Just ended my 4-month sojourn in my other beloved country Nigeria and couldn’t help but put some ‘pen to paper’ while waiting at the new departure lounge at Port Harcourt International Airport. Wow! What an experience that was. Four long months of pain and pleasure – away from my dear family and friends back in the UK.
Arriving on the 14th of August – for my dad’s 80th – I soon realised that this was not one of those 7 or 10-day trips I had been accustomed to over the last 16 years. I had been doing my due diligence on Nigeria; I knew this was a country of 170 million people and one of the world’s fastest-growing economies; I knew there was a lot of money to be made here, but how – I wondered?
The first obvious sign that the economy was booming was the number of new motorable roads built since 1998, which represented to me – visually at least – a hundred percent increase compared to when I left for the UK 16 years ago. I jokingly said to a friend of mine that if I were blindfolded and dropped on certain streets in Port Harcourt, I would be lost. True – and that is from someone who spent 24 years in this erstwhile small city of 180,000 people in the mid 80s.
Perhaps less obvious is the demographics of the country, which is reflected in Port Harcourt more or less: a rapidly-growing population, an expanding middle-class with all their attendant needs. This is a country where those of working age – the 15 to 64 year olds – constitute at least 50% of the population and over 40% in the 0-14 age range. Contrast this with the UK; at least 60% for the former and 18% for the latter and you’ll see where the huge business opportunities lie.
Nigerians in the diaspora, or in fact any one who has a knack for spotting business opportunities and the patience to handle the mostly friendly but manyana mentality here, would make a killing if and only if you do your research. Nigeria can be very frustrating – and very rewarding as well.
A personal experience: I got involved in a project a few weeks after I arrived; I wouldn’t have had such an opportunity in the UK so easily. The pay was good – only that the money is yet to materialize 🙂 Why? It was government-run; this is the most bureaucratic sector. So, unless you’re prepared to wait, don’t even get involved with state-run projects.
If, on the other hand, you have a business idea – fast-food ‘joints’ seem to be doing very well; health clubs; schools – from creche to university, in fact any business that targets this growing demographic is more likely than not, to do quite well. Nigerians love ‘posh’ – and I don’t mean David Beckham’s beau 🙂 Go for the top end of the market; you’ll be surprised at how quickly things’ll move for you.
I am not going to pretend to know the ins and outs of setting up a business in Nigeria, but be prepared for some manyana here as well, as you’ll need to register your company with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and I’m sure there are several other ‘bus stops’ before you finally reach your business destination; a lot more than you’d expect. That is, if it’s a business with a physical trading address.
Do your due diligence and you’ll have a long line of eager, friendly people begging you to take money off them to enjoy your services.
So, is it to be or not to be? That is the question, isn’t it 🙂
One last note though: I’d avoid north-eastern Nigeria for now.
PS. Have you successfully or not-so-successfully set-up or tried to set up a business in Nigeria? Let us know how it went. Would you recommend it?