When it comes to business affairs, Nigerians are very punctual and pragmatic about time. However, in Nigeria, you will find many obstacles to be punctual; this list includes such hurdles as traffic jams, unexpected calls, and the heat. To be honest, in Nigeria the more important the person you are meeting is, the more you will be kept waiting.
Nigerians are flexible, and everything is governed by people not by the tasks that need to be done. Therefore, decisions are often made in a slow pace and in a centralized way. There are many “excuses” that you may get for the proposals you put forth – they can be show to be “lost” or simply not interesting, or even simply start playing a power game with you – all you need is patience in this case.
When you are dealing with a traditional Nigerian company you will find that it can be difficult to meet deadlines with them. Information-sharing is also very poor in these cases. In multinational companies however, the scenario changes for the better.
Planning a business meeting
First of all, you must know that you should always plan to make business face-to-face with your Nigerians counterparts. Because in Nigeria, e-mail and telephone are not things you should count on. Therefore, to avoid any last minute communication problems, you should start making your appointments in advance. But if you are already in the country, you can and should make an appointment in person, by going directly to the office.
If you have some vital materials to send, make sure you have a reliable courier. Even if Nigerians are late, you should always make an effort to be on time. You should also arrange some refreshments and have your business cards in English. And make sure you are meeting the right person, i.e. the one who is responsible for making decisions.
During a business meeting
The meeting will normally start with a personal conversation and initial greetings in order for the parties to get to know each other. First, Nigerians need to establish a solid relationship with the people which they are doing business with. Be an attentive and active listener, especially with elder people; always show your respect to them.
At the initial meeting you should try to establish trust and credibility with your Nigerian counterparts. You can have an agenda for the meeting, but probably the most important things will be discussed first, and no-one will stick to the order of an agenda. Decisions will be made by consensus. Expect lots of bargaining during the negotiation process and avoid ‘losing face’ when negotiating with your Nigerian counterparts.
After a business meeting
After the meeting, when you’ve established trust and credibility with your business partners, the following meetings will be less formal. Remember not to rely on e-mails, just put everything in writing in a paper with your company letterhead.
In most cases, Nigerians live and work at a more relaxed pace than you might be used to. Punctuality is highly valued, but sticking to business schedules appears to be less important than an individual’s particular personal situation.
Also, due to the unpredictable traffic conditions, being on time for a meeting can be a very difficult mission. Patience is a virtue that you will sorely need when conducting your businesses in Nigeria. It is often wise to schedule important meetings well ahead and to call in the day before to confirm.
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