By Rasheed Adebiyi and Abdulgafar Adebayo
Radio is a medium that is widely regarded as a grassroots medium. Apart from the fact that it does not require electricity for access and the technology is ubiquitous being available on different devices, the medium is reputed to have the capacity to educate, inform, enlighten and empower. In Osun State, a radio programme is illustrating how the medium could be used for business education, financial literacy and empowerment for small income earners in the State.
Dayo Oderinu, who anchors the programme tagged KaraKata (buying and selling) said that the idea of the programme was as a result of his understanding of the poverty that is prevalent in many rural and semi urban communities in the state. Having grown up in Ejigbo, a rural town in the state, he had observed and understood the kind of poverty petty traders and low income people battled with. Their survival, on daily basis, is based on how much of their wares they could sell. He observed “for an average petty trader, the battle for survival is won on the ground of how much and how quickly they are able to sell per day. For instance, all the wares a pepper or fruit seller displays in the market on daily basis often times is not up to N10,000. These goods are perishable and could easily get spoilt if they don’t finish selling them on time.” As a first hand witness of this typical pattern of trading among the low income earners in many rural, semi-urban communities in the state, he birthed the programme in 2016.
The idea, at the beginning, was to run an entrepreneurship programme focused on educating local petty traders with skills and knowledge in order for them to grow their businesses. The seed funding idea was as a result of the feedback from the audience. Narrating how the programme has evolved, Dayo said “Karakata programme began in 2016 as a 30-minute entrepreneurship programme where I educate the audience on business idea generation, business management, accounting principles and financial literacy. After a while, people began to call in to ask for how they could get money to implement these ideas. This led to the introduction of the empowerment aspect of the programme in November 2017. Initially, I funded these empowerments with personal funds and donations from friends.” Later, he employed an offline crowdfunding system to raise money to cater to different people whose cases were seen as deserving intervention.
How does this initiative work?
Aired in Yoruba, the programme introduced a unique way of selecting beneficiaries. The anchor usually asked the audience to call in to tell him and other listeners how an intervention of N5,000 could assist their existing business. The aim was to determine low income business owners that needed financial support of as little as that amount of money. Dayo said “potential beneficiaries are expected to call in, tell on live air what they do(business), where they are calling from, their names and how N5,000 can help their businesses.” In deciding whether a caller was a worthy beneficiary on the days of empowerment, he relied on his guts often times and had some unconventional standards. “If you have a shop, I don’t have any business with you. If your capital base is above #20,000 and you can afford to buy a bag of rice for instance, I also don’t have business with you. If you also express familiarity on air or you bear the same surname as me your chances are slim” he stated.
When queried on the significance of the intervention on the business, he stated “this little seed funding of #5,000 has not only helped revive businesses with low capital base but have also kept the business owners in business and out of poverty.”
28-year old Taofeeq Nafisat, a mother of two who sells raw potato and fruits along the road at the Alekuwodo market, Osogbo was one of the beneficiaries of the seed funding. According to her, before she got a lifeline of additional #5,000 funding from the programme, she was only trading with just N10,000. With the grant, her capital base as increased so also her profit.
Nafisat said “I kept the #5,000 aside and bought banana #3000, mangoes and other fruits #2,000.I bought only fruits so I can track the profit as we were taught on the show. This #5000, with the grace of God, generated #2,800 as profit and just last week when I went to the market, I was able to go with #20,000.”
The story was the same for the 45-year-old Asumo Walimot, who started selling raw potatoes about 3months ago as result of the economic hardship that drove her provision business to ruins. The N5,000 injection into her business gave her business a little boost. “The N5,000 I got from Karakata wasn’t enough to buy a sack of potato as the small sack cost N8,000 and the big sack cost N11,000. I added money to it and bought a big sack. I make a profit of N14,500 to N15,000 on each bag,” she explained.
Since 2017 when the seed funding segment of the programme was introduced, it has benefitted about 1,250 low income earners in the state. It was further revealed that 20 of the beneficiaries have been further followed up for another round of business support after it was observed that they have used the initial funds given to them judiciously.
Even though Osun State has been regarded as the state with the lowest poverty rate in Nigeria, it has not been short of efforts by both governments and individuals to reduce poverty in the last 12 years. This may be due to the consistent rise in unemployment rate with 19% in 2017; 24.7% in 2018 and 37.3% in 2022 respectively. Despite the fact that the state ranked as 3rd state with lowest poverty headcount ratio of 8.52%, successive governments in the state since 2010 have introduced different schemes to reduce poverty and youth unemployment. From the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme introduced in 2010 to Business Uplift Stipend (GBOWOGA) recently launched by the outgoing governor of the state, the drive to reduce poverty in the state is commendable. Yet, there are fears that the poverty rate might have increased in recent times as a result of the upsurge in the national poverty headcount ratio in the country. So, a non-state intervention of this nature in the fight against the scourge should be a welcome development.
The Clog in the wheel
In spite of the visible advantages of this initiative, there a number of problems with this kind of arrangement to alleviate poverty. The sustainability of the scheme is a major concern. Funds are often not available to cater to demands from the people. The anchor admitted that there are times when the programme run dry of sponsors for a long period. Sometimes, he has to use his own personal funds to sponsor people for the empowerment. How much could an individual do in such situations is an obvious question mark on the initiative.
Then, to really measure the impact of the programme is an issue. Government empowerment schemes are often criticized for the lip service paid to follow up beneficiaries in order to determine how much progress they have made. KaraKata also suffers from the same fate. The follow up rate has been low. Dayo admitted to this fact when he said “due to the logistics involved, follow up rate is very low. We’ve only followed up on 20 people so far.” The much follow up he has been able to carry out has been for beneficiaries within the state capital leaving out most of those who benefit from outside Osogbo. While empowering people with funds is a good initiative, the impact would not be felt without follow up monitoring. The anchor also noted his inability to check those who want to benefit fraudulently from the programme by calling in with multiple numbers and giving false profiles. This challenge is counter-productive to the vision of the programme. This may turn the initiative to a jackpot for some fraudulent people encouraging indolence instead of industry.
The Lessons therein
Yet, there are lessons for government and well-meaning individuals who may want to embark on a similar journey of empowerment such as KaraKata. Radio could be deployed to reach low income learners that do not have formal education teaching them skills and giving knowledge not ordinarily available in local languages. Besides, both online and offline crowdfunding could as well be deployed to get funds for such initiaves. However, more needs to be done in putting in place a framework that would enable such schemes to have desired impact by properly checking individuals from having multiple access and setting up a follow up mechanism that would ensure judicious use of funds given. This would make the impact measurable.
This story has been made possible by Nigeria Health Watch with support from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.