The Business of Business in Africa

We, as South Africans anchored to the base of the mother continent, often regard ourselves as experts on all matters concerning our neighbouring states.

After all, we are one of the most developed economies in the region, boasting a long history of infrastructural and cultural development matched only by a glittering economic prowess that can be witnessed on any Sandton, Umhlanga or Clifton Street corner.

This attitude has led many to believe that without South African influence added to the mix, doing good business within the African context is impossible.

Although many global brands choose to situate their regional head offices in our country, and contract local agencies and suppliers, there are dynamics at play in the northern states that some simply don’t account for or understand.

Lagos Traffic

We at Clockwork Media were very fortunate to discover this during a recent trip to Nigeria’s capital city, Lagos – a sprawling metropolis that is home to 21 million of the country’s startling 170 million inhabitants.

Although some common truths like punctuality and communication hold true, there are a few considerations to take into account when conducting a project in a fellow African state.

Infrastructure

South Africa has some of the most polished and capable infrastructure on the African continent.

The cost associated with constructing and maintaining our road, rail, air and telecommunication services is well worth it when one considers how these factors contribute to GDP.

Lagos’ transport network is comprised of a grid of congested roads pockmarked with potholes and other obstacles. Despite this, the city’s population uses it effectively to travel from point A to point B.

This is worth considering if time is of the essence. Traffic is ever-present and difficult to navigate. If your business relies on transport or moving around regularly, best be aware of this phenomenon.

Mobile Usage

Feature Phones

Mobile usage is huge in Nigeria. Most of the people we encountered owned two or three devices to take advantage of package offerings and to connect when cellular signal is shaky.

The majority of these were feature phones. In this market, smartphones are still a scarce commodity, even in the most well appointed boardrooms.

Electricity

Reliable electricity supply is a major issue in Nigeria. It is not uncommon to be sitting in an expensive hotel room for an afternoon and to be plunged into darkness seven or eight times.

Despite this, the generator business in this country is booming. Although the power might disappear, it is more than likely to return when a backup kicks in.

This is worth considering when setting up a new office in the country. Don’t count on a reliable supply – take matters into your own hands.

Attitude

One of the most enjoyable and surprising things about Nigeria is its positive attitude. The people are brimming with happiness, and are eager to get involved and learn.

This ‘go getter’ nature is common with many emerging markets and is, in my opinion, one of the most significant reasons why the country to growing as it is.

Although language might be a barrier (most of the Nigerian locals we encountered spoke perfect English, but with a strong accent), the attitudes certainly aren’t.

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