West African Giant

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A country of contrasts, Nigeria is now flexing its muscles as an economic power house, and according to experts will soon overtake South Africa as the African continent’s biggest economy. No wonder, then, that it has become such an important business travel destination. Kate Kennedy runs through all the business traveller needs to know, should Nigeria pop up on his or her travel schedule.

Nigeria has vast natural resources of crude oil, drilled offshore and in the Niger River Delta, making it one of the top 10 oil exporters in the world. This is supplemented with large reserves of natural gas, iron ore, limestone, lead and zinc.

Years of military rule and corruption severely hampered economic growth, but the restoration of democracy in 1999 has put Nigeria back on the path to reaching its full economic potential.

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, with 168 million inhabitants, accounting for about 18% of the continent’s total population.

Economy & Business

Nigeria consists of 36 states. Lagos, although the smallest state in geographical terms, has the largest share of the nation’s economy.

“It has been projected that within the next two years, Nigeria will become Africa’s largest economy after the anticipated rebasing of its Gross Domestic Product measurement, better to reflect the structure of the economy,” says Trevor Ward, Managing Director of the W Hospitality Group, in a report it compiled.

There is a mood of optimism regarding the economy, which is still growing at an average of around 7%. The political scenario is a little more uncertain, and will continue to be so until at least April 2015, when general elections are due to take place. The private sector, it seems, carries on regardless of what is happening in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria. Inflation is relatively low (below 10%), but interest rates are stubbornly high. 

“There is a growing tech-savvy younger middle class that has no direct link to the oil industry. This is driving demand for world class goods and services,” says Bobby Bryan, Commercial Manager East & West Africa: Delta Air Lines.

“Nigeria’s ambition of being one of the top 20 economies is encapsulated in the Vision 20:2020 programme,” says Ward. “The key objectives are to stimulate Nigeria’s economic growth and launch the country onto a path of sustained and rapid socio-economic development, and to place Nigeria in the bracket of the top 20 largest economies of the world by 2020, with a GDP of not less than $900 billion and per capita income of $4,000.”

Globally, major multi-national companies are looking to Africa for their major growth opportunities, given the weak economic conditions in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

“Nigeria represents a major market in Africa, although it is very much an unknown quantity,” says Jason Jones, Operations Director at American Express Travel Services Nigeria. “This leads to a lot of interest and subsequent travel to Nigeria to investigate market expansion opportunities and possible subsequent commercial activities.”

Jones feels that Nigeria has huge potential in terms of investment opportunities.

“Naturally this means companies are expanding their operations into Africa, and in particular are focusing on West Africa,” he says. “There is also rapid growth in the retail sector and a number of new companies have opened up or are in the process of doing so. Although the main focus remains the oil and gas sector, there has been a noticeable change over the last two years from a retail perspective.”

Vanessa Krook, New Business Stream Sales, Marketing & Supplier Relations Manager at BCD Travel South Africa, agrees.

“The energy, oil and gas, technology and telecommunication (ICT) industries continue to be the main draw cards, while other industries like hospitality, retail and services continue to perform well,” she says.

According to Krook, global and South African companies that are well established in the developed markets are rapidly expanding operations in emerging economies like Nigeria.

Bryan sums things up quite nicely.

“There is no doubt that for almost any sector, and any size organisation, doing business in Nigeria is not only important, but critical,” says Bryan. “There are many reasons that give companies pause before setting up shop in Nigeria, but in the end, none of them are sufficient to warrant not participating in Nigeria’s marketplace. To ignore the Nigerian market, and its potential, is tantamount to ignoring Africa, and that is something no company can afford.”

Technology

Online is one of the hot topics in the Nigerian market. Whereas in other parts of the world procurement of online purchases has been widely accepted as the norm, this is fairly new to Nigeria. In terms of travel services, clients are starting to expect travel management companies to have an online solution as an option available to them. Technology is climbing the ladder of importance on meeting agendas.

“Part of the value-add proposition is the ability to introduce our clients to technological solutions that streamline and reduce tedious manual processes,” says Jones. “We have also noticed a trend towards a more accommodating attitude to the introduction of card payment solutions in order to reduce the cash element in the Nigerian market. This is still in its infancy, but the momentum seems to be gaining, and at least there is more of a willingness to entertain the thought of cards being more prominent in corporate travel.”

Nigerian corporates are also becoming more aware of best practices and global trends when it comes to booking travel.

“They are far more informed these days,” says Jones. “This awareness has led to clients changing their internal policies to better manage annual travel budgets and reduce costs. In some instances we are noticing an increase in the number of ticket sales, but a reduction in the actual cost of the ticket, as clients gain access to vital information. Once they understand their traveller behaviour patterns, they begin to amend their policies.”

Hotel Industry Comment & News

With the pace of development in Nigeria, it’s no surprise that there has been great growth in the hotel industry in the last 10 years, even though there is still a long way to go.

“Demand for hotel accommodation in Nigeria is generated mostly by the corporate sector, with conference and meeting venues a close second,” says Ward. “Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt see a significant amount of demand generated by international travellers, and all three cities have European and other international flights.”

“However, the majority of countrywide travel is domestic business travellers. In Abuja, the main reason to travel is to do business with government. The meeting and conference market is also predominantly domestic.”

Lagos is typically the first point of entry for visitors and therefore the substantial market created has attracted significant investment in the hotel sector.

The majority of new hotels in Lagos have been at the top end of the market, in the upscale and deluxe categories. However, Ward feels that the mid-market, budget and economy sectors represent the greatest opportunity for new entrants.

“Accommodation and safety is a great challenge in Lagos and Abuja,” says Krook. “Most booking requests are for four or 5-star hotels, preferably within a recognised chain. Due to the high demand and limited supply, hotel rates are relatively high.”

No surprise that there was some activity on the hotel front in 2013, with more international brands looking to have a presence in Nigeria, and Lagos in particular.

Marriott’s entry into the market was announced in early 2013, with the 150-room 5-star Lagos Marriott Hotel on the Ozumba Mbadiwe waterfront on Victoria Island expected to open in 2014.

Carlson Rezidor announced the construction of the Radisson Blu Hotel Port Harcourt Olympia. The property is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2016. Rezidor already has the Radisson Blu Anchorage Hotel, Lagos VI; the up and coming Radisson Blu Hotel Abuja and the Park Inn by Radissons in Lagos (Apapa), Ikeja (Abeoukuta) and Abuja.

Hilton also has Nigerian properties in the pipeline. First, there was the announcement that it had signed its first Hilton Garden Inn hotel for sub-Saharan Africa, in Nigeria’s south-east city of Uyo, the capital of the country’s largest oil producing region of Akwa Ibom State. That was followed up later in the year with the news that the group would be opening the 350-room Transcorp Hilton Lagos in Ikoyi.

Switzerland-based Swiss International Hotels & Resorts also announced the signing of two upscale hotel properties in Nigeria – the Swiss International Westown-Lagos and the Swiss International Mabisel-Port Harcourt.

Ibis was another international brand to add rooms, with the opening of the Ibis Lagos Ikeja with its 165 rooms.

But the biggest Lagos opening in 2013 was undoubtedly that of the 358-room InterContinental Lagos, after many delays and years of construction. The opulent multi-billion naira, 23-storey, 5-star property has already made a big statement and is proving a popular meeting and conferencing venue.

Best Western International also popped up with two new properties, announcing the addition of the Best Western Plus Ajuji Hotel in Abuja and the Best Western Starfire Hotel in Lagos, while South Africa’s Tsogo Sun Group strengthened its position in the market by acquiring a 75% stake in Ikoyi Hotels Limited, the holding company of the Southern Sun Ikoyi Hotel.

From a local hotel operator point of view, the Epe Resort & Spa launched in Lagos.

“There are an estimated 3,400 branded hotel rooms currently planned or under construction in Lagos, with opening dates between 2014 and 2017, and at least another 12,000 with no brand. Approximately 43% are still in the planning stage,” says Ward.

“Unlike Lagos, there have been very few new rooms entering the Abuja market, an increase of only 9% since 2010, and currently, there are no new hotels under construction with an international brand affiliation,” says Ward.

Best Western now has properties in Abuja, Benin City, Port Harcourt and Lagos, and the group is working with owners on future Best Western hotels in Makurdi, Benue, Asaba, Delta State and an additional project in Abuja.

“Our success with the Best Western Homeville in Benin City has shown that there is an opportunity for revenue delivery in secondary cities around the country,” says Suzie Yoder, President International Operations for Best Western International. 

Best Western recently launched an extended stay model – Best Western Plus Executive Residency. 

“Annual extended stay room demand has risen for 20 consecutive years,” says Yoder. “By adding this new concept, we are offering hotel developers the opportunity to gain a foothold in this section of the market.”

Hotel Overview
Starting with Lagos, it’s another of those major African cities with a large supply of international brands, which are probably the safer bets.

As already mentioned, InterContinental now has a presence, whilst there’s a Sheraton in Ikeja and a Four Points by Sheraton on Victoria Island. Carlson Rezidor has the Radisson Blu Anchorage Hotel, Lagos VI.

Best Western has a nice spread, with two hotels in Ikeja and one on Victoria Island, whilst Ibis has a similar approach, with one property near the airport and one in Ikeja. Golden Tulip can boast the new Golden Tulip Festac Lagos, and the group also has a property in Port Harcourt.

“Don’t be put off by the high published rates – there is always a deal to be done,” says Trevor Ward, MD of W Hospitality Group.

From an African hotel group point of view, Protea has the biggest presence, with five hotels in Lagos and three in Abuja, along with one in Warri in Delta State and one in Benin City. Sun International runs the Federal Palace Hotel & Casino on Victoria Island, Legacy Hotels & Resorts operates The Wheatbaker (luxury boutique hotel), whilst Tsogo Sun has the Southern Sun Ikoyi, which has a good reputation and is renowned for its food and bar area, which has a great vibe.

“I recently stayed at the Southern Sun Ikoyi, which was conveniently located,” says Kagiso Dumasi, Commercial Manager Africa for BCD Travel. “It’s good value for money and famed for its cuisine, networking value and facilities which include a business centre, gym and conferencing venue.”

If you would prefer something local, there are a host of home-grown brands and properties, such as Morningside Suites, S&S Hotel and Suites, the new Epe Resort & Spa, The Regent, Avenue Suites, and the Eko Hotel & Suites, which has the largest meeting and conferencing offering, with heaps of exhibition space.

“I quite like the Moorhouse Ikoyi,” says Bryan. “It’s a quiet oasis in the chaos of Lagos. It’s a bit smaller than some of the other international hotels in Lagos, but this allows a personal touch from the management team who seem to know every guest. The only international hotel actually near the airport in Lagos is the Ibis, and although simple, provides a great rest-stop for guests who need to be near the airport. They also do day-use rooms for those who would like to be near the airport and beat the traffic.”

The 5-star Transcorp Hilton dominates the Abuja hotel scene, and has done so for quite some time. Protea has the three hotels already mentioned, there’s now the Best Western Plus Ajuji, Hawthorn Suites is a fully-serviced extended stay property in the heart of Abuja, and the Hotel de Bently is also in the CBD.

“If you want to see and be seen, the Transcorp Hilton is a must – everyone passes through there at some time or other,” says Ward. “The Sheraton is old but friendly, with some great restaurants. The three small Protea hotels are more cosy than their bigger cousins, and the Hawthorn Suites offers an apartment-style product.”

It’s worth noting that several hotels in Nigeria require travellers to pay before issuing a room key. Many properties request an additional security deposit as well as the room rate, and you will be refunded when settling the bill at departure.

Air Travel Overview

In line with the growing interest in Nigeria, the list of airlines servicing the country is substantial, and increasing. Air France, Arik Air, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, EgyptAir, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Etihad, Kenya Airways, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways , RwandAir, SAA, Turkish Airlines and Virgin Atlantic are just some of the airlines with services into Lagos, for the most part, and some of the other important hubs such as Abuja and Port Harcourt.

Arik Air, a wholly-owned Nigerian airline, operates mainly from two hubs at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja. The airline recently introduced two Airbus A330-200’s into its fleet. They are currently deployed on the Lagos-Johannesburg and Lagos-London routes. Both aircraft have 30 Premier Business Class seats, which are fully lie-flat, and 187 Economy Class seats. Unique to Arik’s A330s is the Kira bar in Business Class, where passengers are able to sit, socialise and enjoy refreshments.

“With the change to a wide-bodied aircraft, we have experienced an increase in passenger numbers into Nigeria,” says Isla Moffett, Arik’s Manager of Sales and Marketing – South Africa. “Our main categories of travellers are split between the business community, expatriate Nigerians and special interest groups.”

Through its hub in Lagos, Arik serves most domestic cities in Nigeria and routinely review routes and add additional destinations where demand requires. In keeping with the times, last year Arik launched new mobile and online booking services.

Delta Air Lines operates year-round daily non-stop flights between Lagos and Atlanta, Georgia in the United States. In recognition of the horrific traffic congestion in Lagos, Delta offers select clients the advantage of checking into the Hotel Ibis Lagos Airport after noon, to enjoy a buffet lunch and free Wi-Fi prior to checking in for their flight.

“This allows passengers to be productive for longer,” says Bryan, “and we know how important productivity time is to our business passengers.”

And there are many of those Business Class passengers across all the major airlines. A word of warning – if you’re planning a trip and want to fly near the front of the plane, make sure you get your booking in early.

“Due to the length of the flight, we have found that most business travellers flying from South Africa request Business Class,” says Krook.

Virgin Atlantic Airways’ Premium Economy cabin was first introduced in 1992, offering a step up from traditional Economy seating without the high cost of travelling in a Business Class cabin. Seats are wider, with enhanced ergonomics, and come with laptop power, 38 inches of pitch and 16 degrees of recline. Passengers are treated to dedicated check-in, priority boarding and baggage reclaim, a separate cabin, pre-departure drinks, and an enhanced dinner service.

Virgin has been flying into Nigeria since 2001 and currently offers daily flights between Lagos and London. Its Premium Economy seats are proving popular with travellers.

“Since the launch of Virgin’s Little Red in the UK, we’ve seen a demand for travel from businesses in the oil industry from Aberdeen, Scotland, to Lagos,” says Rachel Coffey, Virgin’s Country Manager – West Africa.

South African Airways flies daily between Johannesburg and Lagos using an Airbus A340-600.

“The aircraft offers great in-flight entertainment facilities,” says Aaron Munetsi, SAA’s Regional General Manager for Africa & Middle East, an important offering on a six-hour journey. “We are keen to introduce more services, including Internet facilities on board when the technology is compatible with our aircraft.”

SAA has also been granted an additional three flights between South Africa and Nigeria, under the Bilateral Air Service Agreement between South Africa and Lagos.

“We are evaluating the best destinations within Nigeria for these flights,” says Munetsi. “It might be Lagos that gets additional frequencies, or it could be another gateway into Nigeria that gets new frequencies – we want to serve our customers as best we can.”

Air Travel News

Looking at the past year’s airline news, Arik announced the expansion of its regional network to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the service operating via Douala in Cameroon. From an aircraft point of view, the big Arik news was the delivery of two A330-200s. The new aircraft will service long-haul routes, including London Heathrow, New York John F Kennedy and O.R. Tambo International in Johannesburg.

Also on the local front, it was another tumultuous year for Dana Air, following that tragic crash in 2012. First it was suspended from flying, then resumed operations later in the year and slashed ticket prices, before being suspended once again in October. The latest is that they are flying again (see news pages).

Elsewhere, SkyBird Air, a new entrant into the Nigeria aviation market, received official clearance to begin flight operations, with two Gulfstream jets and three Dornier 328 aircraft. Also being granted licences were Nigerian start-ups West Link Airlines and Hak Air.

Aero Contractors launched its inaugural flight from Lagos to Douala, and Nigeria’s south-east region welcomed its first international commercial passenger flight at Akanu Ibiam International Airport.

Internationally, Etihad Airways upgraded its Lagos service to daily and Air France introduced the Boeing 777-200 on the Port-Harcourt/Abuja/Paris route. The Nigerian government also has approved the designation of Emirates and Turkish Airlines to Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport.

Regionally, Equatorial Guinea-based carrier Cronos Airlines launched flights to Port Harcourt out of its hub in Malabo, whilst ExecuJet Africa introduced customs and immigration services at its fixed-based operation facility at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos.

At the Airport

International airports are located in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu. There are also airports in most states of the federation and local air travel is widespread.

Lagos is the commercial and cultural hub, while Abuja in the Federal Capital Territory has – since 1991 – been the legislative capital. The southern city of Port Harcourt is a major industrial centre for the lucrative oil industry. Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos is the main gateway. The airport is 22 kilometres north of Lagos, although the journey can take hours, depending on the city’s notorious traffic. If possible, only travel with carry-on luggage, as baggage collection can be less than efficient.

“MMIA is currently going through a major redevelopment,” says Krook. “When completed, it will be beneficial to business travellers as the current feedback regularly received about the airport experience is not good.”

Bryan agrees, saying that the Lagos airport is exceptionally chaotic in the evenings, and suggests that passengers leave well in advance, at least three to four hours or more, to avoid the longest lines at check-in and immigration. That’s particularly if you’re flying Economy Class. Business Class with most of the airlines will get you favourable treatment and help you jump the queue, including a fast-tracked security process. It’s sometimes worth the extra cost of upgrading to Business.

“As a business traveller, I recommend your host arranging a ‘meet and greet’ service to assist in fast-tracking through immigration, baggage reclaim and to the vehicle. Immigration is still manual and striking a relaxed and friendly conversation will go a long way to ease any difficulty with officials,” says Dumasi.

Further to the development, some good news filtered through in late February, regarding the airport and the experience for weary travellers. Nigeria’s Federal Government announced its readiness to address the challenge of heat at the international terminal of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos. The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria said that the long-standing problem with the cooling system would soon be a thing of the past, as three new ‘chillers’ will be installed at the airport. The government opted for a complete replacement of the old cooling system as a lasting solution to the system that was installed over 32 years ago and has become difficult to maintain. The installation is expected to be completed by April.

There are several lounges at Murtala Muhammed International that offer ‘fee-per-visit’, and it is well worth taking advantage of them, as there are almost no general facilities airside.

The Port Harcourt International Airport is fully operational again after being closed for about two years for rehabilitation work. A Chinese construction company has won the bid to commence construction of four airport terminals in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt before 2015.

Card Payments

Nigeria has been a predominantly cash economy. Travellers used to have to ensure that enough foreign currency accompanied any trip, in order to cover one’s costs. But the past few years have seen the Nigerian government embark on a “Cashless Nigeria” initiative, with “Cashless Lagos” representing the first phase of the project. This has received a good response, although much in the way of education, adoption and trust in card payments still needs to take place. That being said, cards are now being utilised in most shops, stores, restaurants and commercial or entertainment facilities in the country. 

If you hold a Visa, MasterCard or Maestro Credit/Debit card, you can withdraw cash in naira from various ATMs around the country. Visa machines can be found at Standard Chartered Bank. MasterCard/Maestro machines are found in Ecobank and some Zenith Bank branches.

Be aware that these machines only allow you to withdraw N25,000 (roughly $150) at a time, which is a relatively small amount in Nigeria. This means that you will have to make multiple withdrawals at a time.

The Nigerian payment method of choice is via MasterCard, Visa or Interswitch. The Interswitch Verve card is issued in 16 of the country’s major banks. There are currently over 10 million Verve cards active in Nigeria.

Visas

Foreign nationals who are not citizens of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) need to apply for a visa to enter Nigeria. This can be obtained at Nigerian embassies, high commissions and consulates worldwide. In South Africa, the visa will cost you in the region of R6,000, whilst it’s advisable to start the visa application process well in advance, in order to meet the deadline of your trip. 

ECOWAS is made up of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

You cannot legally depart Nigeria unless you can prove, by presenting your entry visa, that you entered Nigeria legally.

Connectivity

Nigeria has one of the fastest-growing telecommunications markets in the world, with increased interest in the region by smartphone manufacturers.

The telecoms landscape has witnessed significant growth in the last ten years as result of the liberalisation of the market. The most reliable, quality Wi-Fi access is found in the major hotels, but also in shopping malls, cinemas, bars and even in cities outside Lagos and Abuja. Mobile roaming costs are relatively high, but affordable for corporates. Mobile phone coverage (South Africa’s MTN Group, India’s Bharti Airtel, Abu Dhabi-based Etisalat and Nigeria’s Globacom are the key industry players) is not limited to cities, but is only available in some towns and villages. It is advisable for visitors to obtain a local sim card on arrival. It is affordable, although regulations stipulate that you have to register the number.

Climate

Because of its location just north of the equator, Nigeria enjoys a truly tropical climate characterised by hot and wet conditions. The rainy season starts in the south of the country in late February and slowly travels north, where the highest rainfall typically occurs in August.

Without rain to cool the afternoons, temperatures are highest during the dry season. The average temperature in Lagos ranges from 22ºC and 31ºC during January, with more moderate temperatures, between 22ºC and 27ºC, in June.

The Harmattan winds, trade winds from the north-east, blow through the country during the dry season – December through February – accompanied by a dusting of fine sand particles from the Sahara. The winds, which bring higher temperatures and low humidity, are mostly confined to the north of the country. The south-western coast doesn’t usually experience the effects of this climatic phenomenon.

General

Pirate attacks off West Africa’s mineral-rich coastline have almost doubled from last year and threaten to jeopardise the shipping of commodities from the region. They have already jacked up insurance costs. Anti-western sentiment has also led to the hostage taking of some foreign businessmen in Nigeria. When arranging meetings in Nigeria, travellers should ensure that the contact is known to them, and that the meeting is held at a secure location.

Nigerian people are very friendly and always willing to assist. 

Nigeria has an almost even religious split between the Christian and Muslim faiths. However, the country does have the largest Muslim population in sub-Saharan Africa. One should exercise discretion in behaviour and dress – in the north particularly – as well during the holy month of Ramadan.  

Self-drive is not advisable or readily available from car rental companies, so a driver with your hire car is essential.

Nigerian hospitality normally goes above and beyond. Most hosts will allocate a driver to you for the duration of your stay. If you are going it solo, negotiate with a driver through the hotel concierge to stay with you for your total stay. Traffic congestion is part of the Lagos business life – allow two to three hours between meetings for travel time.

Fact File
Capital:
Abuja
Population:
168 million
Time: GMT+1
Plugs: Three-prong square
Dialling code: +234
Currency: Naira – $1=162NGN
Language: English

 

Health

Be sure to take your yellow fever vaccination certificate with you. Despite yellow fever vaccination being a visa requirement, visitors may still be denied entry if they cannot present their vaccination certificate on request.

Vaccinations against meningitis, tuberculosis and hepatitis B are sometimes recommended. There are special precautionary measures for diptheria, hepatitis A, malaria, tetanus, typhoid and yellow fever.

All tap water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated, and bottled water is the way to go. Most hotels recognise this, and there’s usually plenty of bottled water in hotel rooms.  

Comment

Bobby Bryan – Commercial Manager East & West Africa: Delta Air Lines

No doubt you’ve heard the horror stories from other business travellers, and seen the terrible images on television, but what is the reality of doing business in Nigeria? You might have even asked if it really is worth it. Can my company really work in the Nigerian environment? In my opinion, not only is the answer to these questions a resounding ‘yes’, but more importantly it should be asked if you can afford ‘not’ to do business in Nigeria.

Aside from some of the basic well-known facts about Nigeria (oil wealth, large population, corruption, poor infrastructure etc), there is much positive development that may not be as well known. For example, there is a growing tech-savvy younger middle class that has no direct link to the oil industry. This is driving demand for world class goods and services. In Lagos, more roads have been renovated and the hotel capacity has dramatically increased in recent years. This is all reflected in Nigeria’s recent GDP growth rate of over 7% annually. Direct air service has also increased to Lagos, with non-stop flights available to Europe, all over Africa, the Middle East and the United States. There is a large pool of hard-working young graduates hungry for good jobs, along with the ‘repat’ phenomenon (Nigerians returning to Nigeria after studying and working abroad).

Of course, doing business in Nigeria is not without its challenges, some of them significant. Firstly, you must have a long-term vision and commitment for your Nigerian business. This is a ‘high-risk, high-reward’ business environment, and there is no such thing as a quick win. Probably the most important decision you will make related to your Nigerian operation will be the choice of your local partner. I cannot stress enough how critical your local partner will be for your business. Without a strong, knowledgeable and invested partner, your business will be a weaker competitor, and more subject to the inherent vagaries of the market. A strong financial commitment is also crucial, and you should plan on your initial investment and start-up costs being higher than expected. Make sure your office in Nigeria has sufficient presence and autonomy for decision making, as the Nigerian business community is very wary of companies that try to handle their affairs from a distance, and in many cases simply will not do business with companies that they do not consider to be ‘in Nigeria’.

There is no doubt that for almost any sector, and any size organisation, doing business in Nigeria is not only important, but critical. There are many reasons that give companies pause before setting up shop in Nigeria, but in the end, none of them are sufficient to warrant not participating in Nigeria’s marketplace. To ignore the Nigerian market, and its potential, is tantamount to ignoring Africa, and that is something no company can afford.