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Lake Chad Basin

Lake Chad Basin gets back to business again

26 August 2021
Reading time: 4 minutes

After more than a decade of insecurity caused by extremist attacks, businesses in the Lake Chad Basin have started to revive as peace is slowly being restored in northeast Nigeria.

Babagana Goni, the vice-chairman of National Union of Road Transport Workers, said labourers, traders, drivers and many others could not do business and were left with no source of livelihood for more than a decade because of violent attacks by extremists from the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS), more commonly referred to as Boko Haram, and the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP).

But, he said, businesses had restarted about a year ago and the region was gradually reviving.

This was the result of peace having been partially restored thanks to ongoing negotiations between local authorities and the insurgents, as well as added security.

Farming and the manufacturing of rubber kettles and foam, among other goods, were taking place in Gomboru and Banki in Nigeria, as well as other towns in Cameroon and Chad.

The ongoing insecurity – compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic – had made many communities within the Lake Chad region inaccessible and had crippled businesses.

Since inter-state travelling was now more secure, road travel and trade had been revived. This was mostly the result of the Borno State government taking action to ensure safety by providing military convoys to accompany drivers.

Goni said businesses were beginning to thrive again.

“We now travel for two or three days with a military escort. Before this a driver started his journey in the morning here and then he would have to spend the night in Chad or Cameroon,” he said.

“We faced great hardship when we were left with nothing to do and no work. It is very difficult to cope when you lose the only source you have to help you to improve your life and livelihood.”

Although people were grateful to be able to work again, many wanted the Borno State government to fully reopen the market in Banki so that everyone could continue to trade as they had done before.

Goni said the government needed to adjust the processes it had put in place by setting up military checkpoints instead of deploying military convoys as escorts for people who needed to travel for business purposes.

He also urged the government to encourage those who were displaced and who fled to Kano State to return to Borno to continue their trading activities.

ReliefWeb, the information service provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), reported in April that the security crisis in the Lake Chad Basin had eroded all livelihoods but that women were most affected.

Extremists and other armed groups had looted and destroyed markets, cutting off many women’s access to supplier credit lines.

In Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, large-scale female vendors said their trade volumes had reduced drastically and they could not secure loans from banks. Many were widows, their husbands killed in the conflict. Being sole breadwinners, they worried about not being able to provide for their children.

But, ReliefWeb said, women in the Lake Chad Basin had found ways to improve their livelihoods. They had down-scaled their trading to avoid the dangerous roads used by their male counterparts. Instead of selling banned goods or those with declining profitability, women traded in food and household items. Some had received entrepreneurial and vocational training from non-governmental organisations and were pursuing alternative livelihoods such as dressmaking.

It said state resources had to be used to make communities safer, rebuild and secure markets, fix trade routes and underwrite debt and provide loans. Links should be restored between national and regional economies in the Lake Chad Basin region. Money should be spent on agribusiness storage facilities to keep goods fresh during long-distance transit and on road infrastructure.

A World Bank report said that in the Lake Chad Basin there were  still complex humanitarian issues that remained to be resolved.

Progress in the areas of infrastructure (electricity, roads, storage, markets), rule of law (regulatory and legal environment and anti-corruption) and security were preconditions for success.

There was a need to encourage productive value chains, which required support from off-takers and input suppliers (fertilisers, seeds, pesticides, mechanical services, irrigation and transport services), skills (technical, business, financial and marketing) and financial services providers.

About the author

Elvis Mugisha