Although many endemic problems remain when trying to develop business in Nigeria, many steps have been taken to tackle institutional and corporate corruption – things seem to be moving in the right direction.
Try to do some research on the Nigerian company you visit before you arrive. Are you dealing with an internationally influenced subsidiary of a global MNC or a locally owned and managed business?
Most local companies will be very hierarchical. Try to get to know the hierarchy of the company at an early stage.
Don’t try to get decisions out of middle-managers – they usually cant make them.
Age is worthy of respect in Nigeria – should your delegation reflect this fact?
Although organisations are hierarchically structured with decisions made at the top, do not ignore lower ranking officials – they may still be highly influential.
Managers are expected to manage. They make decisions and give instructions. A more consensus-style approach might be bewildering.
Managers expect loyalty and compliance in return for which they offer support and help in both business and non-business areas.
It is important to develop good, long-term relationships in Nigeria. If meetings seem a little informal and non-business focussed, do not worry – the more time spent on relationship-building, the better.
Although punctuality can be very patchy, it is probably best if you show up on time. Be careful to allow enough time to negotiate the traffic.
Try to be patient at all times in Nigeria – the more you push, the further away the decision might become.
English is very widely spoken in Nigeria and you are unlikely to meet any internationally-oriented business people or government officials who are not fairly fluent.
Try to address Nigerians using their titles (if they have one) as this shows respect to the status of the person.
Remember to shake hands with everybody when you enter a room and go through the obligatory, fairly lengthy introductions with warmth and good grace.
Be aware that Nigerians are likely to stand quite close to you. This should not be seen as threatening.
You are unlikely to meet women in senior positions within commercial organisations.
Dress smartly when you go to Nigeria. Your relative importance may be very largely judged on your appearance.
Try to avoid using your left hand when handing things to people, eating food etc.
A large part of the Nigerian population are Muslim so be aware of Muslim taboos on alcohol, pork, gambling etc.
Take care at all times and never go anywhere with people you do not trust or know quite well.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
Nigeria’s massive oil reserves can be seen as both a blessing and a curse. The sale of crude oil represents about 70% of government revenue and an incredible 90% of the country’s exports. A blessing when oil prices are high but a real problem when prices fall dramatically. Nigeria needs to diversify away from such over-dependence on the oil industry and it needs external help to achieve this diversification.
Therefore, Nigeria definitely needs foreign investment and know-how. It probably needs what your company is selling – which must make it an attractive potential market. In addition to the country-wide need for investment across a whole range of sectors, Nigeria also has demographics on its side. Over half the population (which will be 200 million before too long) are under the age of 24. That represents a huge new potential consumer market who are aspirational and consumerist.
Is Nigeria an attractive market? Should you be looking at doing business in Nigeria?
The fact is that Nigeria is a difficult market from a number of perspectives. Corruption is often cited as the major barrier to doing business in Nigeria and it is undoubtedly true that corruption is rife in many areas of commercial activity. However, the major stumbling block when entering the Nigerian market could in fact be the local business culture. You would be very unwise the approach the Nigerian market without first trying to get a solid understanding of the way in which business is done locally. It isn’t like ‘back home’. Do some research and arrive in-country as well-informed as possible.
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Nigerian business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on: