booksellers largely determine book prices by author’s popularity and buyer’s demands. According to Alex and Favour, those two factors are intertwined in the sense that it is the popularity of an authour’s name that mostly determines the demand for their books.
However, some genres are in greater demand than the other because they typically sell out faster than the rest. Examples of such genres are- inspirational/spiritual, university textbooks and romance novels.
Challenges in the business
A major challenge faced by second-hand booksellers in Lagos Nigeria is the constant harassment by Lagos State officials. This is because street trading is illegal in the state, even it serves as a source of livelihood to millions of Lagosians such as Alex and Favour.
Indeed, the economic impacts of the second book business cannot be underestimated. It provides sources of employment to many and helps low income [students] afford books to study. In its little way, the business helps the economy to grow.
The FG in partnership with the private sector will continue to support MSMEs – Osinbajo
Osinbajo has stated that the FG in partnership with the private sector would continue to provide interventions to boost the growth of small businesses.
Nigeria’s Vice-president Prof. Yemi Osinbajo during an MSME stakeholders’ meeting, disclosed that the Federal Government in partnership with the private sector would continue to provide interventions to boost the growth of small businesses across the country.
According to a press statement issued by Laolu Akande, the VP made this statement on Monday at the first meeting of MSMEs stakeholders for the year 2021.
Prof. Osinbajo said the Government would continue to support innovation and interventions to deepen the involvement of new and existing MSMEs in the nation, this he said would help to improve the economy and create more employment opportunities for Nigerians.
He stressed further that the implementation of the Economic Sustainability Plan Survival Funds has sent positive economic signals. In a bid to complement the gains in this space, the Government needs to scale up interventions in the MSMEs sector.
In this vein, Osinbajo urged stakeholders in the public and private sectors at the virtual meeting to be innovative in the interventions planned for small businesses across the country, so as to consolidate on the gains recorded in the MSMEs space in the past few years.
What they are saying
Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, during the MSME stakeholders’ meeting, said:
“We must continue to be innovative in the interventions that we plan for MSMEs because small businesses are the engines of growth of any economy, in the areas of wealth creation and employment opportunities, MSMEs are very important.”
Continuing, Prof. Osinbajo said:
“We really have to think out of the box in our engagements going forward. We need to change the way we do many things, we need to look for ways of multiplying our efforts because the challenges in this space are greater than what we have been able to achieve so far. Of course, we have done a lot, but looking at the numbers in need, you will find out that there is a lot more to be done.”
What you should know
- The Federal Government’s MSMEs Survival Fund grant scheme, which includes Payroll Support, Artisans and Transport support tracks, is a component under the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan, NESP.
- The Survival Fund scheme was designed to cushion the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic especially on the most vulnerable small businesses, is a conditional grant to support vulnerable MSMEs in meeting their payroll obligations and safeguard jobs in the MSMEs sector.
- The scheme is estimated to save not less than 1.3 million jobs across the country. However, 283,023 Nigerians employed by MSMEs across the country have benefited from the Payroll Support Scheme. This leaves millions of Nigerians out of the consideration of the scheme.
283,023 Nigerians employed by MSMEs have benefited from FG Payroll Support Scheme
The FG has revealed that over 200,000 persons have so far benefited from its Payroll Support Program.
The Federal Government of Nigeria has disclosed that 283,032 Nigerians employed by MSMEs across the country have so far benefited from the Payroll Support Scheme of the Federal Government.
This disclosure was made in a tweet shared via FG Survival Fund’s official Twitter account.
— MSME Survival Fund (@SurvivalFund_ng) January 6, 2021
What you should know
- The Payroll Support Program by FG under the Survival Fund initiative was created to provide an adequate buffer against the impact of the COVID-19 on the stream of income of MSMEs.
- This, however, is an offshoot of the Survival Fund initiative, established to support and protect small businesses from potential vulnerabilities brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- In line with the mandate of the programme, the government will support MSMEs with staff salaries for 3 months.
- It is important to note that the COVID-19 pandemic and other regulatory actions of the Federal Government affected the core segments of SMEs, as well as the revenue and income vehicles of Small businesses in Nigeria.
- According to a survey by NBS, it became public knowledge that the total number of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in the country was about 41.5 million, as of December 2017, with significant employment contribution running to millions.
- In the light of this, it is plausible to say that the Payroll support programme is not inclusive enough, as the recent move by FG to support MSMEs leaves millions of MSMEs and their employees out of the radar.
FG warns applicants of N75 billion MSME Fund against fraudulent websites
FG warned unsuspecting members of the public to beware of fraudulent websites demanding account details.
The Federal Government has warned unsuspecting members of the public, who wish to apply for the MSME Survival Fund, to beware of fraudulent websites demanding account details, before giving applicants N50,000.
According to Punch, the disclosure is contained in a press statement that was issued in Calabar by the Project Delivery Office (the Coordinating office of the scheme) under the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, and titled ‘Portal requesting for beneficiaries account details to get N50, 000 not known to us.’
The PDO is coordinated by the SA to the President on MSMEs, Office of the Vice President, Tola Johnson.
What the Trade, Industry and Investment Ministry is saying
The Ministry, in its statement said, “Our attention has been drawn to the activities of fraudsters parading themselves as operators of the Federal Government’s Survival Fund Scheme.
“The syndicate operating a fraudulent portal with the link https://survivalfund-gov-ng.freefunds.xyz/#1609249530133(https://bit.ly/FG-survival-fund) are asking unsuspecting members of the public to check their eligibility for the scheme by providing their account details on the portal in order to be paid N50, 000 grant under the Survival Fund Scheme.
“It is pertinent to note that the Project Delivery Office (the coordinating office of the scheme) does not operate any such portal and beneficiaries do not require to go to the website to verify their eligibility for the federal government’s Survival Fund as indicated on the fraudulent portal.
“The website requesting beneficiaries account details is, therefore, a scam. The PDO does not operate any such portal and wishes to advise all Nigerians and beneficiaries of the different tracks of the survival fund to be wary and desist from having dealings with the operators of the site.”
The Ministry pointed out that the authentic survival fund portal remained www.survivalfund.gov.ng and the PDO would always inform members of the public on updates about the scheme whenever it was necessary.
What you should know
The MSME Survival Fund, which is part of the N2.3tn stimulus package of the Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan, was introduced by the Federal Government as part of efforts to help businesses overcome challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The MSMEs Survival Fund scheme is a conditional grant to support vulnerable micro and small enterprises in meeting their payroll obligations and safeguard jobs in the MSMEs sector. The scheme is expected to save at least 1.3 million jobs across the country and specifically impact on over 35,000 individuals per state.