Nigeria, as an oil-producing nation and Africa’s biggest market, has been a key investment destination over the past five years. Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer, but insurgent activity in the oil areas has dented production volumes. Nevertheless, it remains a wealthy country that is using its oil wealth to diversify, and it is a top emerging market destination for portfolio investment.
Many of South Africa’s top companies have invested there in retail, banking, insurance, hospitality property, ICT and other sectors, but there is increasing competition from countries such as China, India and Brazil in addition to traditional investors, mostly from the UK and the US. The focus of business activity is the commercial capital, Lagos, which is where most companies have their headquarters.
There are a number of regional and international airlines offering flights to Nigeria from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, including SAA, BA, Lufthansa, Air France-KLM, Emirates, Qatar, Arik Air, Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines.
Nigeria is a large country that is well served by more than a dozen domestic airlines and it is possible to get regular flights on Arik Air, Nigerian Eagle and Aero, among others, to most parts of the country. In both Lagos and the capital Abuja, there is a separate terminal for local flights, a short journey from the international terminal. It is possible to just arrive and buy a ticket for cash, but most airlines now have websites and passengers can book online. In the main cities – Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and others – car hire is available from Avis Nigeria, Europcar, Hertz and Novo Car Rentals. It is necessary to hire a driver with the vehicle for security reasons and also because of erratic driving, heavy traffic, and poor road conditions in Lagos. But in Nigeria generally, it is common practice for visitors, and even most residents, to have drivers.
Taxis are readily available in Nigeria, often the trademark yellow, but vary considerably in quality. If you get a good taxi driver, it is worth paying him to ferry you around for your stay and paying a negotiated daily rate. Other public transport is not advised. It is worth pre-arranging transport with the hotel, your host, or a car hire company for airport collection in Lagos. It is safe to get taxis from the airport in Abuja and other cities.
*Where to stay:
The number of business hotels in Lagos is growing rapidly, which may push down prices, but visitors can expect to pay upwards of $350 for a hotel room in a decent hotel, which often does not include breakfast or the 10% VAT and 5% service charge. Most good hotels now have free Internet in public areas and you can buy connectivity for the room.
*Eko Hotel & Suites (Lagos)
One of the older hotels in Lagos, it overlooks the sea and is well-positioned in Victoria Island’s business area. It has a nice entertainment and pool area, although the rooms and other facilities vary in quality. It has the biggest conference facilities of any Lagos hotel and this are being expanded.
*Southern Sun Ikoyi (Lagos)
This is located in a prime spot in one of the main business areas, Ikoyi. The hotel, which opened in May 2009, is well-appointed. South African-managed, it has little by way of an outdoor area , but the public areas inside are quite large and comfortable. The service and the food are good.
*Federal Palace (Lagos)
Partly owned by South Africa’s Sun International, the hotel is in a prime location in Victoria Island on a main road. It is a luxury hotel overlooking the sea and harbour and is tastefully furnished with a casino in the complex. It is pricey, but a good venue for business meetings. Refurbishment of the adjoining old tower block hotel is underway to create a three-star hotel.
*Protea Hotels (Lagos):
There are four Protea hotels in Lagos, three in Victoria Island/Lekki and one in Ikeja near the airport. All are of a good standard and well located, but as they are well-patronised by South Africans, they are often full and early booking is essential. The quality is average, but good by Nigerian hotel standards.
*Sheraton (Lagos and Abuja)
The Sheraton Hotel in Lagos is near the airport and convenient for transit, but most business is on the other side of the city. The plush hotel is large and has a good vibe, but is very expensive and in need of refurbishment. The Abuja Sheraton is centrally located, has nice rooms, but the hotel is extensive and requires a good deal of walking between rooms and between the public areas. It has a large conference centre.
*Transcorp Hilton (Abuja)
The top hotel in Abuja, it is a centre of visitor activity in the city. The rooms vary from large suites in garish colours to fairly standard. There are large conference facilities and a few good bars and restaurants, but the hotel is large and hard to negotiate and is very pricey over and above the room rate.
Bottled water is essential and worth buying on the street for a fraction of hotel prices. Yellow fever certificates are essential and malaria prophylactics are recommended. Food is generally not a problem, but it is often worth eating local food as locals know how to cook it well. There are private clinics and doctors used by expatriates in Nigeria, and hotels can recommend them if necessary.
Since the introduction of the banking reforms in Nigeria beginning with the former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Professor Charles Soludo to the present Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Nigerian banks have provided financial base for the growing Nigerian economy with different range of services that meet international standards. Nigeria is still largely a cash economy, thus use of credit or debit cards is limited but fast growing.
Most banks have a country wide network of branches as well as overseas branches. For instance, banks like Zenith, UBA, First Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Eco Bank, GT Bank and a host of others stretch their branches across Africa and even beyond. They also offer Internet Banking with varieties of Automated Teller Machine (ATM) scattered beyond the banking premises such as hotels, airports and eateries.
Many of the banks like UBA and Zenith provide accounts that hold balances in foreign currencies like Dollars, Pounds or Euros. These types of accounts are called domiciliary accounts because they are held by banks in Nigeria but maintained in foreign currencies. This means that you can deposit, withdraw or transfer funds in foreign currency.
Card Services – You can get the globally recognized Master card and Visa cards from banks in Nigeria such as Intercontinental Bank , Zenith bank, Ecobank (Pioneer), Skybank, GTBank, Oceanic bank, Access Bank and others. These cards can be used to transact business online and is acceptable all over the world.
GT Bank offers a unique Naira Master Card denominated in Nigerian Naira but can be used for payments in other major currencies worldwide.
Access Bank also issues The Black Card – Visa Infinite which is the highest card level in Visa’s range of card products. Access Bank was the first Nigerian bank authorized by Visa to issue Visa cards to the Nigerian public.
*Nightlife and entertainment in Lagos
Lagos is fast approaching the pace of world entertainment cities like Las Vegas and Rio De Janiero with excellent restaurants and bars, casinos and night clubs that are found across the Island and the Mainland. From the Island, Nu Grotto, Auto Lounge, Soul lounge and Insomnia among many others are excellent clubs for relaxations and fun with different genres of music blast to suit variety of visitors. African Shrine run by Femi and Seun Kuti (Sons of the legendary late Fela Anikulapo Kuti), Kingsize Restaurant and Bar are great rock temples and fun spots located in Ikeja, Mainland of Lagos. The African Shrine is a brilliant place to go and is frequented by foreigners.
Very many of the three, four and five star hotels in Lagos such as Sheraton Hotel and Protea Hotel both in Ikeja, Southern Sun in Ikoyi, Federal Palace Hotel in Victoria Island and Oriental Hotel in Lekki run exquisite restaurants and bars all round the clock. Among the five star hotels around Lagos, the Federal Palace Hotel in Victoria Island offers a world class casino for people who seek leisure and fortune in gambling. The Silverbird galleria in Victoria Island is one sure spot for entertainment at night in Lagos as it offers varieties such as cinemas and eateries. It is a one-stop trendy location in Lagos. One major feature of Lagos nightlife is that wherever your location around the metropolis or even the outskirt of the city, there are sure fun areas at night where those who love dancing, dining and drinking never sleep.
Security in Nigeria is becoming a problem, particularly as expatriates and foreigners are very visible. Walking around the streets is not recommended and certainly not with valuables on you. Having a driver is a good security move, as they will know how to deal with any problems that arise in traffic and in general. Eating out is recommended in the big cities, as there are a variety of good international restaurants, mostly in the business areas, but they are generally expensive. There are several good fast food chains such as Mr Bigg’s, Sweet Sensation, McDonalds, Nandos and Tastee Fried Chicken, which provide good food cheaply. Nigerian food, although delicious, is an acquired taste, but is widely available and cheap.
There are three main cellphone providers in Nigeria – Glo, MTN and Zain. The service is, however, patchy because of spiralling demand, and dropped calls and busy networks are common problems. Most Nigerians carry two phones. Tourism is not much of a feature in Nigeria and there is not a lot for visitors to do during leisure time, although Lagos does have good beaches a short drive out of the city.
Did you know?
Nigerians generally speak good English, although sometimes heavily accented, and are very helpful to visitors. They work long hours and it is not unusual for business meetings to take place at night. Business people are amenable to having meetings in your hotel.