HISTORY OF COMMERCE IN NIGERIA
The history of commerce in Nigeria is like the history of Nigerian civilisation itself. During Pre-independence, people engaged in subsistence production mainly to cater for themselves and their families.
With time, inter-dependency became necessary based on awareness and increasing needs. The system of exchanging goods for goods called trade by barter then came into existence. Although trading activities were somehow limited to internal trade only.
The first form of foreign trade in the history of commerce in Nigeria was the trans-sahara trade in which camels were used as means of transportation.
The development of caravan routes across the desert linked Nigeria with the North African traders. The Arab merchants brought goods like sail, cowries, copper, cloth, books, etc which were exchanged for kolanuts, slaves, gold, hides, etc. Important towns like Kano. Bornu. Zaria, Katsina played crucial roles during that period.
Afterwards, another contact was made with the Europeans, and that actually boosted commercial activities in Nigeria. This started in the fifteenth century when the missionaries came to Africa. The European traders brought weapons, books, cloths, etc and exchanged them for slaves and palm oil.
The initial commercial towns that served as important trading routes to the sea were Badagry, Bonny, Opobo and Calabar. King Jaja of Opobo played a great rote in the development of commerce in Nigeria.
After the abolition of slave trade by the British government, the first breakthrough in commercial activities in Nigeria was the establishment of United African Company (UAC) and the Royal Niger Company. With the introduction of colonial rule, law and order was instituted and by 1960s, Nigeria had become a force to be reckoned with in the export of palm oil, cocoa, groundnut and later crude oil.
Also, during the 1960’s, the exploration of crude oil brought businessmen from all over the world to Nigeria. That process changed the face of commercial activities in Nigeria. Huge revenue was generated to develop infrastructural facilities, such as communication system, roads, flyovers, railways, airports, moderns’ seaports, etc.
At present, commercial activities have reached a crucial stage in Nigeria with the introduction of sophisticated modern technologies such as computer, e-mails and Internet. Main commercial centres have developed in many cities and towns like Lagos, Ibadan, Kano. Port Harcourt. Warri, Kaduna, llorin among others.
FACTORS AFFECTING THE GROWTH OF COMMERCE IN NIGERIA AND WEST AFRICA
- Insufficient capital: African countries lack sufficient capital to cope with the expanding nature of business activities.
- Political instability: Constant change of governments and war have hindered investment in West-Africa. Foreign investors are afraid to invest in the sub-region.
- Low savings: The culture of saving is very low in West Africa and Africa as a whole; hence there is little or no money for commercial transactions.
- Low per capital income: Majority of people in this region are living below the poverty line. The low level of income leads to low purchasing power for the people.
- Lack of adequate commercial facilities: The various aids to trade, such as banks’, insurance, warehouses, and tourism are not well developed and this has greatly hindered commerce.
- Predominance of primary production: Majority of people in this region is engaged it primary agricultural production which does not favour speedy commercial growth.
- Poor transport and communication system: The region has very poor road network as well as poor communication systems. Most of the people have no access to telephone or internet.
- Low levels of education and illiteracy: Many of the people are not educated: they can neither read nor write and consequently cannot interact with foreign traders in a business transaction.
- Absence of well developed market: Market in West Africa are not well developed to accommodate large scale commercial activities.