If you do business in Nigeria, do not take for granted the opportunities in Anglophone West African countries. Their bureaucracies are lighter compared to what we have in Nigeria. I mean it – you can get something done fast in some of these countries than in Nigeria.
Anglophone Africa includes five countries in West Africa (The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, and the most populous African country Nigeria, as well as a part of Cameroon) that are separated by Francophone countries, South Sudan, and a large continuous area in Southern Africa and the African Great Lakes.
When our representative in one West African country shared a letter written by a Minister of Health on a product, I was surprised that he got that letter within two days. My conclusion was that the minister wrote the letter without using an aide. Certainly, that is not possible in Nigeria with all layers of bureaucracies.
But to enter these markets, do not go and open offices. My suggestion is simple – look for reliable local partners and be generous with the benefits. Strategic partnership will improve your scalable advantage.
To thrive in business, especially in Africa, where our markets are extremely heterogeneous, requiring huge marginal costs for scaling, across disparate territories, you need to develop a mechanism to partner with others. With partnership, you would reduce the burden of massive operating capital, mitigate new market exposures, reduce operating risks and typically move faster.
Do not just spend all your time in Abuja – think West Africa, at least, as things happen faster there. Lagos is a good place but you need to be really good to thrive in Lagos. I mean it – Lagos is a center of excellence and it is one of the most competitive markets in the world. If you are average, Lagos is not going to cut it for you. Largely, it is irrelevant what you (legally) do in Lagos. Provided you are good, Lagos will reward you!
For West Africa, outside Nigeria, there is one main issue, though; the deals are never as big as the ones Nigeria offers. Yes, they do things with moderation.