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Top tips on expanding your business in Africa

House of Kaizen launched in Lagos, Nigeria, in 2009 which was by no means an easy feat. However, with careful research, planning, and an investment of time to not only understand the economy but also the people, the opportunities are significant.

But what made us choose Africa, and why should you

Nigeria is currently a hot bed of investment. In April, Nigeria announced it was opening deals with China, which follows Chinas pledge of $60bn for Africas development over the next three years. The EU also revealed last month that it provided 19m grants to Nigeria in order to drive the diversification of the economy from oil to non-oil a move that could help revolutionise Nigerias economy and solve inefficient power supplies.

Its not just investment from other countries and organisations that makes Nigeria such an appealing location to open shop. Whereas the West, and indeed most of the world, is ageing, Nigeria has a huge, very young population (more than 62 per cent are under 25) with a fast growing middle class (23 per cent of the population).

However, to take advantage of these benefits you need to be mindful of the potential pitfalls. Bureaucratic bottlenecking is a concern when expanding into Nigeria, but the government is working hard to correct this. According to the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” report, Nigeria ranked 20th out of 189 countries in the category of protecting minority investors.

Read some of the articles in our export country series:

Cemile Hacibeyoglu, a “Doing Business” report expert, said: Nigeria is currently implementing a lot of efforts both at federal and state level to improve its business environment to make it easier for smaller and medium enterprises to do business.

Cashflow is always a problem in Nigeria and with the country currently experiencing an issue with liquidity (in particular foreign currencies such as USD) it adds yet another layer of pressure to your business and your clients. As prime minister David Cameron recently reminded the world, corruption is also an issue in Nigeria, but with a new president in Muhammadu Buhari vowing to root out “graft” in Africas largest economy, a number of high ranking governmental and military leaders in Nigeria have already been put under house arrest awaiting trial for corruption on a monumental scale. Even US president Barak Obama is considering a visit to Nigeria this year.

These significant steps, fused with the widespread use of the internet means governance and transparency are seeing real improvements. In addition, the age old issues of inefficient power supply and poor transportation links have become a focal point in Nigerias reinvigoration, aided by the recent grant from the EU. And the spark created by a combination of better infrastructure, transparent governance and wide spread education and technology will see Nigeria explode into a 21st Century powerhouse.

But it’s not all about economic potential. You must understand and respect the various cultural differences in Nigeria. First things first find a local, referred professional with a strong past history in working with people from your home country. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have someone on the ground who has good knowledge of local customers, culture and relationships. It will drastically minimise the time it takes to get your foundations in place.

Nigerias culture is incredibly diverse. Whilst English is the official language there are supposedly some 527 spoken languages (nine of which are now extinct!) spoken and over 250 dialects and ethnic groups. Understandably then, trying to get to grips with every ethnic groups specific cultures is a near impossible task to do by yourself, which is why you need help from a trusted local. Showing passion and interest in local nuances will help you build that all important trust and loyalty, whilst understanding how immensely proud Nigerians are as a people will be key to earning their respect.

Nigeria is on the cusp of an economic revolution which will see it become a real contender in the international business market. It won’t be a fast transition it took us six months of planning, research and testing before stepping foot in Nigeria but with patience and determination, Nigeria is a land filled with opportunities for companies of all shapes and sizes. Patience is a virtue!

Also, Michael Gould, founder and CTO at business planning and modelling business Anaplan, shares his experience of growing the business and advocates thinking on worldwide basis from the very beginning.

David Shiell is CEO at House of Kaizen.

Image: Shutterstock



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