Seven things you should know if you plan to set up a business or work in Nigeria

There are usually a lot of cultural (tribal) and language barriers faced by companies looking to set up business in a foreign country. The same applies to people who want to go to Nigeria for work or business. I therefore saw the need to share a few pointers on the working life situation in Nigeria.

1) English is the main language: Yes Nigeria is in Africa with diverse cultures and languages. However, one of the uniting factors in this country is the language – English. I cannot count the number of times people have been surprised when I have told them that the main language in Nigeria is English outside the three main languages of Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba and lest I forget, Pidgin English. Nigerians may have their peculiar accents, who doesn’t? But the Nigerian accent is well understood if you pay close attention.

2) Nigerian Time: Yes, this exists! The concept of time keeping is strange in Nigeria. If you have an event starting at 12pm then better say it starts at 10am on your invitation otherwise expect the first set of visitors from 2pm. There is a relaxed attitude to time and this is is worse in government establishments where meetings are not held on time.

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3) The Working Time Factor: In most companies in Nigeria, there is nothing like 9-5. Once you employ someone they work for as long as you ask them to, otherwise they may get sacked. This may be a price Nigerians have to pay for the terrible culture of not keeping to time. I am not sure why companies or organisations expect people to stay that long and maintain increased productivity. However, this is what applies and most people adhere to it.

4) Maternity leave is 3 months!: Well, I’m not sure how a woman is expected to give birth and be strong enough for work in 3 months. I’ve maybe been spoilt by working in the UK where we can stay at home for a year, not only to heal properly but to bond with our new baby or babies. I hear some states such as Lagos have already started looking into improving this situation. I’m not sure how our mothers did it – but hey, they survived.

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5) Connections are vital: Just like in most places in the world, having the right connections can take you places in Nigeria. I’m not saying it’s impossible to achieve a lot based on your own merit, because it is. However, the better the connections you have, the easier it will be to meet the right people, get the best contracts and the best positions – simple!

6) Education: The average person you would be looking to employ into your business for a skilled role will probably have a first degree if not a Master’s Degree so get ready to be kept on your toes. Nigerians are mostly very educated and exposed so don’t expect to employ walk overs. However, cultural factors also mean that these educated and exposed individuals sometimes can’t voice their opinions.

7) Respect is vital: Respect is a huge part of the Nigerian culture. You wouldn’t dare address your boss by his or her name. This applies to the most educated employee or employer. The prefix ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’ would always be added as a sign of respect to a person’s boss. Otherwise, everyone is an ‘Aunty’ or ‘Uncle’, simply to show respect.

I hope these help you with setting up business in Nigeria. Please feel free to add to this list based on your individual experiences. All the best with your new venture and hope it works out well for you. Thanks for stopping by!

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