Nigeria: Farm Centre - Kano's GSM Village Where Youths Are Changing Narratives

9 January 2021

"I was under someone before I got capital in six years back. Before then, my earnings could not cater for my basic needs as a single person, but now I can feed not only my family, but many other people. I have three shops in this market with eight people under me. I order phones from China and Dubai and sell them. I can't estimate what I use to get in a week, but we should be counting millions," said Alhaji Aminu Isma'il Yanoko, one of the many phone dealers at the Farm Centre GSM Village.

Inside Yan Tebura section

The market in Kano Metropolis is one of the pioneer markets in the telecommunication business in the country. Since the coming of mobile phones to Nigeria, the market has been a place that houses many people and provides them the opportunities to earn a living.

Initially situated on Post Office Road, it was relocated to its present location at Farm Centre area during the second tenure of the administration of Malam Ibrahim Shekarau as governor of the state. The market is occupied by thousands of youths who embark on several businesses such as phone repairs, phone selling (new and second hand) and computer accessories.

From Farm Centre, more GSM villages have sprung in the state thereby providing opportunities for people, mostly youths, to venture into the business. In Kano, almost all areas have their own GSM villages; some with more than one, but the Farm Centre GSM Village remains the mother and biggest of all.

The market suffered a huge blow in 2012 when Boko Haram insurgents attacked the state. It was one of the worst hit locations during the attacks that left many dead and several property destroyed.

Our correspondent observed during a visit that business activities were on top gear as there was no parking space available for customers, with little or no memory of the 2012 attack visible.

Also, with the high population of people in the market, free movement is always very difficult. This is aside the noise from people and machines.

Dealers make huge sales

Narrating his success further, Alhaji Yanoko said it was patience and endurance that made him what he was, adding that before the COVID-19 pandemic, he often travelled to China or Dubai to order new phones, "but now we have to place orders online to the Chinese companies and then they will send the goods to Nigeria."

Haruna Muhammad Yola who owns a shop at the main entrance of the market, said he started selling phones on a table and later rented a shop.

Yola said, "I started under someone and endured all the challenges to become what I am now. I now own this shop with the phones and accessories and eight people are working and earning a living from the shop. Four out of the eight are my staff while four are from a company. Companies usually send in their staff to persuade customers to buy their products here.

"I encountered challenges before I became what I am, but Alhamdulillah. I have built houses and own a car.

"Before now, I was going to Lagos to buy phones, but we realised that the prices were the same as with the dealers here in Kano. So we are now buying here. Every day the minimum I get is at least N5,000 to N10,000."

However, Yola lamented that mobile companies produced new models of mobile phones frequently which make the previous models and forced the sellers to reduce their prices, adding that this was aside from the fact that phones being electronic products could easily develop faults.

Small marketers (yan tebura)

On their part, the marketers selling phones on tables, popularly known as yan tebura, also make huge sales. Mostly youths are the highest in the population of the market. Yan tebura mostly sell second hand phones. Even though they encounter challenges in dealing in second hand phones, some of them said they had adopted a new system that prevented them from putting themselves in danger.

The market's association recently had a seminar with the police in the state in the wake of an increase in cases of phone snatching. Most stolen phones, as it was gathered, always end up at the market; as such measures were introduced to arrest the situation.

Abba Abubakar (30) said one of the measures adopted in buying phones was, "If I don't know you I will not buy the phone. Likewise, even if I know you I will not buy without a receipt and pack."

Abubakar who has his table in the market said that did not stop him from getting customers and also earning a living, explaining that sometimes it was not the number of phones that attracted customers but how the customers were treated.

He said, "I have spent about 10 years here. I was brought here by my friend and started gradually until when I got my table. I get a lot here with this table that you see. I got married; I own a house and am still doing more. Despite all the spending on a daily basis I still have good capital and it's always going up. I also have two people working under me; so we are three on this table."

On the amount of money he is making on a weekly basis, Abubakar said it was unpredictable, adding that, "In marketing, it is hard for one to predict the amount of money he gets on a daily or weekly basis. But what I know is that you can get beyond your imagination. It happened to me several times. One thing with the phone selling business is that it is hardly for you to come and go back home without getting money."

Phone accessories segment also attracts huge traffic

Another segment that attracts huge traffic in the market is phone accessories, which include screen guards, earpieces, chargers, covers and cases.

For Aminu Isa, selling phone accessories has transformed his life from an unemployed to an employee. As a graduate of chemistry who could not secure employment from the government, Aminu now employs two people to work with him in selling phone accessories.

He said, "I waited for about three years to see if I could get a job, but it wasn't easy for me. So a friend suggested that I should join him at the market and I started selling accessories. I was going round with a basket and now I have my own container and two people are under me. So this alone is a success worth appreciating in addition to the money we are getting.

"There is a secret in the accessories selling that is not even in the phone selling. That is why sometimes we get more than what they get. Only that ours is not that high at a time. There are things we buy below N100 and sell... I can't tell you the price."(Laughs)

Repairers make great gains with little or no start-up capital

Phone repairing remains an important segment of the Farm Centre GSM Village that provides opportunities of earning a living.

Sani Dahiru Yakasai, a phone repairer in the market, said he ventured into the business in 2006 when the market was at the Post Office, and that from that time it had been his source of living.

Yakasai said he learned from one Salisu who he met at the market, adding that despite many other GSM villages in the state and many people trooping into the business, they still earn their living.

He said, "Through phone repairing, I got married and have kids, I built a house and I am still moving on with my moderate life. I trained four people and they are all living on their own now. And presently I have three boys under me and I'm very sure by the end of this year they will also become independent. I can't really estimate what I get from this business, but I can tell you that I'm contented. Alhamdulillah."

Other businesses making it in the market

Aside from phone-related businesses at the market, there are other people that sell things that are needed on a daily basis. Several other businesses emerged in the market considering the fact that it is occupied by youths.

The businesses include clothes selling, shoes, food and Points of Sale (POS). Others are the youths who allocate parking spaces to customers and look after the cars for a fee. Also, there are SIM card vendors who are part of the phone selling business.

With Kano's booming population and the ever-increasing youth restiveness in Nigeria as a result of unemployment, among others, Farm Centre GSM Village has continued to help youths in Kano State to change their narratives with their entrepreneurial skills.

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