A Postcard from Nigeria: Accompanying The UK Prime Minister on a Trade Mission

David James - August 31st, 2018

Words 'Nigeria Gateway to Investors' in white on blue background

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I was honoured to be invited to accompany UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, on a trade mission to South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya. Previously, I was in South Africa where I was inspired by the business stories from a number of business women from the country and where we also announced our partnership with Liberty Short Term Insurance.

In Nigeria, we had two stops – Abuja and Lagos. I unfortunately had to get my visa issued at the airport for various bureaucratic reasons and so I didn’t attend the first function but I was able to spend some time with some Nigerian immigration staff which was a real eye opener. They were all very keen to explain to me just how much Nigeria had changed, and that with the new president fraud was a thing of the past and Nigerians could be trusted. As a result, the message was clear: Nigeria was open for business!

The sign on the door of the immigration office even said this. Interestingly my fellow delegates said that the Ministers they had met also said the same things; there’s a real consistency throughout all levels of government.

And the world has just seemed to wake up to this. The guys were laughing because apparently after our visit German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, was arriving on Friday with a German trade delegation!

However, it seems we are all behind the Chinese who have been investing extensively already with the logo for the Chinese Development Bank all over the new international airport’s walls. It seems when the Chinese invest they bring experts to teach local workers, and they invest in building schools and hospitals again which is a clear advantage to the local population. Now that’s competitive differentiation!

For The Floow there are mixed messages, it is clear there is some way to go before the road network matches what we see in Europe and car ownership is developing slowly, both these factors suggest this is a market that is too early in its development for our telematics solutions. But, there is clearly a growing middle class, mobile phones are the way communication and business are conducted and the government here is determined to leverage fintech to deliver financial services in a far more inclusive way than is the case today.

So, I think the question for companies like ourselves is a simple one, can we develop strategies for our products and services that are suitable in a way that gives us a meaningful presence in these early stage and nascent markets, because if we don’t we may find others have done so, in the same way that the Chinese investment groups have already got first mover advantage in Nigeria.

In my next blog, I will update on my time in Kenya after two inspiring days in South Africa and Nigeria.

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