Nigeria is the ‘Giant of Africa’ and the most populous country on the continent. It is located in West Africa and shares land borders with Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in the north. Its coast in the south lies on the Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic Ocean.
Population: 168 million
Plugs: Three-prong square
Dialling code: +234
Currency: Naira – $1=158NGN
With its huge mineral wealth and vibrant energy, balanced by grinding poverty and endemic corruption, Nigeria is a place you’ll either love or loathe. Often it is both, simultaneously. Either way, there’s no ignoring the economic powerhouse of West Africa. Named for the Niger River that flows through much of the country, the continent’s second-largest economy – after South Africa –owes much of its wealth to its vast mineral resources.
The export of crude oil – drilled in offshore wells and in the volatile Niger River Delta – accounts for two-thirds of its GDP, placing Nigeria among the world’s top 10 oil exporters. The country also has one of the world’s largest proven reserves of natural gas, along with substantial deposits of iron ore, limestone, lead and zinc. Unlike many other destinations, there are plenty of hoops to jump through and pitfalls to avoid on a business trip to Nigeria. But with all eyes on Nigeria as the next engine revving up to drive the African economy, it’s a destination the savvy corporate traveller can’t afford to ignore.
Business Travel Activity
No surprise that there was some activity on the hotel front in 2013, with more international brands looking to have a presence in Nigeria, and Lagos in particular.
Marriott’s entry into the market was announced in early 2013, with the 150-room 5-star Lagos Marriott Hotel on the Ozumba Mbadiwe waterfront on Victoria Island expected to open in 2014.
Carlson Rezidor announced the construction of the Radisson Blu Hotel Port Harcourt Olympia. The property is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2016. Rezidor already has the Radisson Blu Anchorage Hotel, Lagos VI; the up and coming Radisson Blu Hotel Abuja and the Park Inn by Radissons in Lagos (Apapa), Ikeja (Abeoukuta) and Abuja.
Hilton also has Nigerian properties in the pipeline. First, there was the announcement that it had signed its first Hilton Garden Inn hotel for sub-Saharan Africa, in Nigeria’s south-east city of Uyo, the capital of the country’s largest oil producing region of Akwa Ibom State. That was followed up later in the year with the news that the group would be opening the 350-room Transcorp Hilton Lagos in Ikoyi.
Switzerland-based Swiss International Hotels & Resorts also announced the signing of two upscale hotel properties in Nigeria – the Swiss International Westown-Lagos and the Swiss International Mabisel-Port Harcourt. Both were due to open towards the end of 2013.
Ibis was another international brand to add rooms, with the opening of the Ibis Lagos Ikeja with its 165 rooms.
But the biggest Lagos opening was undoubtedly that of the 358-room InterContinental Lagos, after many delays and years of construction. The opulent multi-billion naira, 23-storey, 5-star property has already made a big statement and is proving a popular meeting and conferencing venue.
Best Western International also popped up with two new properties, announcing the addition of the Best Western Plus Ajuji Hotel in Abuja and the Best Western Starfire Hotel in Lagos, while South Africa’s Tsogo Sun Group strengthened its position in the market by acquiring a 75% stake in Ikoyi Hotels Limited, the holding company of the Southern Sun Ikoyi Hotel.
From a local hotel operator point of view, the Epe Resort & Spa launched in Lagos.
Looking at the year’s airline news, Arik Air announced the expansion of its regional network to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the service operating via Douala in Cameroon. From an aircraft point of view, the big Arik news was the delivery of two A330-200s. The new aircraft will service long-haul routes, including London Heathrow, New York John F Kennedy and O.R. Tambo International in Johannesburg. 2013 also saw Arik launch a new mobile and online booking services.
Also on the local front, it was another tumultuous year for Dana Air, following that tragic crash in 2012. First it was suspended from flying, then resumed operations later in the year and slashed ticket prices, before being suspended once again in October.
Elsewhere, SkyBird Air, a new entrant into the Nigeria aviation market, received official clearance to begin flight operations, with two Gulfstream jets and three Dornier 328 aircraft. Also being granted licences were Nigerian start-ups West Link Airlines and Hak Air.
Aero Contractors launched its inaugural flight from Lagos to Douala, and Nigeria’s south-east region welcomed its first international commercial passenger flight at Akanu Ibiam International Airport.
Internationally, Etihad Airways upgraded its Lagos service to daily and Air France introduced the Boeing 777-200 on the Port-Harcourt/Abuja/Paris route. The Nigerian government also has approved the designation of Emirates and Turkish Airlines to Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport.
Regionally, Equatorial Guinea-based carrier Cronos Airlines launched flights to Port Harcourt out of its hub in Malabo, whilst ExecuJet Africa introduced customs and immigration services at its fixed-based operation facility at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos.
International airports are located in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu. There are also airports in most states of the federation and local air travel is widespread.
Lagos is the commercial and cultural hub, while Abuja in the Federal Capital Territory has – since 1991 – been the legislative capital. The southern city of Port Harcourt is a major industrial centre for the lucrative oil industry. Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos is the main gateway, with a range of international airlines offering direct services to destinations across North America, Europe and Africa. The airport is 22 kilometres north of Lagos, although the journey can take hours, depending on the city’s notorious traffic. If possible, only travel with carry-on luggage, as baggage collection can be less than efficient.
“MMIA is currently undergoing much-need enhancement with an ambitious refurbishment which promises to drastically improve the traveller experience,” says Kagiso Dumasi, Commercial Manager Africa for BCD Travel. “As a business traveller, I recommend your host arranging a ‘meet and greet’ service to assist in fast-tracking through immigration, baggage reclaim and to the vehicle. Immigration is still manual and striking a relaxed and friendly conversation will go a long way to ease any difficulty with officials.”
“Lagos airport is exceptionally chaotic in the evenings,” says Bobby Bryan, Commercial Manager East & West Africa for Delta Air Lines. “Go well in advance, at least three to four hours or more, to avoid the longest lines at check-in and immigration. There are several lounges that offer ‘fee-per-visit’, and it is well worth taking advantage of them, as there are almost no general facilities airside.”
The Port Harcourt International Airport is fully operational again after being closed for about two years for rehabilitation work. A Chinese construction company has won the bid to commence construction of four airport terminals in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt before 2015.
Starting with Lagos, it’s another of those major African cities with a large supply of international brands, which are probably the safer bets.
As already mentioned, InterContinental now has a presence, whilst there’s a Sheraton in Ikeja and a Four Points by Sheraton on Victoria Island. Carlson Rezidor has the Radisson Blu Anchorage Hotel, Lagos VI.
Best Western has a nice spread, with two hotels in Ikeja and one on Victoria Island, whilst Ibis has a similar approach, with one property near the airport and one in Ikeja. Golden Tulip can boast the new Golden Tulip Festac Lagos, and the group also has a property in Port Harcourt.
“Don’t be put off by the high published rates – there is always a deal to be done,” says Trevor Ward, MD of W Hospitality Group.
From an African hotel group point of view, Protea has the biggest presence, with six hotels in Lagos and three in Abuja, along with one in Warri in Delta State and one in Benin City. Sun International runs the Federal Palace Hotel & Casino on Victoria Island, Legacy Hotels & Resorts operates The Wheatbaker (luxury boutique hotel), whilst Tsogo Sun has the Southern Sun Ikoyi, which has a good reputation and is renowned for its food and bar area, which has a great vibe.
“I recently stayed at the Southern Sun Ikoyi, which was conveniently located,” says Dumasi. “It’s good value for money and famed for its cuisine, networking value and facilities which include a business centre, gym and conferencing venue.”
If you would prefer something local, there are a host of home-grown brands and properties, such as Morningside Suites, S&S Hotel and Suites, the new Epe Resort & Spa, The Regent, Avenue Suites, and the Eko Hotel & Suites, which has the largest meeting and conferencing offering, with heaps of exhibition space.
“I quite like the Moorhouse Ikoyi,” says Bryan. “It’s a quiet oasis in the chaos of Lagos. It’s a bit smaller than some of the other international hotels in Lagos, but this allows a personal touch from the management team who seem to know every guest. The only international hotel actually near the airport in Lagos is the Ibis, and although simple, provides a great rest-stop for guests who need to be near the airport. They also do day-use rooms for those who would like to be near the airport and beat the traffic.”
The 5-star Transcorp Hilton dominates the Abuja hotel scene, and has done so for quite some time. Proteas has the three hotels already mentioned, Hawthorn Suites is a fully-serviced extended stay property in the heart of Abuja, and the Hotel de Bently is also in the CBD.
“If you want to see and be seen, the Transcorp Hilton is a must – everyone passes through there at some time or other,” says Ward. “The Sheraton is old but friendly, with some great restaurants. The three small Protea hotels are more cosy than their bigger cousins, and the Hawthorn Suites offers an apartment-style product.”
It’s worth noting that several hotels in Nigeria require travellers to pay before issuing a room key. Many properties request an additional security deposit as well as the room rate, and you will be refunded when settling the bill at departure.
Nigeria has been a predominantly cash economy. Travellers used to have to ensure that enough foreign currency accompanied any trip, in order to cover one’s costs. But the past few years have seen the Nigerian government embark on a “Cashless Nigeria” initiative, with “Cashless Lagos” representing the first phase of the project. This has received a good response, although much in the way of education, adoption and trust in card payments still needs to take place. That being said, cards are now being utilised in most shops, stores, restaurants and commercial or entertainment facilities in the country.
If you hold a Visa, MasterCard or Maestro Credit/Debit card, you can withdraw cash in naira from various ATMs around the country. Visa machines can be found at Standard Chartered Bank. MasterCard/Maestro machines are found in Ecobank and some Zenith Bank branches.
Be aware that these machines only allow you to withdraw 25,000 Naira (roughly $150) at a time, which is a relatively small amount in Nigeria. This means that you will have to make multiple withdrawals at a time.
The Nigerian payment method of choice is via MasterCard, Visa or Interswitch. The Interswitch Verve card is issued in 16 of the country’s major banks. There are currently over 10 million Verve cards active in Nigeria.
Foreign nationals who are not citizens of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) need to apply for a visa to enter Nigeria. This can be obtained at Nigerian embassies, high commissions and consulates worldwide. In South Africa, the visa will cost you in the region of R6,000, whilst it’s advisable to start the visa application process well in advance, in order to meet the deadline of your trip.
ECOWAS is made up of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
You cannot legally depart Nigeria unless you can prove, by presenting your entry visa, that you entered Nigeria legally.
Nigeria has one of the fastest-growing telecommunications markets in the world, with increased interest in the region by smartphone manufacturers.
The telecoms landscape has witnessed significant growth in the last ten years as result of the liberalisation of the market. The most reliable, quality Wi-Fi access is found in the major hotels, but also in shopping malls, cinemas, bars and even in cities outside Lagos and Abuja. Mobile roaming costs are relatively high, but affordable for corporates. Mobile phone coverage (South Africa’s MTN Group, India’s Bharti Airtel, Abu Dhabi-based Etisalat and Nigeria’s Globacom are the key industry players) is not limited to cities, but is only available in some towns and villages. It is advisable for visitors to obtain a local sim card on arrival. It is affordable, although regulations stipulate that you have to register the number.
Be sure to take your yellow fever vaccination certificate with you. Despite yellow fever vaccination being a visa requirement, visitors may still be denied entry if they cannot present their vaccination certificate on request.
Vaccinations against meningitis, tuberculosis and hepatitis B are sometimes recommended. There are special precautionary measures for diptheria, hepatitis A, malaria, tetanus, typhoid and yellow fever.
All tap water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated, and bottled water is the way to go. Most hotels recognise this, and there’s usually plenty of bottled water in hotel rooms.
Pirate attacks off West Africa’s mineral-rich coastline have almost doubled from last year and threaten to jeopardise the shipping of commodities from the region. They have already jacked up insurance costs. Anti-western sentiment has also led to the hostage taking of some foreign businessmen in Nigeria. When arranging meetings in Nigeria, travellers should ensure that the contact is known to them, and that the meeting is held at a secure location.
Nigerian people are very friendly and always willing to assist.
Nigeria has an almost even religious split between the Christian and Muslim faiths. However, the country does have the largest Muslim population in sub-Saharan Africa. One should exercise discretion in behaviour and dress – in the north particularly – as well during the holy month of Ramadan.
Self-drive is not advisable or readily available from car rental companies, so a driver with your hire car is essential.
“Nigerian hospitality normally goes above and beyond. Most hosts will allocate a driver to you for the duration of your stay. If you are going it solo, negotiate with a driver through the hotel concierge to stay with you for your total stay. Traffic congestion is part of the Lagos business life – allow two to three hours between meetings for travel time.”
Bobby Bryan – Commercial Manager East & West Africa: Delta Air Lines
No doubt you’ve heard the horror stories from other business travellers, and seen the terrible images on television, but what is the reality of doing business in Nigeria? You might have even asked if it really is worth it. Can my company really work in the Nigerian environment? In my opinion, not only is the answer to these questions a resounding ‘yes’, but more importantly it should be asked if you can afford ‘not’ to do business in Nigeria.
Aside from some of the basic well-known facts about Nigeria (oil wealth, large population, corruption, poor infrastructure etc), there is much positive development that may not be as well known. For example, there is a growing tech-savvy younger middle class that has no direct link to the oil industry. This is driving demand for world class goods and services. In Lagos, more roads have been renovated and the hotel capacity has dramatically increased in recent years. This is all reflected in Nigeria’s recent GDP growth rate of over 7% annually. Direct air service has also increased to Lagos, with non-stop flights available to Europe, all over Africa, the Middle East and the United States. There is a large pool of hard-working young graduates hungry for good jobs, along with the ‘repat’ phenomenon (Nigerians returning to Nigeria after studying and working abroad).
Of course, doing business in Nigeria is not without its challenges, some of them significant. Firstly, you must have a long-term vision and commitment for your Nigerian business. This is a ‘high-risk, high-reward’ business environment, and there is no such thing as a quick win. Probably the most important decision you will make related to your Nigerian operation will be the choice of your local partner. I cannot stress enough how critical your local partner will be for your business. Without a strong, knowledgeable and invested partner, your business will be a weaker competitor, and more subject to the inherent vagaries of the market. A strong financial commitment is also crucial, and you should plan on your initial investment and start-up costs being higher than expected. Make sure your office in Nigeria has sufficient presence and autonomy for decision making, as the Nigerian business community is very wary of companies that try to handle their affairs from a distance, and in many cases simply will not do business with companies that they do not consider to be ‘in Nigeria’.
There is no doubt that for almost any sector, and any size organisation, doing business in Nigeria is not only important, but critical. There are many reasons that give companies pause before setting up shop in Nigeria, but in the end, none of them are sufficient to warrant not participating in Nigeria’s marketplace. To ignore the Nigerian market, and its potential, is tantamount to ignoring Africa, and that is something no company can afford.
Aero Contractors – www1.flyaero.com
Air France – www.airfrance.com
Antrak Air – www.antrakair.com
Arik – www.arikair.com
Asky – www.flyasky.com
British Airways – www.ba.com
Camair – www.camair-co.cm
Cronos – www.cronosair.com
Delta – www.delta.com
ExecuJet – www.execujet.net
EgyptAir – www.egyptair.com
Emirates – www.emirates.com
Ethiopian – www.ethiopianairlines.com
Etihad – www.etihadairways.com
Hak Air – www.hakair.com
Kenya Airways – www.kenya-airways.com
KLM – www.klm.com
Lufthansa – www.lufthansa.com
Middle East – www.mea.com.lb
Qatar – www.qatarairways.com
Royal Jordanian – www.rj.com
RwandAir – www.rwandair.com
Saudi Arabian – www.saudiairlines.com
SAA – www.flysaa.com
Saudi Arabian – www.saudiairlines.com
Skybird – www.skybirdaviation.com
Turkish – www.turkishairlines.com
United – www.united.com
West Link – flywestlink.com
Virgin Atlantic – www.virgin-atlantic.com
3 J’s – www.3jshotels.com.ng
Angeles – www.angeleshotelsabuja.com
Best Western Plus – www.bestwestern.com
Bolingo Hotel & Towers – www.bolingohotel-tower.com
Chelsea – www.chelseahotelabuja.com
Citilodge – www.citilodgehotel.com
Hawthorn Suites – www.hawthorn.com
Hotel De Bently – www.hoteldebently.com
La Don – www.ladonabuja.com
Nicon Luxury – www.niconluxury.com
Nordic Residence – www.nordicresidence.com
Nordic Villa – www.thenordicvilla.com
Protea Abuja – www.proteahotels.com
Protea Apo Apartments – www.proteahotels.com
Protea Asokoro – www.proteahotels.com
Rockview Royale – www.rockviewhotels.com
Savannah Suites – www.savannahsuitesgroup.com
Shafami Suites – www.shafamisuites.com
Sheraton – www.sheratonabuja.com
The Mediterranean – www.mediterraneanabuja.com
Transcorp Hilton – www.hilton.com
Valencia – www.valenciahotelsabj.com
African Garden Lodge – www.africangardenlodge.com
African Sun Amber Residence – www.amberresidenceng.com (see review here)
Avenue Suites – www.theavenuesuites.com
Best Western Plus Lagos – www.bestwestern.com
Best Western Starfire – www.bestwestern.com
Best Western The Island – www.bestwestern.com
Bogobiri House – www.bogobiri.com
Bon Voyage – www.hotelbonvoyageng.com
Citilodge – www.citilodgehotel.com
Eko Hotel & Suites – www.ekohotels.com
Elion House – www.elionhousehotel.com
Epe Resort & Spa – www.eperesort.com (see review here)
Federal Palace – www.suninternational.com
Four Points by Sheraton – www.fourpointslagos.com
Golden Tulip Festac – www.goldentulip.com
House J – www.housej.com
Ibis Lagos Airport – www.accorhotels.com
Ibis Lagos Ikeja – www.accorhotels.com
InterContinental – www.ihg.com
Lagos Oriental – www.lagosoriental.com
Lekki Oxford – www.lekkioxfordhotels.com
Moorhouse Ikoyi – www.mercure.com
Morningside Suites – www.morningsidesuites.com
Nekore Welcome Centre – www.welcomecentrehotels.com
Protea Ikeja – www.proteahotels.com
Protea Ikoyi Westwood – www.proteahotels.com
Protea Kuramo Waters – www.proteahotels.com
Protea Leadway – www.proteahotels.com (see review here)
Protea Oakwood – www.proteahotels.com
Protea Victoria Island – www.proteahotels.com
Radisson Blu Anchorage – www.radissonblu.com
S&S Hotel and Suites – www.sshotelsandsuites.com (see review here)
Sheraton – www.sheratonlagos.com
Solitude – www.solitudehotel.com
Southern Sun Ikoyi – www.tsogosunhotels.com
Sunfit – www.sunfitltd.com
Swiss Westown Lagos – www.swissinternationalhotels.com
Travel House Budget Hotels – www.travelhousenigeria.com (see review here)
The Regent – www.theregentlagos.com
The Wheatbaker – www.legacyhotels.co.za
Three Arms – www.threearms-ng.com
Victoria Crown Plaza – www.vcphotels.com
Yellow Tulip Courtyard – www.yellowtulipcourtyard.com
Best Western Premier – www.bestwestern.com
Claridon – www.claridonhotels.com
Elkan Terrace – www.elkanterrace.com
Golden Tulip Port Harcourt – www.goldentulip.com
Hotel Presidential – www.hotel-presidential.com
Juanita Hotel – www.juanitahotels.com
Landmark Hotel – www.landmarkhotelsng.com
Le Méridien Ogeyi Place – www.starwoodhotels.com
Novotel – www.accorhotels.com
Swiss Mabisel-Port Harcourt – www.swissinternationalhotels.com
Landmark Hotel – www.landmarkhotelsng.com
Access-to-Africa – www.access-to-africa.com
American Express – www.americanexpresstravel.co.za
BCD – www.bcdtravel.com
CWT – www.carlsonwagonlit.com
FCm – www.fcm.travel
HRG – www.hrgworldwide.com
Travel with Flair – www.travelwithflair.co.za
Uniglobe – www.uniglobetravel.mu
XL Travel – www.xltravel.co.za