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. Years of military rule and wholesale corruption followed independence from Britain in 1960, but the current era of stable civilian governance under President Goodluck Jonathan appears to be bringing new prosperity to the largest economy in West Africa. In a 2010 report, British bank Standard Chartered Plc suggested that Nigeria could overtake South Africa to become the continent’s largest economy by 2023, off the back of strong economic data, where GDP growth has topped eight percent per year. 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.
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.
The climate of Nigeria is tropical, so it is hot and humid all year round with two seasons – wet and dry. The wet season extends from April to October, with the wettest month being June and the wettest area being the east coast. Between November and March the weather is dry and very hot. The hot Harmattan wind from the Sahara sweeps across the north-eastern areas.
Citizens of countries outside the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) need a visa to enter Nigeria. But, if applying for a visa at your local embassy or consulate, make sure you allow for more than enough time, as some embassies are notorious for taking weeks to issue visas. As with other African countries, your application must include a letter of invitation from the relevant Nigerian party.
The Nigerian 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 latest regulations stipulate that you have to register the number.
Plan Ahead Whether it’s meetings or conferences drawing you to Nigeria, it’s a country where it pays to plan ahead and seek professional advice before travelling on business. Reputable hotels should be booked well in advance, and transfers from the airport must be pre-arranged.
Money Nigeria is a cash economy. Outside of international hotels, credit cards are rarely accepted – and a prime target for fraud. Although ATMs are becoming easier to find in major cities, it’s best to travel with US dollars, which can be exchanged for naira at major hotels, banks and foreign exchange offices. Exchanging traveller’s cheques can be tricky.
Out & About Nigeria is a friendly and welcoming country, yet crime is widespread in Lagos and Abuja. Unrest is often quick to flare up in the Islamic north and troubled Niger Delta. Kidnapping of foreign workers for ransom is not unheard of, so always arrange for an escort from the airport.
Attire Business attire in Nigeria is more formal than in other parts of Africa. For men, a dark business suit and tie is standard, while women should err on the side of modesty.
A private car and driver is essential. If not organised in advance, local hotels and car hire agencies can arrange for you. Taxis are plentiful in Lagos and Abuja, but be sure to negotiate the fare upfront and avoid hailing a taxi on the street at night. The traffic jams in Lagos are legendary, so choose a hotel as close to your meetings/office as possible. Allow plenty of time (two hours to be safe) to travel to the airport ahead of your return flight, especially in rush hour.
Malaria is found across Nigeria and prophylactics are recommended, especially when travelling outside the major cities. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Nigeria. Make sure you visit your travel doctor at least 10 days before travelling, and that he or she stamps your passport with the correct date. Otherwise, entry into Nigeria will be denied, or you may find yourself shelling out a bribe of sorts.
Population: 155 million
Time zone: GMT+1
Plugs: Three-prong square
Dialling code: +234 + area code + number required
Currency: Naira and US dollars – US$1=162NGN
GDP growth rate (2010): 8.4%
Language: English is the official language of business and is spoken widely. Over 400 indigenous languages and dialects are spoken across the country.