27 March 2008

Moving to Nigeria? What to know and do (Part 1)

Returning to settle in Nigeria is a brave decision. Once it has been made, there are a few things to put in place to make your homecoming experience a successful one.

1. First, you have to be determined with a capital 'D' for your plan to happen as many homecoming aspirants are simply that - 'homecoming aspirants'. Many change their minds even before embarking on the journey. Some came and changed their minds because of the heat, traffic, electricity problems, or just because of their inability to cope with the ways of the people. So you just have to be determined for your plan not to be short-circuited.

2. There is a good argument for testing the waters for a period of time to avoid the problem enunciated above. Visiting home once or twice a year before taking the plunge will prepare you for the culture shock and all other shocks.

3. Visiting on holiday is a different ball game from settling in Nigeria. So prepare! prepare! and prepare! Don't assume that things are as easy as they look. In any case, wherever your holiday destination may be, visiting a place is different from living in a place.

4. You have to give serious thought to what to do business wise. Don't be fooled, Nigeria is becoming sophisticated daily and Nigerians are not dazzled by anything just because it comes from the West. Having said that, there are huge potentials practically in every aspect of the nation given that we are a developing country. These include property development, civil-structural engineering, medicine, human resource, large scale farming, telecommunications, teaching, food technology and of course information technology. Money is not free in Nigeria. Not everything sells. But whatever does will catch like wildfire. However be ready to be one step ahead as anything you do will be quickly copied.

5. Even with a very good business plan, you have to be patient and determined. There are many things that may conspire to stifle your plans. So be patient with the way people do business. You may be kept waiting, be patient. You may encounter missed appointments, be patient. Be patient but determined.

6. You need a good car. Apart from the fact that a car is a practical necessity; in Nigeria, a good car is a business necessity. My mother in law once told me that when your business host decides to see you to the door, it is possible that he wants to have a glimpse of your car. This may sway his decision on whether to do business with you or not.

What I have experienced is that a good car literally opens the gate to company premises and can secure a good car parking space. Even the police put themselves in check when they see a good car.

In the early days, I often went around in hired taxis. I once went for an important meeting at the premises of a large organisation. On that occasion, I hired this very old red golf taxi. The driver lived locally and I use him often. Although he charges an arm and a leg, he was full of humour and has a positive outlook on life.

I arrived for my appointment with less than five minutes to spare but on the other side of the road. I decided to come out of the car and cross the road whilst he navigates the traffic and turn to wait for me. I informed the security guard that the car that brought me was on its way and should be allowed to park, to which he obliged. As I was about to enter the building, I noticed the driver had somehow managed to turn and was approaching the gate, I quickly dashed back to inform the guard. He did a head-to-toe survey of me, looked at the car and politely informed me that they do not allow this type of car in their premises.

7. You need settling mentors. You may need a friend or family mentor to help smoothen your settling in Nigeria. A very good friend provided a vehicle for us when available, shared hers with us, sometimes to her hurt and often drove us home late at night. Their house was a place to chill, eat and plan. We are hugely indebted to her and her family.

We also had other people like my uncle and his wife who generously allowed us the exclusive use of their exquisitely furnished home. We felt we were living in London half the time. And also to a fantastic gentleman who repeatedly gave us work and office premises. These people cushioned the impact of our homecoming experience and we are grateful to them. Got the gist, you need a mentor.

Next edition - where to live, good Internet Service Provider, which newspapers to read and more. Don't miss it. PostCardfromLagos