The recent indefinite suspension of microblogging and social media platform, Twitter, by Nigeria’s government is no longer news. The suspension, which was announced on Friday, June 4 2021, has drawn widespread criticism from home and abroad and has once again, cast Nigeria into the international spotlight as a nation that stifles free speech.
In announcing the indefinite suspension, the government appears to have failed to consider the far-reaching socio-economic impact that the ban would have on small businesses in the country who rely on the social media platform for various stages of their operations. As the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, rightly pointed out in his speech which also called for a reversal of the #TwitterBan:
“We should also remember that Twitter has gone beyond a source of communication for many of our hardworking youths in Nigeria. It has become a source of livelihood for many, irrespective of their political affiliations or religious leanings. Nigerian youths and digital communications organisations earn a living from being able to use the platform to post communications on behalf of their clients.”
This statement by the Governor, as with those of other well-meaning Nigerians, called the FG’s attention to the adverse economic effect of the ban, a bad situation significantly worsened by the dismal economic shape of the country.
A food vendor who wished to remain anonymous, while speaking with Nairametrics, said, “I get about 80% of my sales and nearly 100% of referrals through Twitter. The ban will affect my business because I do not think the vast majority of Twitter users in Nigeria are tech-savvy enough to bypass it with a VPN.”
An influencer, who also asked to remain anonymous said his influencing gig was the perfect side hustle for him, as the earnings from there helped him hedge against inflation in Nigeria. He said the ban would accelerate his relocation abroad.
Other prominent people on Twitter also warned about the economic disadvantages of the Twitter ban.
@yojora said, “It’s the small businesses who rely on Twitter I pity, a significant number of their customers may not be able to reach them.”
It’s the small businesses who rely on twitter I pity, a significant number of their customers may not be able to reach them
— Y.O. (@yojora) June 5, 2021
Others warned that the ban would worsen Nigeria’s youth unemployment problem as several businesses were built on Twitter’s platform.
You guys think it’s sustainable to use VPN Forever? It isn’t. Twitter/Social media is the bedrock of most young businesses. What about the customers that won’t be bothered to use VPN? Do we want to exacerbate the youth unemployment problem?
— $AYOBAMI (@dondekojo) June 5, 2021
Since 2018, Nigeria has been in the international spotlight for extreme poverty as the nation overtook India in extreme poverty ranking with an estimated 87 million Nigerians, or around half of the country’s population, thought to be living on less than $1.90 a day. The label ‘poverty capital of the world,’ which some individuals often use to draw attention to the country’s economic challenges, came from this report by the World Poverty Clock, compiled by Brookings Institute.
Also, the recent unemployment data released by the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that youth unemployment in Nigeria is now about 42%, up from 33.3% recorded at the end of 2020. Going by this report, nearly 23.2 million Nigerians remain unemployed. A combination of both the unemployment and underemployment rate for the reference period gave a figure of 56.1%.
Added to this, is the inflation rate which currently stands at 18.12% with food inflation at 22.72%.
With such worrisome figures, one would expect that the government would be more circumspect in taking decisions that would further diminish the capacity of small businesses to thrive and create the much-needed employment opportunities for the country’s teeming youth population.
As Governor Seyi Makinde suggested, the Federal Government should be actively interested in how certain policies and actions will affect not only the livelihood of young hardworking Nigerian youths but also and very importantly, investor confidence, particularly at a time when the government could do with some influx of foreign direct investment into the country to fund its expenses and shore-up the country’s forex reserve.