Prepare in advance for challenges of doing business in Nigeria

Posted by News Express | 20 June 2016 | 3,708 times

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Are you a Nigerian at home or in the Diaspora, or a non-Nigerian thinking of coming to invest or set up a business in Nigeria? Have you been analysing the great opportunities and potentials of the Nigerian business environment and is attracted in the economy and on your way to taking that great bold step to putting your money where your mouth and desires are; then step back and go through this article for a better understanding of the terrains you are delving into.

If you are in the above situation, please read on as I highlight the basic challenges of starting a small business in Nigeria or doing business in Nigeria.

Nigeria is a country blessed with human, mineral and natural resources. When it comes to starting a business in Nigeria; the potentials are so great that any investor or entrepreneur will be tempted to jump in with both feet without first testing the waters.

A reasonable proof that Nigeria hold huge potential for entrepreneurs and investors is the fact that we have an abundance of successful entrepreneurs who started from scratch and built massive business empires without leaving the shores of Nigeria.

I am talking about successful entrepreneurs and Nigerian billionaires such as Aliko Dangote, Cletus Ibeto, Femi Otedola, Orji Uzor Kalu, and so on. The fact that Nigeria once produced the richest black man in the world further proves that there is money to be made in Nigeria; if only you understand the business terrain. The secret to the success of these Nigerian entrepreneurs is a story for another day.

Secondly, countries such South Africa, China, etc are scrambling to invest or setup shops in Nigeria. That’s why companies like Tiger Brands, Shoprite, Techno, Google, Microsoft, HP, MNet, moved into Nigeria and are expanding aggressively. Now if you are serious about starting a business in Nigeria; then I will provide the necessary down-to-earth information needed to help you successfully start and build a business in Nigeria.

As expected, there are general business challenges and factors that startup entrepreneurs face all over the world but when it comes to economic and environmental challenges; it varies from region to region.

For instance, the economic and environmental factors affecting businesses in the United States of America or Canada is different from the factors affecting entrepreneurs in Africa or better still; Nigeria. So it’s based on this fact that I wrote this article to help familiarise you with the business terrain of Nigeria and how to handle its challenges.

The Cons and Challenges of Doing Business in Nigeria

Lack of infrastructure: The first business challenge you will face when doing business in Nigeria is infrastructural challenge. Nigeria lacks the basic infrastructure and logistics to support entrepreneurship. If you are going to run a successful business in Nigeria; then you must have the financial muscle to provide your own infrastructure.

Take for instance you want to start a manufacturing firm in Nigeria; you will need to build your own factory, provide your own water supply, electricity and other amenities that smoothens business operations.

This single factor lengthens the time frame from initial planning to full business operations when compared to developed countries that have the basic infrastructure in place. Infrastructural challenge will directly or indirectly increase your startup overhead cost so you have to properly factor in this challenge in your business plan.

Poor power supply is the next challenge militating against the successful growth of small business startups in Nigeria. Successful companies operating in Nigeria has found a way to deal with the challenge of power supply by providing their own power.

For instance, Aliko Dangote; the founder of Dangote Group has developed the strategy of situating a mini power plant right next to his factories as an alternative to the erratic power supply in the company. So if you are successfully going to operate in Nigeria; then you must map out a plan to curtail the harsh effect of poor power supply.

The Federal Government of Nigeria has been making giant strides to address the power challenges the country is facing. Since 1st of October 2013; the power sector has been deregulated and the licenses given to private investors to run their own independent power stations. So much has been going on in that sector and a lot is expected to improve there.

 Inadequate Security: Security is the next challenge you must deal with especially if you are a foreigner wanting to invest in building a business in Nigeria. But I think it’s worthwhile to add that there has been a massive step up by the government with respect to security and based on this; I can confidently say that I am impressed with the way the government is handling the security of the state. However, I don’t think the security challenge is going away anytime soon; so you have to be prepared to deal with it.

Government inconsistency is really a challenge you will have to tackle if you must succeed in Nigeria as an entrepreneur. Governance is something entrepreneurs have no control over; all entrepreneurs can do is try to influence government’s policy with respect to enacting favorable business laws. But you must have political clout and massive resources to be able to influence government laws.

Now you may not have the political clout or financial muscle to influence government’s policy so the best strategy to combating the ever changing policy of the government is to keep a keen eye on government laws and swiftly adjust your business to align with the policies.

The next challenge of doing business in Nigeria is the poor transportation standard. As expected; the dependable source of raw materials you need may not be situated close to your target market. So you will have to decide if to locate your business close to the raw materials or close to your market. Either way; transportation of either raw materials or finished goods will be involved and this will pose a great challenge if you intend operating in Nigeria.

Poor transportation standard and road network is a factor militating against industrialisation in Nigeria but I believe this challenge is being tackled by the government through the upgrading of roads and construction of railway lines.

Inability to access funds: Of all the business challenges involved with starting a small business in Nigeria; this one interest entrepreneurs the most. Inability to access funds and banks unwillingness to support entrepreneurship and small business is the major barrier to massive entrepreneurship growth in Nigeria.

However, this challenge can be surmounted if you are a die hard, creative entrepreneur. Hard core entrepreneurs are not held back by the lack of support from banks; they are not discouraged by the unavailability of startup capital. Rather than lament over the predicament, they look for creative ways to finance their business plans and ideas.

So if you are in this category of entrepreneurs; then I want to believe that your plans of doing business in Nigeria will not be thwarted or held back by the challenge of capital.

The last but not the least challenge of doing business in Nigeria is government’s insensitivity to the plight of entrepreneurs and small business owners. And the result of these insensitivity surfaces in the form of double taxation, corruption, unnecessary levies and duties, bureaucratic bottlenecks at various government agencies like CAC, NAFDAC, etc; and high cost of obtaining business licenses.

But Nigeria operates as a free economy; which favors capitalists, so I don’t think you will be discouraged by this challenge. A good strategy to balance the excesses of the government is to have a strong business team that will strategically position your business to withstand the ever increasing demand of the government.

The Federal Government, especially the present administration is making some good strategic moves to support both small and medium scale enterprises.

Take for instance the former government's YouWin programme designed to help entrepreneurs’ jumpstart or expand their business, the tariff increase for the importation of used cars; so as to encourage the indigenous manufacturers like Innoson (IVM) and also attract foreign car manufacturers like Toyota, Nissan, etc. Added to these are all that is included in this year's budget of change and the present government macroeconomic policies and, economic and business growth strategy and support plans.

In conclusion, this is my honest outline of the territorial challenges you will face when you start a business in Nigeria. I highlighted these challenges not to discourage you; but to help you prepare in advance because he who is prepared has half won the battle.

•Lawrence Nwaodu is a small business expert and enterprise consultant, trained in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, with an MBA in Entrepreneurship from The Management School, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom, and MSc in Finance and Financial Management Services from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Netherlands. Mr. Nwaodu is the Lead Consultant at IDEAS Exchange Consulting, Lagos. He can be reached via (07066375847).

Source: News Express

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