Poverty, vulnerability and crime: What does Covid-19 mean for Nigerian street vendors?

This project explores Nigerian street vendors’ perspectives on the assistance needed during the Covid-19 pandemic.


The Covid-19 outbreak caught the world by surprise. The global response has included strict lockdown and social distancing measures. But how do we reconcile these measures with the harsh socioeconomic realities of low-income countries such as Nigeria?

For example, street vendors are crucial to Nigeria’s informal economy, accounting for over 70% of the country’s urban employment. They are among the worst-affected by Covid-19 lockdown and social distancing measures, and yet their plight is seldom considered in government planning and decision-making.

Funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Fund to address Covid-19, and led by Dr Chidiebere Ogbonnaya, this research project will explore the impact of Covid-19 lockdown on Nigerian street vendors, focusing on their socioeconomic experiences (e.g. loss of income and hunger), coping strategies and susceptibility to crime. The project will also explore street vendors’ perspective on what government and policymakers can do to assist them urgently.


Using a qualitative research approach, this 18-month project will explore street vendors’ experiences and reactions to Covid-19 lockdown and social distancing measures using in-depth interviews. Secondly, the team will host and analyse data gathered from three workshop events involving street vendors, members of an advisory group, policymakers and government representatives. A report will be generated that aims to inform government policy and decision-making.

Impact and outreach

Findings from the research will provide actionable knowledge to help improve the Federal Government of Nigeria’s understanding of, and response to, the Covid-19 outbreak and wider concerns around job creation, crime prevention and social protection for the poor and most vulnerable in society.

Working in close partnership with the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Justice – whose mission is to ensure justice for all persons, particularly the poor and vulnerable in society – the research will address an important gap in ongoing criminal justice reforms (notably: ‘Decriminalization of Petty Offences’). As key project partners, the Ministry will help in achieving project objectives, discussing mechanisms for broader engagement with other stakeholders, and communicating policy recommendations to the Government.

The outcomes of the project will also advance knowledge on two Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations: 'no poverty' and 'zero hunger'.

Further information

The project brings together an ambitious team of UK- and Nigeria-based researchers, working in partnership with the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Justice.


  • Dr Chidiebere Ogbonnaya (PI), University of Sussex Business School
  • Professor Kasim Waziri, University of Abuja
  • Nigerian Federal Ministry of Justice

See also

UK provides vital support to vulnerable global communities impacted by Covid-19

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. It aims to maximise the contribution of each of its component parts, working individually and collectively. It works with many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas. Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £7 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the seven research councils, Innovate UK and Research England.

GCRF is a £1.5 billion fund supporting cutting-edge research and innovation that addresses the global issues faced by developing countries, and forms part of the UK Government’s ODA commitment. It harnesses the strengths of the UK’s world-leading researchers, enabling them to collaborate with experts in developing countries through equitable partnerships. GCRF focuses on funding challenge-led disciplinary and interdisciplinary research; strengthening capability for research, innovation and knowledge exchange; and providing an agile response to emergencies where there is an urgent research or on-the-ground need. The fund is managed by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and delivered through nine partners.

The Newton Fund builds research and innovation partnerships with 17 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to support economic development and social welfare, tackle global challenges and develop talent and careers. It has a total UK Government investment of £735 million up until 2021. The fund is managed by BEIS and delivered by UK and international partners.