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Tunji Andrews: Looking to Return to Nigeria as an Entrepreneur? Here’s the Undiluted Truth

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I recently met with a young Nigerian living in the diaspora, who was seriously thinking of permanently moving back home. She was back in the country for a short holiday and wanted to use the opportunity to build contacts and generally lay down the markers for when she would eventually return. From the look in her eyes, by the time I was done, I was sure I had done an incredible job of discouraging her; which wasn’t my intention but in my usual mode of ‘brutal honesty’ I did more damage than good.

So, I thought to pen down my thoughts in a friendlier manner. If you’re looking to return to Nigeria to run a business or attempting to ‘revolutionize how things are done in Nigeria’ then this is for you.

Unlearn All You’ve Learned About Doing Business
Principles are universal, as they say, but the applications are local. Nigeria is really a unique setting that the laws of networking, follow up, collaborations, etc are all with a small tweak. While in the diaspora, everybody is on first name basis, you can lose a major opportunity in Nigeria just because you called the other party by their first name.

We are Really Not 190 Million People
I am not even talking about how many we are, I am talking about the available market most business plans quote as an indicator for possible success. The truth is that over 60% of Nigerians are very poor and if you’re not selling sachet items, then note that your market is closer to 20 million spread over the 36 states of the federation. These are the people who can afford to use payment solutions or can view videos off the internet, etc. Now this 20 million are spread over all demographics, which even narrows your market even more.

Everybody is Bulls#!+ting
I know this is an over generalization, but to an extent, everybody is trying to finesse what they are actually doing. Some even conceptualize it from the angle of having faith (calling those things that be not as though they were). Others are just straight up painting pictures that aren’t true. My advice? Take everything with a pinch of salt.

Image is Everything
In Nigeria, what you know isn’t really as important as what you have or your status in the society. So while you may be able to take the train to meetings abroad, in Nigeria, the type of car you drive is a major contributor to how smoothly some deals go. Your Instagram page carries more weight than your intellectual ability in many spheres; and generally, how you show up is the real measure of your worth. I often struggle with explaining this, as it portrays us as a shallow people but this isn’t an article of what we should be.

Who You Know is Far More Important Than What You Know
Nigeria leaves you scratching your head on a lot of things. The most qualified isn’t assured the job, as the person that’s a 2nd cousin to the main decision maker …and this happens a lot more than we realize.

Understand that Nigerians Do Not Like Change
On common thing I hear with people trying to return here to do business is “I want to revolutionize the way Nigerians” Blah blah blah…

This for me, is the fastest way to frustration and depression, because while Nigerians love to mouth change, they are uncomfortable with changing how they do stuff. It may not be efficient, “But this is how we’ve always done things

Prepare for Any-How-Ness
I first saw the word (anyhowness) off the Twitter, and while it seems odd, it’s probably one of the best ways to capture the general feel of Nigeria. From the wide scope of police profiling to the way we drive in Nigeria, everything is just anyhow.

The headlines puzzle you on how we could even thing like we do but the fact remains, it’s who we are as a people. Coming from a society with structure on most things, this will probably be your rudest shock. It will offend you constantly and may affect your ability to work because you’re trying to point out that “things shouldn’t be so” but the earlier you realize that your dealing with a mindset cultivated over decades, the quicker you will be to finding your peace within the chaos.

The point is not to discourage you, but to open your eyes to the reality of things. I know that we have made entrepreneurship sexy and romanticized the thought of coming back to make a difference, but while you’re at it, understand that Nigeria is trying to keep you out to remain as it is.

So, do your homework and get prepared because it’s a jungle out here.

Tunji Andrews is the Lead economist at TTAC Africa, a European Union consultant, under the EU SUFEGOR project, a financial literacy advocate and a renowned media personality.His work, which brings him in contact with thousands of people, continues to help bridge the knowledge gap within the Nigerian society, in the areas of Macro economics, personal finance and entrepreneurship.He's an award winning business radio show host, with various radio shows across the country, Co-host on Ndani TV's analyse this and celebrity blogger hosting the #DearEntrepreneur series on Pulse TV.

44 Comments

  1. Zinay

    June 14, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    I like you Tunji, I like you a lot.
    I worked with a company who’s owners moved in from Overseas, and by the time I left, they were just beginning to realize the ‘Anyhowness’ part. It’s been hard. I once got called for an interview, I was among the 3 prospects chosen for the role, an internship position. I was one of the most hands on and experienced, but like you said, the cousin to the MD was chosen, and without any requisite knowledge. He was actually offered a full staff role for a position he knew nothing about. I took my L and on to the next one. Nigeria doesn’t like change, you can’t revolutionize anything here, and when you do, your reward is first page news on dailies and blogs. No one will invest in you or believe that you’re better than the foreign owned companies. We are own own menace.

    • Fleur

      June 15, 2018 at 4:23 am

      This is spot on and the reason I have refused to enter Nigeria. Everything about Nigeria defies common knowledge. What has been replicated successfully in many countries will die a brutal death in Nigeria unless it is redesigned to address our 1001 problems. I remember once I thought about introducing a product into the Nigerian market. I was aiming to sell at an affordable rate to tap into a large market. Na volume sales I dey target. People told me point blank that the fastest way to make even poor people want it at all costs is to give it exclusive pricing. In other words, make it artificially expensive and sell to big boys and market it as something that announces your arrival amongst the elites. My brain refused to register and I moved on from that deal.

    • chase

      June 15, 2018 at 7:15 pm

      I dont get it some times when people complain about doing business in nigeria. Our problem is that we think because you have the money, ideas and other resources you will begin to shoot lols. I have evidence of people doing small businesses in nigeria not even in lagos or portharcourt, and they are making unexpected clean and legal profit even proceeded to the next level of empolying more hands in nigeria the secret to making it is God,patience,hardwork and consistency, not giving 100% today and 60% tomorrow

    • chase

      June 15, 2018 at 7:17 pm

      Employing i mean

  2. abiola omosini

    June 14, 2018 at 1:33 pm

    bang! spot on! funny! bang again

  3. Ms CMR

    June 14, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    Same prncples apply n Cameroon! Haha. Great artcle!

  4. Lol

    June 14, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    Very good points Tunji. Especially about the target markets. Hadn’t thought of that…

  5. dj

    June 14, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    This write up just summarises Nija without saying too much. for me that was born and raised in Nigeria sef most of the things happening around still drives me mad not to now talk of people who are coming from a properly structured environment. Gbogbo wa ma de wa alright las las.

  6. Olu

    June 14, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    If you can handle the truth about your beloved country, this article is for you!

    + 95% of the market that can afford your services is in Lagos. Bad roads and security will not even encourage you to venture outside of Lagos. And then while in Lagos, divide that market share by one-third.

    • Ulo

      June 14, 2018 at 3:57 pm

      Nope Lagos doesn’t have 95% of the market in Nigeria, that is way too much. Maybe 40% else it is not spending power you are referring to. Abuja, Port Harcourt etc have the money and road network too.

    • Fleur

      June 15, 2018 at 4:25 am

      Port Harcourt does not have the market. They have kidnappers and brutal cultists. Cost of doing business quickly skyrockets in PHC when you factor in the 2 for 50 kobo merciless killers that reside there.

    • Joy Ajuluchukwu

      June 14, 2018 at 5:32 pm

      95% of the market is not in Lagos and quite frankly Lagos is one of the unsafest big cities in the country. I think you should travel to other parts of the country.

      Asides that, Tunji’s statement is true and all this can be properly captured in “anyhowness”

  7. Baby gurl

    June 14, 2018 at 2:47 pm

    I can’t believe the 100% accuracy of this article. Lord!

  8. Dust

    June 14, 2018 at 3:58 pm

    there are Nigerians or your fellow ethnic people all over the world and that’s the “Nigerian market”…

    If you narrow the target audience to Nigeria as a country then yes most of your target audience would be southern Nigerians.

    image is everything even in the global world that’s one of the main reasons the european media portrays Africa as poor, war torn e.t.c.. so that investors from Asia, latin America, Black America will avoid it..

    I do not see sense in this article….

    A Nigerian in the diaspora can target the “Nigerian market” in the country they are residing in… they don’t need to return to the country…

    • Kaka

      June 15, 2018 at 12:10 pm

      I’m not sure you read this write up properly. Please read again and this time read slowly with an open mind.

    • Femi

      June 15, 2018 at 6:39 pm

      You don’t reside in Nigeria so you don’t know jack s— about its people, the writer and the comments should have given you directions as to the way it is really. Stay woke

  9. Confuzzled

    June 14, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    Some of my findings:
    1. If you want to make money, target the bottom of the pyramid. Producing anything high priced/luxury will leave you chasing shadows because your volume of sales will be poor. We like to pretend that Nigerians have money, but the fact of the matter is that Nigeria has high levels of inequality. The overwhelming majority of Nigerians are poor and will only patronize your product if they can afford it.
    2. These same Nigerians would rather pay for a poor quality foreign product than pay for a locally made product of equal or better quality.
    3. Find your clique and stick with it. Doors will be shut in front of your eyes not because your product is poor but because you’re not with the right crowd. So understand the relationship dynamics of your industry before venturing in. Don’t take it personal if/when you’re snubbed.
    4. There are more local sources for your inputs than you think. But finding those sources will take time and some trial and error on your part.
    5. Don’t let articles on FT or the Economist be the reason why you come back. Do your research on the ground before making your move.
    6. Most of the successful ‘entrepreneurs’ you see on BN and other sites have sponsors. Politicians, rich families, laundering of ill gotten wealth might be the source of their so called success. Or they might just be all PR and no substance. Don’t believe the hype. The real ones are silently making moves.
    7. Pricing, material sources, etc are trade secrets, Be careful with sharing information on your processes cos copying and idea theft is rife and there are few legal protections.

  10. nwa nna

    June 14, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    I run my own business in diaspora and I happen to deal with Nigerians, both the business owners and customers have the same attitudes that your article highlighted. Sigh, the BS/ anyhowness transfers overseas as well. You can take the Nigerian out of naija but at the very core there are just certain things that remain the same.
    The “anyhowness” drives me off the wall, one of my business associate that’s Nigerian as well always cautions me that if I’m going keep transacting with Nigerians there’s a level of bullshyte I have to be willing to put up with. Why??.???
    Here’s why, if you are willing to deal with the madness and can navigate through the BS, the ROI can be astronomical.. Keyword on the ROI, “can be” didn’t say “will be”

  11. Fred

    June 14, 2018 at 5:51 pm

    This article is a bit short sighted.

    1). Create value and solve people’s problem. Period. You don’t need the so called Nigerian business model tweaking.

    This is just a myth people like to spew because it sounds smart.

    Facebook didn’t do any Nigerian tweaking to specifically get Nigerians on their platform. Apple has sold millions of their phones in Nigeria without any Nigerian tweaking.

    People should stop this nonsense talk of tweaking things to the Nigerian market.

    I use a lot of online softwares for my job and the founders of those softwares don’t care if I live in Nigeria or on the moon, they created a very valuable product that solves a helluva problem for me and I use them and love them.

    And if we are talking about your primary job advice an entrepreneur to tailor your solutions to your target market, well newsflash, water is wet.

    So guys don’t unlearn everything you have learnt about business. A lot still applies here. You know, like solving real problems and providing value. Concepts of demand and supply etc etc.

    2) Your second point is another case of water is wet. This isn’t peculiar to Nigeria. The concept matters globally.

    And why would you want to target 190 million people in the first place.

    This is another myth where people believe the larger their addressable market the more valuable their business is.

    You think Ferrari wants to have a market of 190 million people?

    A market of 1 million people is enough to building a seven figure business.

    In fact you should be niching down till you feel uncomfortable.

    3) Image has always been everything. Again water is wet.

    4) Mr. Tunji is really trolling us now. Even Donald Trump is bullshitting most of the time.

    5) Who you know is far more important than what you know. Again, context. Without context this is just a useless tidbit. This statement is however more true than we care to admit.

    6) Nigerians do not like change?

    Really?

    Like the way we stopped writing letters and started using 1st generation phones and then how we changed from those to picking up smartphones like they were going out of style?

    People that believe Nigerians don’t like change are people that don’t have anything worthy of us changing to.

    Provide 10x value to the alternative and people would flock to you. It’s pretty simple. Stop making this stuff difficult.

    I love Mr. Tunji by the way and I have been following husband work for a while.

    • Abw

      June 15, 2018 at 10:51 am

      You are so on point. I agree with you especially on the point of providing value… it is a simple thing, really!!!. Your point of view feels so present and foward thinking.

    • Omoluabi

      June 15, 2018 at 12:40 pm

      No vex. Nno. No vex again.
      You already said it. Calm down. Read Tunji’s post again and then calmly, read your responses.
      No be fight. Calm down. Yeah. ?

    • Oj

      June 15, 2018 at 1:17 pm

      Your response would have carried weight if your used Nigerian companies as examples. Not Facebook or Ferrari

    • 9ja

      June 17, 2018 at 5:27 am

      Thank you Fred!

    • R21

      June 17, 2018 at 12:31 pm

      This comment is about as “short sighted” as the post it calls out.

      1. If Facebook relied solely on its Nigerian revenue stream, they’d be out of business. Let’s not even get to the part where they would have to literally setup their own power generating infrastructure just to be able to keep their servers running. Or how they company would struggle to find capable manpower out of the millions of half-baked graduates we churn out of the country’s educational institutions. And the online softwares you speak of? Do you really think they would be able to survive on the income stream out of Nigeria alone? They too would be out of business. While your opinions are valid, they also fail to take the true nature of Nigeria into account. A lot more people would opt for “pirated” software. Not just because they may not be able to afford it but because they simply do not want to pay more than they think they should.

      I really wish I had enough time to be able to respond to the rest of the points individually but I would say your opinion is guided by a mindset that is a lot less Nigerian than you know. And by Nigerian, I mean the actual populace and not the “upper echelon”

  12. Fred

    June 14, 2018 at 5:57 pm

    Some typos in my last post. I was typing too furiously. I should really calm down

  13. Otei

    June 14, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    You just hit the bulls eye mehn! Great article.

  14. Truetalk

    June 14, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    I actually think he has restrained himself quite substantially.

  15. FRANK

    June 14, 2018 at 7:11 pm

    So on 100% point. Taking notes on when i finally decide to relocate. Thanks for this insightful article. Naija I hail thee

  16. AR

    June 14, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    For those of born abd bred here, we’ll just nod and say “uh hun’. I do like the term ‘anyhowness’; sounds uniquely Nigerian. Nice points bro – particularly #3?

  17. Aigbi

    June 14, 2018 at 10:29 pm

    I was asked to dance azonto during an interview with a locally owned oil and gas company. An interview with Access bank was supposed to begin at 10am, I was still in their office in 9pm. #Anyhowness

    • Tutu

      June 14, 2018 at 11:08 pm

      No way!!! Are you joking? Azonto?!?! Looool!

    • Dr.N

      June 14, 2018 at 11:08 pm

      What??? Azonto???

    • iHeart

      June 15, 2018 at 8:42 am

      That’s certainly Sahara Energy and their useless HR practices

    • akama

      June 15, 2018 at 3:28 pm

      As in, I was just about to ask if this was Sahara energy.

    • Joe Danjuma

      June 15, 2018 at 9:16 am

      Did you Dance Azonto though? Sounds like I might use some of your skills

    • Debola

      June 16, 2018 at 9:33 pm

      Sahara Energy and Access Bank..

  18. Sensa Greene

    June 14, 2018 at 11:56 pm

    Where was this article before hubby relocated to Nigeria. He keeps complaining about the anyhowness and lack of principle and orderliness. This article just sums this country 100%

  19. Bode

    June 15, 2018 at 12:12 am

    This is Nigeria…. indeed

  20. Omoluabi

    June 15, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    This just completely sums up the reason I stopped arguing with an average Nigerian living in Nigeria ??

    I do not live in Nigeria.

  21. omomo

    June 15, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    This post and Fred’s comment are very enlightening and apt ..but I’m leaning more towards Fred’s because he seems to have a “glass-half -full” spirit ….Lets keep going guys ..

  22. Joseph

    June 16, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    Fred did not mention Nigerian companies. here are a few Konga, Wakanow etc.
    I agree it is difficult doing business in Nigeria most of which is infrasture and multiple taxation related but then there are guys doing great..
    Mathematucally I figure it out as ifyou can pull a profit of N10 from One million people in a country of 180 million you have made something..

  23. Victor Amokeodo

    June 17, 2018 at 4:59 am

    Hmmm…. even though I tend towards pessimism, I don’t agree with some of the core points this writer is making. Yes, Nigeria does not like change – but this is not a Nigerian trait. it is a global trait. No one likes change but change will always come. Go and read the story of the telephone.. and even the car. not to talk about the Air plane. Most of the knowledgeable/experts/industry bigwigs laughed at these ideas with the “no one likes change mantra”. Many of them laughed about how this telephone contraption would ever replace “messenger boys”. They wandered what the point of having a phone was if there was no one else you could call with it. They laughed at the thought of cars replacing horses (“How is this thing supposed to jump over hedges and mover through steams?”). The local bigwig asked the Wright brothers “Can a grand piano fly? Well.. this thing is much heavier than a grand piano. I will not investing” etc etc I hope you get my drift.

    In any society change is inevitable and those who make histories are never the ones who move with the herd but take the risks that others laughed at.

    Nigeria is failing on too many levels. What that suggests to me is that whatever the country is doing, it is doing wrong so anyone who goes there just to adopt their culture of doing things will simply perpetuate this culture of failure.

    Yes, I am a “Diaspora Nigerian”. And yes I expect Nigerians “on the ground” to laugh at my ideas. if they don’t laugh at them, then I know I am doing something wrong.

  24. TheRealist

    June 17, 2018 at 5:48 am

    RIGHT SAID FRED!!

    Just saved me the time and energy in deconstructing Tunji’s (obviously well-intentioned but flawed) piece. Carry on.

  25. R21

    June 17, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    You, Sir, surely deserve some applause ??

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