In northern Nigeria as a whole and Kano State in particular, tea selling business is originally alien to the Hausa/Fulani. The business was brought to the region by Nigerien nationals, especially those who came to Nigeria in search of menial jobs.
The tea sellers started as hawkers. They could be seen roaming the major streets in cities with their locally made kettles and small containers made from wood as they sold to interesting buyers. The kettle was designed in such a way that the water in it could be boiled using charcoal, while the wooden container was meant for tea ingredients such as milk, sugar and bread etc.
Gradually, the status of the business was upgraded when its operators started opening joints across major cities and towns. They normally opened these joints at public places such as motor parks, mini markets and around hotels in order to attract many customers.
Having realised its acceptance, couple with their interactions with the original operators of the business, the Hausa/Fulani also started engaging in it. In Kano, for instance, tea selling business has become a source of livelihood to many people in the state as thousands engage in it on a daily basis.
Interestingly, new innovations have been introduced to the business. For instance, at the beginning of the business, the operators sold only tea and bread, with some ingredients such as milk. But the business has been upgraded to include other ingredients such as eggs, Indomie noodles, Spaghetti and chips, thereby attracting more customers.
Daily Trust on Sunday observed that courtesy of the new innovations that have been introduced into it, tea selling business is witnessing rapid development in terms of scope, time of operation and the number of customers.
It is based on the contribution of the tea selling business to the lives of many people that the Kano State Government decided to empower its operators for economic benefits, according to the state Commissioner for Information, Malam Muhammad Garba.
Garba said, “Government has observed that the mai shayi are many in the state, so also their customers, therefore, it decided to empower the operators in order to sustain the business. Each tea seller got ingredients worth N30,000. I believe this is enough to serve as capital. I am sure that any tea seller who utilises this gesture properly will sustain his business.
“Based on our investigation, most of these tea sellers are operating on credit. They will collect the bread, eggs, Indomie noodles and other ingredients on credit, and after sometime, the suppliers will come and collect their money. So, with the donation of items worth N30,000, I am sure they can keep the business moving.
“We have listed over 50 different small entrepreneurs for similar gesture. Very soon, we will distribute packages to thousands of food vendors, recharge card sellers and vendors of other items conducting their businesses around junctions and major streets within the state capital in order to boost their businesses.”
Musa Abubakar, popularly known as Master, is one of the beneficiaries of the gesture. Master, who owns Master Tea and Indomie Joint in Badawa quarters, Nassarawa Local Government Area of the state, said the tea donated to them by the state government had really boosted their businesses.
He said, “Any serious tea seller who got a donation of ingredients worth over N25,000 will be happy. I was given a 25-litre jerry-can of vegetable oil, a carton of spaghetti, a carton of Indoomie noodles, two crates of egg, one tin each of 900grams of powdered milk, Milo, Bournvita, a medium carton of sugar, six packets of Lipton, a can of butter, and some loaves of breads.
“As a tea seller, these items can really help you boost your business. I am sure the gesture will make serious impact on many people like me. I know some of my colleagues who abandoned the business for lack of capital but now returned, courtesy of this gesture.”
Another beneficiary, Musa Isa Baban Tala, said when his colleague, Ibrahim Ado informed him about government’s plan to empower tea sellers in the state, he did not take him seriously. He said, “I was reluctant to give my name to leaders of our association for onward presentation to the government, but, Alhamdulillah, it has now become real. We have gotten huge donations from government.
“I thank Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje for the gesture. I will make good use of the items donated to me; it will really help my business. With this donation, the governor has tripled my capital and I am now planning to expand my joint to accommodate more customers.”
At least 5,200 tea sellers in the state were empowered. However, our correspondent gathered that this gesture is generating a lot of debate in the state. While some people see the gesture as a positive one, others say it is a mere political calculation to achieve cheap popularity.
It was gathered that the Kano State Government spent the sum of N208million to empower the tea sellers, popularly called mai shayi in local parlance. The beneficiaries were drawn from the 44 local government areas of the state. During the event, which is said to be part of the state government’s self-reliance scheme, the governor said his administration was determined to improve the economic wellbeing of the people.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that there are about 6,000 operators of the business within Kano metropolis, and 90per cent of this number are youths who have families to cater for.
According to Mr. Ibrahim Abdul, an economic analyst, averagely, in every 10 people in Kano, three patronise tea sellers. He said tea selling was a widely accepted business across the state, adding that it ensures economic stability and self-reliance.
“People look down on the business, but I see it as a money-making venture. It is a sector that has not been fully explored. In a state with an estimated population of 9million people, you can tell what that means,” Abdul said.
Also, Usman Babale, a tea seller along Hadejia road, said he had been in the business for eight years. He said he was a carpenter, but when things were not going well in the profession, he joined the tea business, which gave him a breakthrough to financial stability.
“The business is lucrative, and it requires a little capital to start as one can collect items like bread, eggs and other items on credit and pay back after selling. I make at least N8,000 daily. That is what I used to make in five days as a carpenter.
“I have not benefitted from the state government’s empowerment of tea sellers; I just heard the news on radio,” Baballe said.
For Ubale Shehu Mai Shayi Hotoro, the gesture is purely political. He said, “They know that mai shayi joints are centres where people gather to discuss different issues that affect the state, that is why they selected and empowered people they believed would deliver their mandate. Many of us were not included because we are not in the same political trend with the present government.”