At 42, Mrs. Akintunde Ebunoluwa had spent years perfecting her craft as a fashion designer in Osogbo, creating beautiful garments that brought joy to her clients. 

But as the market for bespoke fashion became increasingly competitive, she realized she needed to pivot to ensure a stable future for her family.

With an eye for opportunity and a heart full of determination, the mother of three ventured into the  fish market. 

At first, the change was daunting. She had to learn new skills, understand the intricacies of fish supply chains, and build relationships with suppliers and customers alike. Yet, her dedication never wavered.

She managed to save enough to purchase a freezer, an essential asset for her business. This investment allowed her to keep her fish fresh longer, improving her stock’s quality and increasing her sales.

Mrs. Akintunde’s perseverance paid off in other ways, too. Her business grew, enabling her to acquire other tangible goods that improved her family’s quality of life. She found immense satisfaction in her new role, knowing that her hard work was providing a stable income and a bright future for her children.

“I’ve been selling only fish for the past four years now,” she recounted. Transitioning from the world of fabric and needles to the slippery, scaled surfaces of fish was no easy feat. However, Mrs. Ebunoluwa has turned the tide in her favor

“I’ve been able to sponsor my children’s education through this business, and I’ve never had to suffer,” she shared with a hint of pride. The fish business has even opened doors to new ventures, such as selling soft drinks, demonstrating her ability to diversify and adapt.

The Challenges of Small-Scale Fish Vendors in Nigeria

Small-scale businesses in Nigeria, particularly those dealing with perishable goods like fish, face a multitude of challenges. 

The country’s dynamic economic landscape presents obstacles ranging from inadequate infrastructure to fierce competition.

The erratic electricity supply significantly impacts the preservation of perishable goods, affecting the quality and shelf life of products like fish. 

This, coupled with limited access to capital, restricts opportunities for expansion and innovation, crucial for the growth of small enterprises. 

High transportation costs, exacerbated by poor infrastructure, add to operational expenses, reducing profit margins and overall viability.

Moreover, competition from larger supermarkets poses a formidable challenge, as these establishments often have greater resources and market influence. The unpredictable weather conditions further compound the difficulties, affecting crop yields and prices, making it hard to forecast demand and plan effectively.

The rise in prices is a recurring theme, with the cost of goods like fish increasing significantly over the years. 

According to data from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), inflation has been a persistent issue, affecting both consumers and businesses alike.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) highlights that only a fraction of SMEs manage to sustain their operations beyond five years, emphasizing the critical need for supportive policies and interventions.

Mrs. Rebecca Olamijulo arranging her fish

More Success Stories

Despite the challenges, these sellers are able to survive and thrive and cater for their needs.

Mrs. Rebecca Olamijulo, another stalwart in the fish business, has successfully sent her children to university and supported them through the proceeds of her business. 

Over the past three years, she navigated the complexities of the fish market with determination and resilience. Initially, her business flourished, providing her with significant financial gains that enabled her to ensure her children received quality education. 

She took immense pride in seeing her eldest daughter graduate with honors in economics last year, and she is currently supporting her son, who is studying law at a prestigious university.

Also, With over six years in the fish business, Mrs. Lawal Rukayat’s story is one of steadfast dedication amidst mounting challenges.

At 45, the mother of four from Ejigbo, Osun State, uses her business to support her family. “Through this business, I’ve been able to support my family and eat what I wish to eat,” she states with a resolute smile.


However, despite the achievements, Mrs. Olamijulo has recently faced challenges in her business. As she told the Harbinger, “The gain on this business has changed from the former gain I used to have.” The once lucrative venture has begun to yield diminished returns. 

This shift reflects broader economic challenges impacting many small-scale traders in the fish industry.

The escalating cost of goods, including fish supplies and operational expenses, has steadily eroded profits. 

This financial pressure makes it increasingly difficult for vendors like Mrs. Olamijulo to maintain a stable income and sustain their livelihoods. Despite her years of experience and dedication to her trade, she finds herself grappling with these economic realities, which threaten the financial stability she has worked so hard to achieve.

However, she said, “The gain on this business has changed from the former gain I used to have.”The once lucrative venture now yields diminished returns, reflective of broader economic challenges impacting many small-scale traders.

Also, Mrs. Akintunde Ebunoluwa Despite her success, the economic landscape has posed significant challenges. “When I first started, I usually bought a carton of fish at ₦7,000, but now it’s ₦32,000,” she laments. 

The soaring prices have slashed her profit margins, yet she perseveres, driven by a commitment to her customers and the stability her business provides. Her plea to the government is simple but heartfelt: “Help us take the price of fish back to ₦7,000.”

However, the  reality of economic inflation also looms large over Mrs. Lawal’s business. “The fish carton that we used to buy at ₦17,000 is now ₦33,000,” she notes. This dramatic price hike has strained her ability to sell more than three fish at a time, leading to complaints from customers who are also feeling the pinch of rising costs.

Expert Calls for Proactive Measures to Secure Economic Resilience

Victor Oluyi, an esteemed economist, spoke about the far-reaching implications of fuel subsidies, emphasizing its effects not only on individuals but also on small businesses across the board. 

“Generally speaking, the impact of the fuel subsidy affects everyone and small businesses as well,” Oluyi asserted,  highlighting the pervasive nature of these economic policies.

In his opinion, Oluyi advocates for proactive government measures to mitigate these impacts, particularly through enhanced access to credit for small businesses. “What I think the government can do is make access to credit easier and cheaper for small businesses,” he suggested. 

Such financial support, he argues, could rejuvenate struggling enterprises, providing them with a vital lifeline amidst economic turbulence.

Oluyi stressed the importance of palliative measures in times of economic strain, noting, “When there are all forms of subsidies around the world, governments need to come up with palliative measures to help absorb the shock for a lot of people.” He proposes targeted cash transfers and streamlined funding mechanisms as effective strategies to stabilize businesses and bolster consumer spending.

Discussing the efficacy of empowerment programs, Oluyi emphasized the critical need for robust implementation and oversight.

“There is a need for broad-based policies to promote inclusiveness, which can lift everyone, including women,” he stressed. 


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