Monday, October 24, 2011

Doing Business in Nigeria

I was going to title the blog "doing business in Africa" till I recognized the fact that doing business in Nigeria is quite different from most other places on the continent, and for the wrong reasons.

We could discourse ad nauseum about the power situation, transportation network, security (or lack thereof) and the big grandaddy of all - corruption - but these are all common knowledge. Which begs the question - if we all know these are the problems, why aren't we doing anything about it? Why do we keep electing nincompoops to run the affairs of state? Why aren't our youth taking over the streets the way everyone else in the world is (for good or for ill)? 

Of course, there are many entrepreneurs on the Nigerian scene - and some who are quite successful (I know a few personally) - but even they agree that a guarantee of the basic necessities would make their lives and businesses a lot smoother. It's truly a sad state of affairs when the government cannot deliver on its basic responsibilities.
I was fortunate to meet with one of the Trade Commissioners at the Canadian Deputy High Commission this morning. Trade Commissioners are empowered by the Canadian government to "make the way smooth", as it were, for Canadian companies looking to do business with the host country. Sylvia is a lovely lady and took the time to answer my questions - with healthy doses of both optimism and pessimism.
Normally, people of Nigerian origin are immune to negative comments about Nigeria from people outside the country (whether Nigerian or not). The general excuse is "well, you don't live there so you don't know what it's like". 
Try listening to a Canadian - we are do-gooders by nature - talk about the ills of the country. And she knows what she's talking about, having lived here for several years! It was an eye opener, and sad in the extreme, even for someone like me who is fairly critical of Nigeria.
After gently steering me away from any ideas I may have had about working with the government, Sylvia was quite helpful in providing me with potential pathways and people who may prove useful. It was quite a fruitful discussion and will help focus my efforts in areas where there is both a need and some level of support.

So how does one improve the environment and communities in it - and make a few bucks doing so - if the government is not a key stakeholder? This is the problem with doing business in Nigeria. The more removed a is from the government (or the less they have to regulate what you do), the easier it is to succeed. No wonder our infrastructure development is worthy of the twitter hashtag #epicfail.
This is a concern I have to overcome or else find another receptive African environment. The idea is great...the environment needs to catch up.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm, do you think that perhaps Nigeria is not the best place to launch a business? Do you think perhaps another African country could be more suitable? Have considered Ghana, perhaps? :)
    Because I agree, that trying to impact the community will be a difficult task without government support. And also trying to make money doing so will likely be more difficult in a corrupt system as you say..
    What was Sylvia's comments on the subject?