Relationships are very important within the business community. Meetings typically open with a handshake, followed by a casual conversation about family, health and travel. In the Muslim north, wait for a woman to extend her hand before offering yours. The business discussion begins at the host’s indication.
Business formal is the required dress code for foreigners in any type of meeting, while locals tend to opt for either Western or traditional attire. In many work spaces, Nigerians will wear traditional garments on Fridays. Appearance is generally very important and indicative of social and economic status.
Nigeria’s official language is English, which is widely used in the business community. This is particularly true in commercial hubs such as Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja. Of the hundreds of indigenous languages found in Nigeria, the most common are Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo. Pidgin English is widely used, particularly in Lagos, and it is recommended to learn a few basic expressions to get around.
A typical work week runs from Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm, with lunch at 1.00pm. Business hours may differ during the month of Ramadan, most notably in the northern half of the country, where Islam is the predominant religion.
The majority of visitors must obtain a visa in advance of arriving in Nigeria, and must apply in their country of origin with a letter of invitation from an organisation or individual within the country. Citizens of ECOWAS nations can enter and remain in the country without a visa for a period of up to three months.
The national currency is the naira, which is free-floating. Bills come in denominations of five, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000. As of August 2017 the exchange rate stood at approximately N360:$1, N465:£1 and N428:€1. Foreign tenders can be exchanged and licensed at major entry points to the country, or at popular accommodation spots in large cities such as the Eko Hotel in Victoria Island, Lagos.
Power supply is very inconsistent in cities connected to the national grid, including Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja. As a result, the majority of businesses and homes that can afford a back-up generator use one. Nigeria has a 230-V, 50-Hz network. Two-pin EU and three-pin UK plugs are standard.
The country dialling code is +234. Most people in the business community use mobile phones with pre-paid SIM cards, which cost about N100 ($0.35). Recharge cards from licensed mobile operators are easily found in major cities at informal vendors, operator shops and convenience stores. While strained, internet access and latency is improving and is available in the large commercial centres.
Travelling by road is the most common form of transportation in Nigeria. While public transport is limited, yellow taxis and private taxi services are readily available. A typical fare between Victoria Island and Ikoyi in Lagos costs N500-1000 ($1.77-3.53). Smartphone applications such as Uber and Easy Taxi have become quite popular in Lagos, and are used by both locals and visitors. However, most business travellers still use a private car, which can cost roughly N15,000-20,000 ($53-71) per day. Longer trips are usually made by air, with an average trip between Lagos and Abuja costing about $140.
The main business centres and expatriate neighbourhoods of Victoria Island, Ikoyi and Lekki Phase 1 in Lagos have a much lower risk profile than other parts of Nigeria. Individuals can move safety during the day with reasonable self-awareness and caution, although foreigners should avoid walking at night. Security is continuously improving across Lagos.
Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required at all entry points. Travel doctors also highly recommend purchasing anti-malarial drugs prior to travel to Nigeria. There are many private health facilities in the more populous cities, with registration fees as low as N10,000 ($35.34). Visitors should drink bottled water.
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