SOCIAL IMPACT INVESTMENT: WHY NIGERIA’S TRADER MONEY INTERVENTION POLICY IS UNSUSTAINABLE
According to a World Bank report in 2015, Nigeria was on the road to economic recovery due to government policies and development indexes between 2009-2015. However, in 2018 the World bank overruled the projection of economic prosperity in the country, citing poor government economic policies to address development issues. Recently, the Nigerian government under the Buhari-led administration has claimed that its rollout of a social impact investment policy called ‘Tradermoni’ is a step in the right direction to help address the economic woes of the country. This paper provides a holistic criticism of the economic policy intervention of ‘Tradermoni’, under the Buhari-Osibanjo led administration of (2015-2019), highlighting examples of how social impact works in practice. It also argues that the current Nigerian intervention policy which includes token fees of less than $50 in a “trader money scheme” is unsustainable and cannot classify under social impact according to the Rockefeller conceptual definition, while answering the question, can government or public sector carry out social impact intervention policies? The paper uses the logic and change model with public finance theoretical framework to access the impact of trader money intervention fund, also providing a literature review of relevant sources that provide an appraisal about the feasibility of the policy.
Keywords: Trader-money, Social Impact, Nigeria, Impact Investment, Social Entrepreneurship
According to the World Bank, 50% of Nigeria’s 180 million population live in extreme poverty. Measuring poverty level may be difficult but the World Bank in their 2017 report, tagged poverty line as those living below $1.90 daily. To address this existential crisis, the Nigerian government in 2018, rolled out the Government Enterprise and Empowerment programme (GEEP) through the Bank of Industry (BOI) and released its first scheme, ‘Tradermoni’, to fund micro businesses.
“TraderMoni is a loan programme of the Federal Government, created specifically for petty traders and artisans across Nigeria. It is a part of the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) scheme of the Federal Government, being executed by the Bank of Industry” (Trader Moni website, 2019).
The Nigerian Vice-president oversees the disbursement of the loan, which he refers to as a social impact investment, using a pyramid scheme that will see those at the bottom, rise to the top through federal cash loans of less than $28. According to their official website, the loans are specifically for small-medium enterprises, involved in petty trading, who want to expand their business and make it profitable. The aim of the scheme is to reach about 2 million beneficiaries across the 36 states of the federation, within its first year of rollout. As of January of 2019, the scheme had disbursed over $29.7million to 1,100,000 beneficiaries within 32 states, with each beneficiary mandated to pay back the initial amount of $28 within the first three months, to qualify for a 6 per cent interest accrued on to their loan. When the same beneficiary seeks to loan again, the amount is increased to $41.6, showing how the lending pattern is structured.
A closer look at the structure of the scheme makes it unsustainable and does not qualify it as a social impact, for a few reasons which are limited to poor strategy, accountability, lack of key performance indicators, and measurable impact. Tradermoni, may not all be bad in itself considering that most Nigerians would rather have an immediate quick fix through personal cash loans, than an institutional policy that drives change. The acceptance of the policy also hinges on factors relating to illiteracy and the low quality of educational institutions, that do not question social reforms or policies. There is also a reason why such government policies are popular to the point of influencing electoral decisions of citizens. That is because the majority of the population are low-income earners and rely on petty trading as a source of livelihood. Government ineptitude, and lack of accountability or transparency over time has also led to over-dependence on the centre for survival in a population that is closely split between civil servants and unemployed youths, who are scattered across the country.
However, I believe that governments focus should be towards creating social impact though a new type of entrepreneurship that is competitive. Competitive entrepreneurship is also known as social entrepreneurship, which is crucial to addressing current global challenges while making efficient use of public sector resources. Social entrepreneurship is said to “combine both business principle with a passion for social impact and demonstrates three core characteristics: social innovation, accountability, and sustainability”. (Wolk, pg. 1)Tradermoni as an initiative does not fit in nicely as a solution to current challenges, judging by its rollout framework, monitoring and assessment of the loans handed to traders.
The role of the government is often to seek means to surmount challenges facing a nation, leveraging on resources available to it both in the public and private sector. It performs this task by creating strong institutions, providing formidable structures while addressing inequalities that cause families to live in poverty. Assessing Nigeria’s current challenges coupled with a poor economy, every funding counts in addressing its needs. However, Nigeria’s government support and action towards innovative entrepreneurship or social impact entrepreneurship is discouraging. The policies are unfavourable for new market entrant to test transformative ways of solving social problems, coupled with public sector corruption which stifles all growth process, as major stakeholders request for funds to carry out their task of measuring results and groundbreaking of projects. Furthermore, the government is complacent and does not lend support to newcomers, with exception to newcomers connected to those at the hem of affairs after which same adopted projects are abandoned.
Most social enterprising start-ups within the Nigerian economy have succeeded without collaboration from the government, and the government missing out on opportunities to sync their development strategies and policies with solutions to challenging societal problems.
This paper provides a holistic criticism of the economic policy intervention, under the Buhari-Osibanjo led administration of (2015-2019). The paper tries to argue why the current Nigerian social enterprise intervention policy of token fees less than $28 in a “trader money scheme” is unsustainable. The paper provides criticism using the logic and change model also the public sector finance theoretical framework to assess the impact of the intervention. Also, providing a literature review with relevant sources that provide an appraisal on the feasibility of the policy.
Purpose of the Study
Nigeria transitioned from a military regime to a democratic government in 1999. Since then each elected democratic government have rolled out policies it believed was necessary to address the challenges of that time. The Olusegun-Atiku led administration of 1999- 2007 had a policy that focused on Universal Basic Education (UBE), and National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). The Yar’adua-Goodluck administration of 2007-2011 focused on Amnesty and strengthening of the Judiciary, also increased capacity for electricity generation. The Goodluck-Sambo administration of 2011-2015 policy focus was on Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Program (SURE-P). Currently, the Buhari-Osibanjo led administration is focusing on reduced government spending and Tradermoni under the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP). All previous policies from 1999-2015 had, implementation models that fit into the framework of the public sector finance theory. However, the current administration has taken steps tangent from its predecessors.
The purpose of this study is to use academic and reliable findings to critique the current government policy, and also to add to an already existing body of work in policy research.
Background of the Study
Nigeria is a West African country with a current population of 200 million (UN, 2018) people, who cut across different ethnic-religious backgrounds.
The country currently runs a democratic form of governance, where its leaders are elected or re-elected after every four years. In Nigeria as elsewhere within the African continent, the main source of revenue is crude oil, which accounts for nearly 90% of the country’s income, putting pressure on how to maximize oil revenue. The discovery of oil in the late 1950s saw state institutions and resources centralised with regulation from the centre to ensure control over state resources.
Over the years, friction has occurred between the state and the central government, due to the need for the centre to access states resources. The result of the arrangement is political support, often mobilized based on ethnic grounds (Forrest, 1989). The country’s strategy to address its needs is capitalist (obtuse), to which, it has since failed to articulate effectively. Leading to half baked policy implemented by its civil service who are steep in corruption, and fail to appraise their public projects.
The current administration of Buhari-Osibanjo despite riding on the high support of citizens have failed to achieve any commendable feat, hence the implementation of GEEP to kickstart a grassroots mobilisation and goodwill for the government.
Two frameworks are important in understanding how social impact investment in respect to government collaboration works; The Public finance theory and the logic and change model. The theory of change and logic model provides a framework to understand the process of social impact. Although both theories are separate and are used interchangeably, both help to understand the change process. The logic model helps the theory of change by providing linkages between input, output, activities, outcomes, and the impact (Kickul & Lyons, 2016); an important evaluation for new ventures, which is crucial to surmounting any future challenges. A holistic change model will mean that the government focus its efforts on policies that fit into the model.
Also, there is the Public finance theory by (Richard & Peggy, 1989) that explains to the government what policies it should adopt and the possibility of the government adhering to that advice. The theory assigns two major roles to the government: 1) providing basic public welfare to from its fiscal policy, for example, security, public education, and administration 2) addressing market inequalities caused by the unfair distribution by providing employment, and other social welfare function (Wolk, 2008). The idea is that in the development of marginal utility there is an equal sacrifice, that goes into meeting the needs of beneficiaries.
Both theories provide a framework for the critic of the Tradermoni Traadermoni initiative, to justify the need for social impact investment by government.
The conceptual definition of Social Impact
Social impact in this study is defined as investment in urgent need-based sectors of developing economies, using an innovative, measurable and accountable process to provide services for its beneficiaries. In this study, it refers to the Nigerian government’s policy towards social and economic development of the Nigerian people, focusing on sustainable goals that address its socio-economic challenges. Although the appeal of impact investment is a mantra for the private sector, the word ‘impact’ defines most of the activities of the public sector. According to the Center for Social impact Strategic “Social impact is a balance between teaching people and raising awareness of a particular issue, as well as contributing back to a community or location to support them in overcoming what they have identified to be their biggest challenges. Social impact means bringing together people of different cultures, backgrounds, and ideologies to support and advance a single common initiative for the betterment of all people” (CSIS, 2017).
Social impact can be defined, in the context of government policies, as an intervention towards social and economic development of the Nigerian people. It can be viewed as social impact investment in urgent need sectors of developing economies, using innovative, measurable, and accountable process to provide services for its beneficiaries. Developing countries can identify their urgent need-based areas through the United Nations (UN), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Because of the complexity of the Nigerian society, and the unstated vision of the Tradermoni scheme, I will be using both definitions interchangeable to refer to social impact.
One attribute of ‘social impact’ and its relevance to the Nigerian story, is that it addresses need-based social challenges. Nigeria social challenges abound, ranging from Insecurity, energy, access to education, lack of health care, access to clean water, affordable housing. These problems can be solved through the practice of social entrepreneurship, which is “the practice of responding to market failures with transformative innovations, uniquely positioned to help government officials address a nation’s toughest problems more effectively” (Wolk, 2007).
Social Impact Investment and Government: The Opportunity
Social impact investment has always been talked about within the purview of the private sector and is usually regarded as an opportunity to use available funds within the public, public and social sector to achieve a measurable, positive, social and financial outcome (OECD, 2015)
Similarly, the idea of social impact for countries as noted by the Rockefeller Foundation is to provide better effectiveness, innovation, accountability around social investment, most of which should be scalable, and provide benefits for recipients (IDSSI 2019). For example, the annual Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN, 2017) impact survey found 60% of investors have opted to track the key performance indicators of their companies through impact investment, these investments, are spread across the globe to include services across Africa such as affordable healthcare, education, energy and technology. These provide opportunities for investors to improve the living standard of people in those countries. The example shows that with the right initiative and government policy channelled at addressing urgent social, economic and social needs of its people, investors are willing to contribute to global change. Unfortunately, the Nigerian government is not keen on addressing such gaps, and have enjoyed the structural arrangement of the country, where leaders are akin to gods and followers are dependent on them for survival and provision of basic needs.
The ability of government to change lives and improve the livelihood of the Nigerian people is to encourage innovation. In Nigeria, private sector companies like Andela, Flying doctors, Follow the money are emerging markets in the technology, health and social sector of the underdeveloped country, achieving significant, measurable and sustainable impact. The government can capitalise on their effort and gather data, understand how to scale, and provide an enabling environment to solve its local challenges. More importantly, the government needs to clamp down on institutionalised corruption, to attract global investors. According to Transparency International (TI) corruption index of the public sector, Nigeria ranks 144 out of 180 countries. TI rating that reduces the trust of the country globally, which also affects the country’s ability to attract international investors.
However, there are model countries like the United Kingdom (U.K), United States(US), India and Kenya, whose government has implored the use of social entrepreneurship strategy as a means to intervene on key challenging. The government set out funds that support innovative ways of addressing social problems. The strong suit of government is usually to create better policies, which includes legislative action, regulatory oversight, and commitment of financial resources to social development. Also, Nigeria is a member of the African Union (AU), in January 2014 the members of the AU signed an agreement on the Common African Position (CAP) development agenda at the 22nd Assembly session in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The core agenda was to lay out what it identified as key areas for government intervention, which was also in line with the UN sustainable goals. Contained in the CAP agreement is an emphasis on the need for people-centred policies in the region, hinged on six pillars;
Structural economic growth; This lay emphasis on the need for the continent to diversify its means of revenue, with more focus on agriculture, and food security. I find this point very important because most of Nigeria’s woes began with its over-reliance on oil revenue.
Science and Technology; This aims to improve the rating of Africa’s Research and Development (R&D) with its innovation capacity. It lays emphasis on the need to improve the ecosystem, for scientific research to thrive. For Nigeria, research and development are essential in solving the challenges around electricity and healthcare.
People-centred development: Due to the continent’s poverty rank its ultimate objective is poverty alleviation, universal access to essential health services, clean water, education and healthcare, especially for women, children and vulnerable persons displaced by conflict.
The other pillars highlighted include; environmental sustainability, peace and security, finance and partnership.
The pillars highlighted are potential sectors for government social impact investment and collaboration with the private sector. For example, in Kenya, the Bridge International Academy (BIA) is a sustainable venture addressing access to education, providing a low-cost private school which bills $6.95 a month and has scaled to having 359 academies, with over 100,000 students. BIA is part of the success story that happens when government within the region push for a better standard of living for their people. The academy is available, in other four East African countries, where it leverages technology and data to provide standard education for less cost. The success story of BIA has attracted investors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In the health sector, still in East Africa, Living goods has empowered more than 1,000 community health workers, who provide door to door health services like selling malaria drugs to providing vaccination and treatment for a common ailment. Based on their record, the empowerment programme have supported 25,000 pregnancies, treated up to 62,000 children and 32,000 fortified units of vitamin-foods sold. The company has also received grants from investors like Omidyar Network.
There are Nigerian impact initiatives that show examples of what government ought to do when they decide on what policy to introduce for public benefit. For example, Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship program (TEEP), focuses on promoting entrepreneurship. In 2014 $10 million funding was committed to finding 10,000 most innovative business ideas amongst Africans, selected from a pool of over 20,000 applicants. The countries impacted by this initiative asides Nigeria, including Ghana, Uganda, South Africa and Kenya. Also, the Andela hub which launched in 2014 in the same country, providing a skills bridge the gap between local talents and global markets, employing over 1000 home based talents and connecting them with global networks.
Barriers to Government controlled Social Impact Investment
For a country with a diverse group of people, social entrepreneurship impact can be tasking. The hurdles to scale include legal implications, work with intermediaries, and accessing the target population due to corruption, there is also the challenge of measuring the impact of any initiative. The measurement report of Tradermoni scheme lacks professionalism or consistency, in that, the scheme has three web pages no clear indication of who collects payment, and how the government plans to utilize remittances. Similarly, the lack of data to influence policy decisions is not limited to the Tradermoni scheme, extends to the public sector, resulting in the lack of innovative policies that solve present challenges of the country. Also, there are challenges due to the financial burden and accrued time before revenue can cover the cost of running the initiative.
Nigeria can also benefit from its manpower, most of whom are unemployed or private sector investors. The Nigerian government can form partnerships to leverage additional resources, mostly in the area of technology, accountability and revenue generation. The private sector is keen performance and financial returns, a burden that is usually a big task for the public sector to monitor. For example, the technology industry has grown into a $69.85 industry employing over four million Nigerians due to the ingenuity of its handlers. Likewise, Nigeria can use the Bank of Industry to develop a framework that is attractive to investors and provide opportunities for impact investment. But the government has to first, put in place effective and relevant laws that would reduce corruption, and make implementing projects seamless and transparent. There is also a need for private investors to realise that there is an existing ecosystem, which already has structures they could leverage on as new entrants, integrate to reduce the financial burden of entry cost.
The Nigerian government has the ability, to create policies that can strengthen and grow the economy. The rationale for governments ability is backed by the theoretical framework discussed in this writing and sets a tone for accountability. However, it cannot achieve this feat without collaboration with the private sector and the strong will on changing the Nigerian narrative by its people.
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Useful books include Billy Dudley, An Introduction to Nigerian Government and Politics, Macmillan, 1982; B. 0. Nwabueze, The Presidential Constitution of Nigeria, Hurst, 1982; Toyin Falola and Julius Ihonvbere, The Rise and Fall of Nigeria’s Second Republic, 1979-84, Zed,
1985. Recent commentaries include L. Adamolekun, The Fall of the Second Republic, Spectrum, Ibadan, 1985 & Chief F. Nzeribe, Nigeria. Another Hope Betrayed. The Second Coming of the Nigerian Military, Kilimanjaro, 19