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Communication Research For Poverty Alleviation In Nigeria - Literature Review

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Communication Research For Poverty Alleviation In Nigeria - Literature Review

Part I

Poverty Alleviation in Nigeria

Nigeria Background

            Nigeria is the single largest geographical unit in West Africa. It occupies a land area of 923,768 square kilometers situated between longitude 3° and 15° East, and latitude 4° and 14° North (CBN, 2000). Nigeria lies entirely within the tropics with two main vegetation zones; reflecting the amount of rainfall and its spatial distribution. The wet and dry seasons are climatically the two major seasons in the country. Nigeria is conglomeration of several ethic groups, with three major dominant tribes. Hausa, Ibo and Yoruba domiciled mainly in the North, Southeast and Southwest of the country respectively. There are around 250 ethnic groups existing in the country (Elijah & Ogunlade, 2006).

Poverty in Nigeria

            Poverty in Nigeria can be traced back to 1960s. At the start of the 1960s, the basis of the Nigerian economy was a well-diversified agricultural sector that supported 75 percent of the population, provided 68 percent of GDP and 78 percent of exports and supplied the people with 94 percent of their food. Per capita income was estimated at US $94 and GDP growth was rapid at an annual rate nearly 5 percent (World Bank, 1996). This was changed over the years with the rise of a new development pattern. Agriculture did not develop because of the growing burden of taxation. Later rapidly growing industries began to exert considerable influence on the economy, including demands for special protection from imports. This led to a shift in the pattern of industrialization from the processing of agricultural products for export, towards simple import substitution; as well as the emergence of petroleum extraction as a leading growth sector. In the mid-1960s growing regional tensions and the identification of the political parties with rent seeking, ethnic interests and patronage created a climate of arrest and political uncertainty that was compounded by the stagnating GDP growth. The ensuing civil war caused major losses of production. Again, there was a sharp decline in foreign exchange earnings and government revenues attributable to the loss of all on-shore production of oil while foreign exchange was rationed during the war years with a series of increasingly stringent direct and indirect controls.

Indeed, Nigeria is still undergoing a difficult political and economic transition after several years of military rule. The problems include pervasive poverty and widespread unemployment; deterioration of government institutions and inadequate capacity at all levels of government to deliver critical services effectively; sporadic violence between ethnic groups; a legacy of widespread corruption; little growth in the non-oil private economy and limited self-empowerment among local communities. Yet, Nigeria remains a society rich in cultural linguistic, religious, ethnic and political diversity. These constituent parts of Nigerian society each feel aggrieved, in one way or another. The average Nigerian today struggles hard to make ends meet sees himself/herself as being poorer than he/she was a decade ago, and finds it hard to be hopeful that things will get better soon(Elijah & Ogunlade, 2006).

            In 2005, the population in Nigeria was estimated around 130 million and the population growth rate was determined as 2.38%. According to the United Nations (2004) Nigeria is the most populous country in sub-Saharan Africa and the 10th most populous country in the world.  Poverty is one of the biggest problems in Nigeria since the 1970s. It was estimated that the people in Nigeria that were living below the national poverty line increased from 42.8% in 1992 to 65.6% in 1996 (Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research, 2003). This means that around 67 million people in Nigeria are living in poverty. In 2004, Nigeria was ranked the 40th poorest country in the world. However, the 2005 Human Development Report, indicates that the well-being of Nigerians further receded by as much as 8% from 2004 to 2005 making the country included in the list of 20 poorest countries in the world (United Nations Development Porgramme, 2005).

            There are many different definitions of poverty. Ogwumike (2001) for example, considers that an individual in living in poverty when he or she is unable to meet what is considered as a minimum requirement to sustain livelihood in a given society. Poverty brings many sufferings to people. Those living in poverty suffer physical, emotional and moral pains (Deep et al, 2000), live without fundamental freedoms of action and choice that the better off take for granted (Sen, 1999). These people also lack adequate food and shelter, education and health deprivations that keep them from leading the kind of life that everyone values. They also face extreme vulnerability to ill health, economic dislocation, and natural disasters. And they are often exposed to ill treatment by institutions of the state and society and are powerless to influence key decisions affecting their lives. These according to the World Bank (2001) constitute poverty. Nigeria is one of the poorest countries in the world and it is a baffling case of poverty because almost 70 percent of its people are living in poverty despite the country’s immense wealth (Oshinonebo 2002).

            Elijah and Ogunlade (2006) found that poverty is a serious threat among the farming population in the rural areas of Nigeria. The level of poverty in the farming population was consistently higher than that of the non-farming population and it was also higher in the rural than the urban areas. It was also found that households headed by farmers consistently experienced the highest level of poverty. Following this trend, a great number of efforts have been initiated by the Nigerian government and the international communities have been at improving basic services, infrastructure and housing facilities for the rural and urban population as well as extending access to credit and farm inputs, and creation of employment but have not succeeded in changing the living situation of the very poor people. This was found from the study to be as a result of inconsistency and non-implementation of government policies to the letter. Most of the programs seemed to have benefited those who were less needy and already on their own feet economically. The phenomenon which can best be termed as 'the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Those living in poverty are often denied access to critical resources such as credit, land and inheritance.

            It was also found that women tend to suffer more from poverty and have a higher tendency to be exposed to poverty. This can be attributed to the rigidity of socially ascribed gender roles and women’s limited access to power, education, training and productive resources are also responsible. Many experience a life that is a complex web of multi-roles and multi-tasks, which requires the average woman to conduct 'different roles at different times in a bid to fulfill her family's needs'. The role of women in Nigerian society is changing, but not always to their advantage. They generally work much longer hours than men do. They provide an estimated 60-80 per cent of the labour in agriculture through the production, processing, and marketing of food. They assist on family farms and are farmers in their own right. They are responsible for fetching water and fuel wood and act as 'the most important health worker for their children. So, Nigerian women are in an important position to contribute to food security, nutrition, and the overall health status of the family. But they are inadequately recognized or rewarded for their efforts at any level. They are affected by poverty in different ways, depending upon their age, race, ethnicity, linguistic background, ability, sexual orientation, and citizenship. They constitute more than half of the world's population and more than 70 per cent of the world's poor. Given the harsh realities of increasing poverty in the country, Nigerian women experience poverty in the following ways: economically through deprivation; politically through marginalization in terms of their the denial of the rights to land ownership (inheritance) and access to credit facilities and other inputs; socially through discrimination in terms of their participation in decision-making at home and in the community; culturally through ruthlessness; and ecologically through vulnerability. They receive less than 10 per cent of the earnings or credit available to small farmers. Although there is a scarcity of documentation about women's role in relation to land ownership and farming in Nigeria, but statistics on land registration show that 90 per cent of all land in the country is registered in men's names. Nigerian women have always worked on farms, yet have never been allowed to own any land.

            In terms of workforce participation, women also experienced inequality. The report published by UNIFEM (2000) pointed to the fact that in the formal sector, women constitute 30 percent of professional posts, 17 percent of administrative/managerial positions, and 30 percent of clerical positions; 17 percent are employed in other categories. Women are disproportionately concentrated in low-paid jobs, particularly in agriculture and the informal sector. The Federal Office of Statistics has noted that 48 per cent of women are engaged in agricultural work, and 38 per cent are involved in petty trading at markets, although it is common knowledge that most rural women conduct both roles. Women and young girls in Nigeria are burdened with an unfair workload inside and outside the home. Data suggest that 33 per cent of women work five or more days per week for very long hours to supplement the family income. In rural areas, aside from their reproductive and housekeeping roles, women must fetch water and firewood, in addition to conducting much of the agricultural work in the fields such as planting, hoeing and weeding, harvesting, and transporting and storage of crops. Research has revealed that 41 per cent of working mothers have to attend to their children while at work. Women in urban areas have little support from their extended family or community and so are forced to take their young children with them to work. Or the infants are left with older female siblings while their mothers are at work, which prevents the older girls from attending school, and partly explains the high levels of illiteracy among young girls. Men in Nigeria have much greater control over resources than women do. As a result of this, Nigerian government has initiated series of programmes to assist women in obtaining micro-finance and credit, formation of co-operatives and self-help organizations such as Federation of Nigerian Women's Societies (FNWS) in 1953, formation of National Women's Commission was set up (later upgraded to the Ministry for Women's Affairs and Social Development), Family Support Programme (FSP) and Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP). However these programmes have not achieved the desired goal as the situation has not changed. The macro-economic reforms under the Structural Adjustment Programmes and the prevalence of human-rights abuses, cultural barriers and the high level of illiteracy among females are some of the factors that have further plunged women into deeper poverty in Nigeria. Continued denial of gender's rights and lack of recognition of their important role in the agricultural labour force is another factor that further compound Nigerian women poverty level a phenomenon that can be termed as 'feminisation' of poverty. Recent result of a joint research by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), in a joint venture with UNICEF (2002) has shown that women and children in Nigeria are among the poorest in sub-Saharan Africa and the developing world. In response to UN initiatives, Nigeria recently formulated a National Policy on Women. The policy is an attempt to incorporate women fully into national development as 'equal partners, decision-makers and beneficiaries' of Nigeria, through the removal of gender-based inequalities. The policy aspires to the inclusion of women in all spheres of national life, including education, science and technology, health care, employment, agriculture, industry, environment, legal justice, social services, and the media. It aspires to eliminate the negative aspects of Nigerian culture, which serve only to harm women, and it aspires to challenge the patriarchal status quo.

Part II: Journal Critique


            Poverty is among the biggest problems many countries around the world are facing. Among the most poverty-stricken countries is Nigeria. Poverty remains as the top problem facing Nigeria and it is estimated that more than half of the citizens in Nigeria are living below poverty line. As a Nigerian, I am personally interested in poverty, the history of poverty in Nigeria, the causes of poverty, the strategies that the Government employed and presently employs to alleviate poverty, and the possible solutions to this problem.

            One solution that is being put forward by the authors of the journal being reviewed is the use of Information Communications Technology (ICT) to alleviate poverty in Nigeria.

Problem Statement

            The researchers were able to present a clear problem statement. The researchers presented an introduction regarding poverty in Nigeria. The researchers defined what poverty is and then the researchers diverted their attention to ICT. They stated that ICTs are seen as a critical resource in the promotion of socio-economic development, with a potency to alleviate poverty. The main problem that was identified by the researchers was the contributions of ICT on poverty alleviation in Nigeria. The researchers also identified several questions that they sought to answer through the research:

1. How and in what ways can ICTs help poor people and those who are socially excluded?

2. How can ICT-based development strategies and policies be made more accountable to the special needs of the disempowered?

3. What are the connections between ICT and the government anti-poverty measures?

4. What are the areas that are likely to create opportunities for the use of ICTs where they have the maximum potentials to benefit the poor?

            The above questions according to the researchers served as an impetus for the research.

Objectives of the Study

            The researchers were also able to effectively identify and enumerate the objectives of the study. This enables the readers to examine whether the researchers were able to accomplish what they intended to do before embarking on the research.

Methodological Approach

            There are two kinds of research methodologies that are employed in research – quantitative and qualitative. The quantitative paradigm is based on positivism which takes scientific explanation to be nomethetic (i.e. based on universal laws). Its main aims are to measure the social world. To test hypotheses and to predict and control human behavior (Newman and Benz 1998). Quantitative research is based on the assumption that the world can be investigated using scientific method and that there is an independent reality. Quantitative research is based on the belief that measurable influences (independent variables) affect measurable outcomes (dependent variables) in a cause-effect manner. Quantitative research is generally conducted in a controlled environment, such as laboratories, or using anonymous data such as statistics collected through surveys, questionnaires, structured interviews or tests. Quantitative studies are studies in which the data can be analyzed using conventional statistical methods (Peat 2001). As its name implies, quantitative research is concerned with quantities – how to measure phenomena and how to express those measurement. A researcher who takes a quantitative approach to investigating a topic aims to learn more about it. Taking a quantitative approach to research implies asking questions about the phenomena that can be counted. Researchers who take a quantitative approach often work within positivism, as this paradigm frames the world as a collection of apparently independent phenomena to be counted, measured and otherwise catalogued as the prelude to deducing the rules or laws underlying them and giving them coherence (MacNaughton et al 2001).

            On the other hand, the qualitative paradigm stems from antipositivistic, interpretative approach, is idiographic, thus holistic in nature, and the main aim is to understand social life and the meaning that people attach to everyday life (Peat 2001; Darlington and Scott 2002; Hansen 2006). According to Newman and Benz (1998) a qualitative research involves an interpretative, naturalistic approach of the subject matter. Qualitative research is about studying things in their natural settings. A researcher conducting qualitative research attempts to make sense of, or interpret, phenomena in terms of the meaning people bring to them. Qualitative research involves different methods of gathering and collecting of empirical materials such as case study personal experience, introspective, life story, interview, observational, historical, interactions, and visual texts. Qualitative methods in health research are now becoming popular among researchers. One reason for this is because qualitative research methods are well suited for investigating the meanings, interpretations, social and cultural norms and perceptions that impact on health-related behaviors, medical practice and health outcomes (Jordens and Little 2004; Sayre 2000). Qualitative research methods also allow researchers to explore issues from the perspectives of the individuals directly involved in the experiences. In qualitative research, behaviors, understandings, actions and experiences are not measured using statistical analysis as in quantitative research (Devers 1999; Sofaer 1999). Instead, detailed written descriptions and explanations of the phenomena under investigation are produced. Qualitative methods are those that collect data in the form of talk, words, observations, visual images and documents. 

            The researcher employed both quantitative and qualitative methods of research. The researchers gathered data and information both from primary and secondary resources. While the secondary data were obtained from diverse sources including the statistical bulletins, annual statement of accounts and financial reports of Central Bank of Nigeria, publications of the Federal Office of Statistic (FOS), journals and previous similar studies, the primary data were obtained from a random sampling of 50 men and 50 women in Kwara State, Nigeria as a case study on the causes of poverty. Another sample of 50 operators of mobile phone call centers were randomly selected to know their distribution as well as their reasons for operating such centers, making a total sample size 150 respondents for an empirical investigation. Structured, validated and pre-tested questionnaires were used to collect information from these respondents. Information on the opinion of people on certain statements concerning causes of poverty were obtained from the first 100 respondents, using the five points Likert scale of strongly agree, agree, undecided, disagree and strongly disagree which were scored 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 respectively.

In investigating poverty alleviation in Nigeria, Elijah and Ogunlade (2006) focused on the contributions of ICTs (Information and Communications Technologies). The researchers first investigated about the causes of poverty in Nigeria. According to Elijah and Ogulande (2006) understanding the causes of poverty from the stand point of various people and why it persists is essential for effective and appropriate strategies for alleviation of poverty and for social and economics development. Their focus was on the differences in gender’s perception on the causes of poverty in Nigeria. In general, both sex agreed on the main causes of poverty in Nigeria as: unemployment, polygamy, business failure, uneven distribution of income, sickness and environmental degradation. While other were sharp differences in perception between men and women on other factors such as: gender discrimination, bad economy, bad leaders, corruption and overpopulation/lack of family planning, as causes of poverty. Some of these findings support empirical findings such as those of Omona et al (2000) which pointed to unemployment, inadequate formal education, bad government policy, polygamy and overpopulation among others as factors responsible for poverty using responses of people in Nigeria as a case study.

Alleviating Poverty through Gender Empowerment

            The focus of Elijah and Ogunlade’s (2006) article is the impact of ICTs on poverty alleviation in Nigeria. One of the positive impacts of ICTs on poverty alleviation is through gender empowerment. Recently, information is observed as a prerequisite for empowerment (World Bank, 2002) and participation drives empowerment by encouraging people to be active in the development process, to contribute to ideas, take initiative, articulate needs and problems and assert their autonomy. ICT is the latest in the series of continuing technological revolutions, and is argued to have significant influence on gender empowerment. Informed citizens according to World Bank (2002) are better equipped to take advantage of opportunity, access services, exercise their rights, and hold state and non-state actors accountable. Social influences on women’s relationship to technology affect their attitudes toward ICTs. The tendency to direct women into non-technological professions and responsibilities means that women feel “fear and embarrassment” when dealing with ICTs.  A study in Nigeria revealed that women considered the word "technology" to have male connotations, even though "information" seemed more feminine. Some even believed that working with ICTs would drive women mad. These examples indicate a high level of discomfort with new information technologies.

            There is therefore the need for greater concentration on the use of ICT for gender empowerment in Nigeria. For instance, United Nations Millennium Declaration (2005) has resolved to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for all the world's people and to promote gender equality and empowerment of women as effective ways to combat poverty, hunger and disease and to stimulate development that is truly sustainable, and to ensure that the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications technologies, are available to all. Women's full and equal access to ICT-based economic and educational activities supports women's contributions in both business and home-based activities and improves women's socioeconomic status, strengthens the family, and provides access to information, communication, freedom of expression, and formal and informal associations. ICTs also provide options for women, including overcoming illiteracy, creating opportunities for entrepreneurship, allowing women to work from home and care for their families, accessing ICTs from rural locations, and enhancing and enriching their quality of life.

Enhancements of Economic Livelihood of the Poor in Nigeria through ICTs

ICTs are often viewed as near-magic solutions to problems. They are extremely powerful tools that have proven useful in many areas of Nigeria. Traditional media and new ICTs have played a major role in diffusing information to poor living in rural communities. Although little empirical evidences of the benefits of ICTs in Nigeria are found in literatures, there are great potentials of ICTs as tools for enhancing peoples daily lives whether by increasing access to information relevant to their economic livelihood, better access to other information sources; healthcare, transport, distance learning or in the strengthening of kinship. The result from this study showed that, the most common of the ICTs related to poverty alleviation programs in Nigeria are telephone and radio. While other commonly uses of traditional media include: Print, video, television, films, slides, pictures, drama, dance, folklore, group discussions, meetings, exhibitions and demonstrations (Munyua, 2000). The use of computers or the Internet is still restricted to very few people living in urban centres. ICTs have the potential to broaden and enhance access to information and communication resources for remote rural areas and poor communities, to strengthen the process of democratization and to ameliorate the endemic problem of poverty (Norrish, 2000).

With the privatization of the Nigeria Telecommunication system, mobile phones are increasingly becoming affordable by average Nigerian (the poor), and they help to overcome rural isolation and make communication easier. The wireless technologies have entered remote rural areas thereby reducing the reliance on costly fixed telephone infrastructures. In many rural areas, over 50% of households make regular use of the telephone when compare with few years ago when the figure was less than 5%. Such accessible communications are now been used for family contact, reduction of the necessity for trips, access to government services, and much more. Both radio and telephone are now operating in Nigeria regardless of the language spoken and do not require literacy, which helps in explaining the exceedingly high utility and utilization of both. The Internet-based communications is however found to remain the least effective in majority of the rural areas of Nigeria because the resource thresholds are far higher, typically requiring higher-quality communications, electricity, technology infrastructure, and literacy in a computer-supported language. ICTs offer information and knowledge, which are critical components of poverty alleviation strategies; they make available easy access to huge amounts of information useful for the poor. Through the new technology, particularly networked Internet technologies, anyone can find almost anything. There are fewer secrets, and fewer places to hide. Educated but poor farmers and traders in Nigeria are now promoting their products and handle simple transactions such as orders over the web with payment transactions for goods being handled off-line (O'Farrell et al 1999). Evidence has also shown that eventhough trading online is not a common practice by the poor Nigerian; the technology is cheaper and faster paper-based medium, telephone or fax. Electronic-commerce enables entrepreneurs to access global market information and open up new regional and global markets that fetch better prices and increase earnings.

The lack of adequate healthcare is one of the most onerous aspects of poverty. There has been significant focus on using ICTs to actually deliver healthcare (telemedicine) and as a way of educating people on health issues in Nigeria. For instance, preventive measures of AIDS and current incident of bird flu are communicated to the poor through television, Internet, radio, posters etc. However, there are other uses of technology, which have the potential for revolutionary improvements in the delivery of healthcare. In most cases, the technology is being used in its simplest forms to aid in the collection, storing and retrieval of data and information. ICTs have assisted Nigeria in the reduction of unemployment rates at national, urban and in rural areas of Nigeria. Through the establishment of rural information centers in most parts of the country, ICTs have created employment opportunities in rural areas by engaging telecentre managers, subject matter specialists, information managers, translators and information technology technicians. Such centers have helped to bridge the gap between urban and rural communities and reduce the rural-urban migration problem. The centers have also provided training and those trained have now become small-scale entrepreneurs in their respective areas. Thousands of the poor Nigerian has also benefited from telephone service through sales of either accessories or Telephone calls (make calls, receive calls). Sound decision-making is dependent upon availability of comprehensive, timely and up-to-date information. Food security problems facing Nigeria demonstrate the need for informed researchers, planners, policy makers, development workers and farmers. Information is also needed to facilitate the development and implementation of food security policies. Introduction of mobile phone in Nigeria has helped in transmitting information to and from rural inaccessible areas. ICTs have helped in the empowerment of a number of rural communities in Nigeria and give them "a voice"10 that permits them to contribute to the development process. With ICTs, many rural communities acquire the capacity to improve their living conditions and become motivated through training and dialogue with others to a level where they make decisions for their own development (Balit 1998). According to the ILO (2001), ICTs have assisted significantly in socioeconomic development of many poor Nigerian.

In Nigeria, the ICTs have also helped to impact on the livelihood strategies of small-scale enterprises and local entrepreneurs as well as in the enhancement of various forms of social capital11. A proportion of the research literature discusses social capital and ICT from general internet studies as well as specifically place based research (O'Neil 2002). Social capital theory, particularly since Putnam (2000), has attracted the attention of scholars working to understand ICT in local as well as historical communities. While Putnam's theory focuses on the value of bridging across-group social ties, earlier social capital theory particularly Coleman (1988), emphasizes the value of bonding within-group social ties. ICTs initiative is part of existing social interactions, they reduce the friction of space not the importance of place (Hampton 2004). The technologies have been viewed as part of a complex ecology of communication tools that enable local social interactivity. For instance, the Internet is a tool for maintaining social relations, information exchange, and increasing face-to-face interaction, all of which help to build both bonding and bridging social capital in communities (Kavanaugh and Patterson 2001). ICT initiatives play a significant role in developing and sustaining local social ties and stronger ties are characterized by broader media usage (Haythornthwaite, 2005).

The use of ICTs in the enhancement of various forms of Household livelihood assets including social capitals following de satge et al (2002) are highlighted as:

  • Natural Capital; opportunities for accessing national government policies.
  • Financial Capital; communication with lending organizations, e.g. for micro-credit.
  • Human Capital; increased knowledge of new skills through distance learning and Processes required for certification.
  • Social capital; cultivating contacts beyond the immediate community.
  • Physical capital; lobbying for the provision of basic infrastructure.









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