Expats looking to do business in Nigeria – and especially those who’ve never done business on the African continent before – will certainly have to prepare themselves to face unique challenges.
Although great strides have been made within the corporate world in Nigeria – Africa’s most populous nation, and one of the most oil-rich nations on earth – the country still suffers from massive corruption and a debilitating lack of infrastructure; two factors which can make doing business difficult, to say the least.
However, it is important to remind expats that a tremendous amount of business does get done in Nigeria, one of the world’s largest emerging markets – and that jaded, or pessimistic views about the country are not always well deserved.
Nigeria is ranked 137th (out of 183 countries) in the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” rankings, doing better in the criteria of ‘protecting investors’ (where it’s ranked 59th) and ‘getting credit’ (89th), than others.
Business etiquette in Nigeria demands that expats remain flexible, and willing to improvise. Since it is vital to cement a working business relationship between yourself and your associates, be prepared to be patient, and to wait for this trust to develop, before diving into the nuts and bolts of business discussions.
Steps for registering a business in Nigeria
·Check the availability of your company name online, with the Corporate Affairs Commission
·Prepare incorporation documents, and pay stamp-duty to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS)
·Notarise a declaration of compliance
·Register the company with the Corporate Affairs Commission, and pay fees at the bank desk
·Register your company for income tax and VAT with the Federal Board of Inland Revenue Department of the Ministry of Finance
·Register for personal income (PAYE) tax, with the State Tax Office
·A local government official will then come and inspect your businesses
·Pay final fees at a designated bank
*Engage a Lawyer or an accountant to do the registration for you as this will save you a lot of hassle Doing business in Nigeria: Fast facts
Business language: In a country that claims many different ethnic groups and dialects, English has emerged as the de facto language of business in Nigeria
Hours of business: 8am (or 8.30am) to 5pm, from Monday to Friday. In the northern (predominately Muslim) part of Nigeria, Friday is a day of rest
Dress: Smart and stylish – dark colours are preferred.
Gifts: There is no standard practice for gift-giving in Nigeria. However, if you receive a gift, be sure to reciprocate.
Gender equality: Recently, the government has led initiatives to increase the number of women in senior managerial positions in Nigeria. While this clearly points to a recent history of male-domination in the workplace – and it is true that most top-level and middle-management positions are still filled by men – the situation is changing day by day, and many female expats report that they are treated with respect and deference by their Nigerian colleagues, be they male or female.
Do’s 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 become clued up about the nuances of dealing with Yoruba people, as opposed to Fulani, Igbo, etc.