Transforming livelihoods through Street Business School

David Arome

Amidst the economic downturn in Nigeria, microbusinesses on the streets bear the brunt of the crisis. The impact is glaring with a vast majority struggling to survive.

In response to this challenge, the Strategy and Innovation for Development Initiative (SI4DEV), a youth-focused organization dedicated to empowering local volunteers for positive social change in their community, has launched the impactful “Street Business School” project (SBS). Recognizing the plight of women in particular, the initiative aims to equip them with essential business skills, enabling them to not only sustain their businesses but also scale them up.

The SI4DEV Street Business School (SBS) offers a six-month mobile business training programme designed to cater to the unique needs of individuals; women and youth at the base of the economic pyramid. The programme focuses on igniting entrepreneurial mindsets, stir up confidence, turning participants into agents of change, and providing the necessary support to initiate sustainable businesses. It is uniquely tailored to meet the needs of women living in poverty, many of whom have not finished primary school. Eight business modules are delivered in the SBS programme. The SBS program enhances their economic livelihoods and establishes a reliable income stream for the future.   

Amarah Joseph, a program officer at SI4DEV, “stated that the SBS project was launched in August 2019 and has since delivered significant outcomes, notably enhancing the economic prosperity of more than 250 vulnerable women and youth in Bayelsa, Kano, and Abuja.”  

Testimonials from SBS project participants further underscore its success.

SBS participants with Trainers

Veronica Udo, who resides in Karshi community, Abuja, shared her experience of how street business turns her life around. She lost her teaching job in the heat of COVID-19, and the hope of gaining a new job remains uncertain. She learned about the Street Business School programme from her friend while considering her next move. She obliged and enrolled in the programme.

In the course of the training sessions of the programme, she developed an interest in venturing into the food-selling business. Beyond the acquisition of the skills, a friend empowered with 30,000 Naira to start her food business.

She began her food business on a small scale, and the return according to her has grown over time. “I now sell food in front of my house, making 60,000 naira monthly, compared to my previous earnings of 25,000 naira as a school teacher. I am now happier,” Udo added.  

“The street business program has changed my life for the better, making me meet the ever-increasing demands and needs of the family,” said Udo who is now excited about her food business.


Several studies show that those living in lower economic groups are the most likely to lack the skills and confidence to start or grow their businesses. Since being first rolled out in Uganda, SBS has been shown to increase income levels by more than 200% within 2 years of graduating by participants in various other African countries. SBS creates transformation by building confidence and igniting entrepreneurial skills in participants. SI4DEV is currently the only global catalyst partner using the tried and tested Street Business School (SBS) curriculum in Nigeria.

Trainer – Participants Session @ Sauha Kahuta, Abuja

Similarly, Jummai Ibraham, from the Brigade community, Kano, expressed excitement about how the street business impacted her life, giving her a quantum leap in her business. Ibrahim, prior to enrolling in the street business, had an accident that affected her health and caused her so much. She spends all her hard-earned savings from her roasted corn-selling business to stay in good health.

She lost hope and thought she could never get back to business again until she came across the street business program in one of the awareness campaign exercises of the volunteers of SI4DEV in my community.

“In a conversation with one of the officials, I narrated my ordeal with him, and he introduced me to the program, and I found it interesting and enrolled,” Ibrahim stated. 

“Ever since I enrolled, things have turned around for the better for me, not just starting a new business but equipping me with entrepreneurial and financial skills to grow my business. The turnaround remains a milestone for me as my mindset has been reset to think outside the box, imbibe a good customer culture, and practice financial discipline,” Ibrahim noted.

Impact of the Street Business School Program from 2019 – 2022

Over the years, SI4DEV has significantly enhanced the economic wellbeing of marginalized and underserved communities through its Street Business School initiative, positively impacting over 250 vulnerable women and youth by equipping them with essential entrepreneurship skills. According to data gathered during baseline coaching, mid-coaching, and exit coaching visits, 99.2% (248 out of 250) of participants in the previous cohort that SI4DEV facilitated experienced a significant increase in their income.

At the exit stage, 99.6% (249 participants) had successfully established their own businesses, marking a rise from the 64% (160 participants) recorded at the baseline stage. Moreover, the number of participants with a stable income increased from 24% (160 individuals) at the outset to 96.4% (241 participants) upon completion of the program. 

Among the 30 participants who had an income at baseline, their combined total income grew by 99%. Also, of the 44 participants who did not have any source of income at baseline, 39 (88.6%) had started a business with an income by the end of the six months of training. 

SBS Graduates Participants @ Abuja

“The street business programme is a turning point for change and a facelift for me, said Rose John, a resident of the Hotoro community in Kano.”

“I have never had a better time in my petty business until I encountered the SI4DEV street business program. I have been in pretty good business for close to a decade but seem to have stagnated at some point. All efforts to scale up my petty business in terms of profit-making remain static. The recordkeeping, market survey, and growing your customer base modules improved my fruit business; my customer base has increased. 

“Beyond yearning for profit, I realized over time that I lack financial discipline in terms of separating capital from profit in my business. Kudos to the street business program that has taught me the rudiments of business profit-making techniques and entrepreneurial and financial skill models for staying in business. The six-month program is a huge blessing, as I have witnessed a turnaround in my business and profit.  Prior to the street business program, I had just one store, but now I own two additional stores with a better business perspective and are well managed. I am now a better business-minded person with broad perspective and focus in my petty business” John added.

SBS Graduate Showcasing her Expended Business @ Sabon Gari, Kano

Microbusinesses Driving Economic Empowerment in Nigeria

In Nigeria, microbusinesses form a vital component of the economic landscapethough they occupy the base of the economic pyramid and accommodate a large number of people, serving as the machinery of commerce. These enterprises, often run by individuals or small teams, encompass a diverse array of activities, ranging from street vending to artisanal crafts and services.

In Nigeria, the trend of microbusinesses is on the rise, as many people are desirous of owning their own businesses in order to escape the route of increasing unemployment.

These microbusinesses are not just a medium for survival; they represent a pathway to empowerment and economic self-sufficiency for many Nigerians. For some, it’s a means to augment household income, while for others, it’s a stepping stone towards greater financial independence.

Despite their modest scale, microbusinesses play a pivotal role in driving economic activity and fostering community resilience. They provide livelihoods for countless individuals and contribute to local development, and embody the grassroots entrepreneurial spirit that fuels Nigeria’s dynamic marketplace. As such, they deserve recognition and support as integral pillars of the nation’s economic fabric.

Amarah expressed the organization’s commitment to upscale the program to other communities across Nigeria. She noted that the SBS program has shifted the income-generating base of the participants and put a lasting smile on their faces with an improved livelihood.   

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