Expats looking to do business in Nigeria, and especially those who have never done business on the African continent before, will certainly have to prepare themselves for some unique challenges.
Although great strides have been made within the corporate world in Nigeria – one of the most oil-rich countries in the world and Africa’s largest economy – the country still suffers from massive corruption and a debilitating lack of infrastructure; two factors that can make doing business difficult, to say the least.
However, expats should remember that a tremendous amount of business does get done in Nigeria, and jaded or pessimistic views about the country are not always well deserved.
Nevertheless, doing business in Nigeria is challenging, as illustrated by numerous international business surveys. Most notably, the country ranked 169th (out of 189 countries) in the World Bank’s 2016 Ease of Doing Business Survey, marking a slight improvement from its 2015 ranking of 170. The country performed reasonably well in factors such as getting credit (59th) and showed significant improvement for protecting minority investors (20th), but it continues to rank extremely poorly in factors such as getting electricity (187th) and registering property (181st).
Hours of business
Business culture in Nigeria
Business culture in Nigeria is subject to a number of variable forces; over 250 different ethnic groups co-exist in the country and many foreign-owned multinationals have come to roost. Business etiquette therefore demands that expats remain flexible, and willing to improvise.
Since it is vital to cement a working business relationship with associates, be prepared to be patient, and to wait for this trust to develop, before diving into the nuts and bolts of business discussions. For this reason, business meetings in Nigeria are very social occasions, providing the framework for the creation of solid interpersonal connections.
Attitude to foreigners
Bribery and corruption
Dos and don’ts of doing business in Nigeria
- Do remember that bribery, corruption, favouritism and nepotism are still unfortunate realities of doing business in Nigeria
- Do be willing to improvise, and to make a real effort at getting to know your Nigerian colleagues
- Do try to remain patient and calm, in all situations
- Don’t disrespect elders, or those in higher positions of authority than you
- Don’t criticise your colleagues in public – rather have a private word with them, if you deem it necessary
- Don’t fall into the habit of thinking about or interacting with all Nigerians in the same way. Nigeria is an incredibly diverse nation, and you should try to familiarise yourself with the nuances of dealing with the different ethnic groups.