Doing Business In Nigeria

  1. In Doing Business 2013 Nigeria is ranked 131st out of 185 economies. The overall score is unchanged from last year.
  2. According to the latest Enterprise Surveys (2007), Electricity, Access to Finance and Transportation constitute the main obstacles to running a business in Nigeria.
  3. Compared with other economies in the Sub-Saharan Africa region covered by the Investing Across Sectors indicators, Nigeria is one of the most open countries to foreign equity ownership. All of its major industry sectors are fully open to foreign capital participation. The only exception is the banking industry, in which foreign investors are not allowed to acquire more than 40% of an already existing Nigerian bank. There are no restrictions, however, for investors setting up a new bank in Nigeria.
  4. Nigeria’s economic freedom score is 56.3, making its economy the 116th freest out of 183 countries in the 2012 Index. Its score is 0.4 point lower than last year, reflecting declines in six of the 10 economic freedoms, including labor freedom, monetary freedom, trade freedom, and freedom from corruption, that overwhelmed a modest gain in business freedom. Nigeria is ranked 19th out of 46 countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region, and its overall score is below the world average.

Source: World Bank


Visa Information

Visas are required for all except nationals of most West African countries. Most Nigerian embassies (including the high commissions in the UK and Australia, and the embassy in Benin) issue visas only to residents and nationals of the country in which the embassy is located. Exact requirements vary, but as a rule of thumb, forms are required in triplicate, along with proof of funds to cover your stay, a round-trip airline ticket, and possibly confirmed hotel reservations.
You also need a letter of invitation from a resident of Nigeria or a business in the country. This must explain the purpose of your visit and, preferably, take immigration and financial responsibility for you during your trip. The cost of a 30-day visa is from US$60 to US$100 according to nationality.
If you’re travelling overland to Nigeria, the embassy in Accra (Ghana) is consistently rated as the best place in West Africa to apply for a visa, as no letter of introduction is required. The embassy in Niamey (Niger) also claims to issue visas the same way.
Visa extensions
Visas can reportedly be extended at the Federal Secretariat in Lagos, but it’s a byzantine process of endless forms, frustration and dash, with no clear sense of success.
Visas for onward travel
One month visas for Chad (N5500), Cameroon (N10, 000), Niger (N5300) and Benin (N3000) can be obtained in Abuja or Lagos. Other convenient consulates for visas are Calabar (Cameroon) and Kano (Niger).
Benin One-month visas cost CFA15, 000, with one photo, and take 24 hours to issue. You can’t pay in naira – although, as the embassy in Lagos carries a bad reputation for asking for dash, don’t be surprised if greasing palms miraculously solves this ‘problem’.
Cameroon A one-month single-entry visa costs CFA50, 000, with one photo, and is issued in a day.
Chad Two photos and N5500 will get you a one-month single-entry visa, which you can pick up the next day.
Niger Best obtained in Abuja, a one-month single-entry visa costs N5300 with two photos, and is issued in 48 hours.

Business Etiquette

Meeting and Greeting

Handshakes are the most common greeting.

Wait for a woman to extend her hand first.

Shake hands at the beginning and end of meetings.

To rush a greeting is extremely rude; spend time inquiring about the other person’s general well-being.

It is a good idea to lower your eyes when meeting someone who is older or more senior.

Titles are important. Use the honorific title plus any academic or professional title and the surname.

Wait until invited before moving to a first-name basis. This is not a first name culture, although that may be changing with people under the age of 35.

Business cards are exchanged without formal ritual.

Present and receive business cards with two hands or the right hand, never with the left.

It is a good idea to include any advanced university degree on your business card.

Make certain that your title is prominently displayed.

Never write on your business card. If the information has changed, have new cards printed.

Make a point of studying any business card you receive before putting it into a business card holder.

Nigerian Communication Style

Due to the ethnic make-up of the country, communication styles vary. In the southwest, where the people are from the Yoruba tribe, people’s communication employs proverbs, sayings and even songs to enrich the meaning of what they say. This is especially true when speaking their native language, although many of the same characteristics have been carried into their English language usage. The Yoruba often use humour to prevent boredom during long meetings or serious discussions. They believe that embedding humour in their message guarantees that what they say is not readily forgotten. 
Nigerians living in the south of the country tend to speak more directly. You may also find their tone slightly louder than elsewhere. They may raise their voices even more and become emotionally excited when they feel passionately about a topic. At the same time, a harsh tone is considered unwelcoming and even hostile. Nigerians prefer facial expressions that imply empathy and believe an indifferent facial expression indicates that a person is ignorant or obnoxious. 
Generally speaking, Nigerians are outgoing and friendly. Communication commences with polite inquiries into the welfare of the person and his family. Such social niceties go a long way since. Therefore, foreigners who take the time to get to know the Nigerian as a person are considered friends and welcomed into a Nigerian’s inner circle of family and close friends. 
Nigerian communication can also be indirect and may rely on non-verbal cues. Many use gestures when communicating. They may smile to mask their true feelings, especially when disappointed or confused. Many employ indirect eye contact to demonstrate their respect for the other person. It is common to gaze at the forehead or shoulders of someone they do not know well. Very direct eye contact may be interpreted as being intrusive unless there is a longstanding personal relationship. 
At the same time, there are some Nigerians who are extremely direct communicators and have no difficulty stating what is on their minds. Therefore, it is a good idea to observe the situation carefully before determining what behaviour is appropriate. 
In general, Nigerians start with the general idea and slowly move into the specific, often using a somewhat circuitous route. Their logic is often contextual. They look for the rationale behind behaviour and attempt to understand the context. They tend to examine behaviour in its total context, not merely what they have observed. 

Business Meetings

Nigerians prefer to develop personal relationships prior to conducting business. Therefore, if this is the first time you are meeting with a Nigerian company, you should expect to devote a decent period of time to getting to know people on a personal level. This may take as long as two hours for an initial meeting. Any attempt to bypass this protocol will hamper your business success. 

Expect the first few meetings to be somewhat formal as your Nigerian counterparts continue to become comfortable with you as a person. It is a good idea to maintain a polite and somewhat reserved manner until the person you are meeting drops some of his formality. Try to avoid using hyperbole or making exaggerated claims when presenting a business case as Nigerians are naturally suspicious of a deal that sounds too good to be true. 
Team members should present a united front at meetings. Any disagreement between members will be interpreted as meaning that you are not relaying the entire story and that they should proceed cautiously. 
If you plan to work from an agenda, it is a good idea to send it in advance of the meeting. Nigerians will generally follow the agenda point by point and may want to consult with key stakeholders who will not be present prior to the meeting. 

General Business Hours

Business hours are from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday. Government offices are open from 7.30am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday and 7.30am to 1pm Saturday. Banking hours are from 8am to 3pm Monday to Thursday and 8.30am to 1pm Friday. Sanitation days are