Wednesday, December 3, 2008

NIGERIA: HOME TO BUSINESSPEOPLE THAT DARE.

Nigeria has a bad press, no doubt about it.

Nigerians are involved in corrupt business practices, so are others

Nigerian cities are unsafe so are other cities; infact, it is in the character of cities, it depends on the reporting.

Nigeria is a poor country and half its nationals live below the poverty line, earning less than a dollar or two a day, well according to one of the former presidents, they still have their two square meals and should they choose reverse migration may have three.

These are some of the negative perception that have scared away the chicken-hearted from Nigeria…a country that is so unregulated that tax evasion is commonplace even among well known multinational companies and money laundering is largely unchecked.

Where else in the World can you walk in and the next day, you are on the phone to a Senator.Welcome to Nigeria, the home of the daring, where a thousand percent return on investment is guaranteed, and thanks to economic liberalization policy of the Government, a foreign investor with 100% ownership of business earns 100% benefit.

Daring people from all walks of life (many without their families) are coming to Nigeria in droves to contribute to its socio-economic development. The irony is that same planes that bring in the expatriates take Nigerians out of the country to distant lands.

Despite various travels around the country, visits to offices and recreational facilities patronized by the expats, yours sincerely was not aware of their number until the Small World event (the small world is a charity event organized by the expatriate community to raise money for Nigerian charities). It gladdened my heart to see many expats mill around the British International School, defied the rain, and paid the otherwise expensive ticket to be part of the annual event.

There is no gainsaying that these expats are engaged in various professions, contributing in various ways in the development of the country and making lots of money in the process.

However, one would have expected these developments to translate into good tidings for the country. Nigeria is still off-limits to many businesspeople and in some countries, Nigeria is treated as a pariah nation and its citizens subjected to inhuman treatment. Project Nigeria and efforts by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency and similar agencies have not convinced other nations especially in the West of the seriousness of the country in combating sharp business practices.

Little wonder therefore, daring nations such as China and its Asian Tigers coalition moved swiftly into the country knowing full well the opportunities that are associated with high risk bearing. Well, if you think only the Asians are reaping bountifully, wait a minute. At the 60th independence anniversary dance by Israelis living and working in Lagos, I had a discussion with one of the celebrants, who told me in confidence that, his returns on real estate investment has been wonderful.

Properties in Lagos and other major cities in Nigeria are quickly snapped before completion by Mortgage bankers and speculators who in turn make super normal profit, thanks to the burgeoning middle class and thriving business environment.

In the health care sector, there is a surge in the number of foreign owned clinics that have positioned to take advantage of the influx of expats that in turn demand high class Medicare, the Nigerian nouveau rich and sophisticated middle class (those that would potentially afford Medicare overseas).

Business opportunities are so many that expats hired to work in the country are resigning to open their own businesses. Companies opened in turn create employment and with regulated tax regime contribute to the economic development of the country.

We have had cases of companies that prior to locating in Nigeria had problems with raising finance but now declare profits in billions of Naira. A retail outlet from Southern Africa discarded its flawed business plan when it realized that it broke even in three months and not three years as contained in the plan.

Success stories abound on business turnarounds experienced by companies operating in Nigeria. However, these turnarounds and opportunities are only available to those that dare. While the chicken-hearted read the bad news and abide by travel advice handed down by their Foreign Ministries, the daring takes a plunge, ignoring the risks and pitfalls.

The daring understands that Nigeria with its strong 150 million people, an educated middle class, abundant natural resources, undeveloped infrastructure and gateway to the West African sub region is one of the few remaining countries with unlimited opportunities.

Daring companies from countries presently experiencing economic slowdown and credit crunch would soon find their way to Nigeria, the land flowing with milk and honey.

To make big bucks in Nigeria, you have to dare. If in doubt, ask MTN Telecoms.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

ENTER THE DRAGON: Chinese incursion into the Nigerian Marketplace


At a time no decent country would touch Nigeria with a long pole, much less taking interest in its economy, no thanks to a debt overhang of $35 billion (since forgiven), a rating as one of the most corrupt nations in the World (recently improved rating); China waved off the risks and took the plunge.


The first sign was the upsurge in the number and size of Chinese restaurants springing up at most unusual spots in major cities in the country. Next was China Town’, an unofficial export free zone, providing dump sites (markets) for cheap, but largely substandard textile products from Chinese factories.


Before long and in the quest to expand its frontier of business in Nigeria, China moved from the backwaters of the informal sector, and literally invaded the economy, searching for trade and investment opportunities. The plunge has paid off.


China in the last nine years has become a strategic player in the Nigerian economy. Placed side by side with new crop of ‘invaders’ like Austria, Israel, South Africa, India, Belgium, Singapore and Taiwan, China stands head and shoulders above the rest.



With the official backing of the home government, Chinese companies have made great incursions into traditional spheres of transportation, construction as well as emerging sectors like energy, oil and gas and telecoms, rolling in billions of dollars in investment.


All this while, Nigeria’s known traditional trading allies, Britain and the United States of America kept moaning about the hostile business environment and pervasive insecurity of lives and properties. While they ensconce themselves in exclusive areas of Nigerian cities, drive around in a convoy of security vehicles and their Governments occasionally releasing travel warnings, the Chinese befriended the local people, play football with them, take commuter buses and learn the local languages.


Well, it does appear that these great industrial giants have suddenly woken up from their slumber. It has dawned on them that if they tarry a while, China and indeed India and South Africa etc would outpace them in Nigeria, as it currently does in the global economy. So they are reacting.


They have promised to launch aggressive penetration of the non-oil sectors considered critical to the growth of the Nigerian economy in order to counteract Chinese dominance. But would the dragons allow them? Only time would tell and Nigeria having the last laugh!

Courtesy: Broad Street Journal, Nigeria.


Foot note: Ndudi Osakwe, Infoplus/IBG Nigeria was in Shanghai, China, November 2008 on a business development mission, given the increasing trade volume between China and West Africa, especially Nigeria, estimated to be in the neighborhood of Three Billion USD (US$3B). With economic growth rate still in double digits and over US$500B stimulus package, hopefully the Chinese economy can only get better.



You may view the photo gallery. China Goes to Africa here http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1884396_1854955,00.html

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Do Business and Play Golf at Asaba, Delta State, Nigeria

The country has witnessed an increase in the number of golf courses. This is a positive development as Golf is one game that befits both the old and the young. It is a game that shapes character and defines personality, erroneously thought to be the game of the rich and privileged.

These were some of the lines I learnt from Silver Oforgu, the Public Relation Officer, Ibori Golf Course and Club, Asaba when I paid a visit to the emerging city on the river Niger recently. According to him, there are programs designed to encourage the young to cultivate Golf through their youth development program. This three week program comes up shortly before the Governor’s Cup every year. Let us call it the Golf Advantage Program (GAP). In few years as these young ones develop their skills in the sport (gradually gaining recognition as the game that would usher in sports tourism to the country), most of them would end up as members of Ibori Golf Course or other courses playing amateur or professional golf and winning laurels for their clubs and country.

What is now known as Ibori Golf Course was started in 1984/5 by Air Commodore Ibrahim Kefas (Rtd), the military administrator of Delta state but it was not until the assumption of office by Chief James Ibori as governor of the state that serious attention was paid to the development of the sport with 9 holes and a course completely fenced. Now the course boasts of all green 18 holes, trees and bamboos on the fairway and a massive club house.

The club has hosted several tournaments under the auspices of the Nigerian Golf Federation (NGF) since its inception including the Governor’s Cup, 2006, 1st and 2nd Odibo Classics, the president’s cup, the independence and chief of air staff tournaments. According to Mr. Oforgu, the club plans to host a tournament for the governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, a member of the club. T h e club boasts of distinguished personalities as members and trustees, including Ogbueshi Ubaka Attoh (captain), Chief Odibo (vice captain), Chief P.C Asiodu, Hon. Justice Midoh, and Dr. Popo amongst others.

It is therefore no surprise that the club is at ease with corporate organizations in the sponsorship of tournaments. Members have had the privilege of playing in other Courses in Nigeria and overseas, winning prizes for their cherished club. Visits are also exchanged with golf players from different parts of the country, with plans underway to invite international players in the likes of Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo and lady golfers.

Further, the rising profile of Asaba as a business address and a getaway destination has provided the club with visitors and golfers taking advantage of visits to Asaba to participate in games and vice versa. Asaba, the administrative capital of Delta state is a city of the future. With many hotels dotting the cityscape such as Grand, Orchid, Nelrose and Chad-ef, Asaba is emerging as a convention city loved for its tranquility and hospitality by the locals.

It has several tourist attractions including the Lander Brothers anchorage, Mungo Park house and the river Niger amongst other sites that cut across culture, monuments and ecology. Some of the sports that may be enjoyed in Asaba include boat ride, yachting, bird watching and golf. In Asaba, it is possible to combine business and leisure.

Ndudi Osakwe in Asaba, Delta State, Nigeria

Monday, September 22, 2008

How to register your business in Nigeria*.

Having your company or business registered confers some credibility on it. This gives the business a unique identity. Registration of businesses in Nigeria is the responsibility of the Corporate Affairs Commission, which has its head office in Abuja but has branches in most states of the federation.

The CAC accredits the following categories of professionals for the registration exercise: the lawyers, chartered accountants and chartered secretaries. You need to engage the service of one those professionals to register your business. It is, however, important you understand the issues involved and the choices you have to make. For instance, you need to decide on a business name, business type, issues relating to membership and ownership of a business etc, to avoid making mistakes.

According to CAC, registration is divided into three parts under the Companies and Allied Matters Act. They include registration of business names, incorporation of companies and registration of incorporated trustees. Businesses that can be registered with CAC are Private Limited Liability, Public Limited Company, Public Limited by Guarantee and Unlimited Company.

As prescribed by CAC, the minimum membership for each of these companies is two and maximum for private company is 50 members while there is no upper limit for public companies. A minimum share capital of N10,000 for private companies and N500,000 for public companies with a minimum subscription of 25 per cent of the authorised share capital.

Incorporation of (private or public) company involves searching for availability of name, completion of registration form, payment of appropriate stamp duty fee at the Federal Board of Internal Revenue, submission of Memorandum and Articles of Association together with statutory forms for verification and assessment, payment of statutory fees at the CAC. The consent of Attorney General of the Federation is required in the case of Unlimited Company by Guarantee.

While the procedure for registering a business name requires the search for availability of name, submission of duly completed statutory forms with two passport-sized photographs of each applicant attached to the form, and payment of filing fee at the C A C, the registration of incorporated trustees involve, availability and reservation of name, procurement and completion of application form, publication of notice in three national dailies, one being a local newspaper widely circulating in the area where the association is based, clearly stating the name of the association.
It also involves submission of duly completed typed application which should be accompanied by the following: availability of name search report, a formal letter of application, signed by the chairman, secretary or by a solicitor, the original of the newspaper publications, two copies of applicant’s constitution, minutes of the meeting whereat the trustees were appointed, having the list of members present and absent and showing the voting pattern, signed by the chairman and secretary of the board. The minutes must be on the letter headed paper of the association.

Trustees should attach two passport-sized photographs, one attached to enclosure and the other to the IT Declaration form sworn to at the high court. Trustees must also sign against their names on the application form, stating permanent residential address and their occupations. The common seal of the association should be affixed at the appropriate column of the form and payment must be made for filing.

Under CAMA, registration of private company with share capital not exceeding one million costs N10,000, while registration of private company with share capital exceeding N1m but less than N2m costs N20,000. Also, registration of private company with share capital above million, N10,000 will be added for every N1m or part thereof.

While registration of public company with share capital not exceeding N1m costs N20,000 and registration of public company with share capital exceeding N1m but less than N2m costs N30,000 But registration of private company with share capital above N2m will attract N20,000 for every million or part thereof. For company without share capital, registration will cost N20,000; same day incorporation (excluding filing fees) is N50,000, while the form will cost about N800. Registration of business name will cost N4,000 and registration of incorporated trustees costs N20,000.

Post registration issues such as change of name, change of directors, change of secretary, change of trustees, conversion of and re-registration of private company to public company, allotment of shares, etc should be directed to the Registrar-General of CAC. Expectedly, if all these procedures are strictly followed, registration of business should not take more than 10 working days, more so that CAC now works electronically.

PS: Infoplus/IBG Nigeria provides you with stress-free in –house legal and tax advisory services. Email: ibgnigeria@gmail.com or nosakwe@ibgnigeria.com for help.

For direct inquiry, you may reach the Corporate Affairs Commission on www.cac.gov.ng

*Courtesy, David Amuwa, Punch Newspapers (www.punchng.com)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Tips on Seme Border Crossing to Cotonou, Benin Republic

For most people in Nigeria, traveling to Cotonou, Benin Republic means smuggling contraband goods, bringing in used vehicles of more than ten years old or as an emergency getaway for wanted coup plotters, human rights activists and corrupt politicians on the run.

Well, Benin Republic has assumed a new international status with flurry of business and leisure activities (especially in its commercial city of Cotonou). Relative security and safety of lives coupled with an enabling business environment has contributed to the surge. Now, Nigerians and foreign residents desirous of a quiet and exciting weekend with family drive to Cotonou. Many are locating their offices there too.

Most times, these business and getaway trips turn to nightmares as you reach Seme, the border crossing between Nigeria and Benin Republic. A journey that should take an hour becomes three or more hours, as you are questioned by law enforcement agents on both sides.

If you want a relatively stress- free crossing, note the following tips:

• Check that your international passport is valid for at least six months
• Obtain a permit from the Benin Embassy in Lagos if traveling in your own car or if you need a visa
• If driving, make sure you obtain the brown card and insurance cover from an insurance company. Make sure that the documents are stamped by the Customs.
• Ensure that you have a yellow vaccination card
• Cross check that your international passport is stamped by the Immigration.
• If staying overnight or for several days, ensure that you book a hotel
• Be ready to tell the officials the reasons for your travel, where you are staying and the duration of stay.
• If you are a regular traveler on the route, get a protocol officer.
• Make sure you leave on time to avoid snarling traffic.

Beware of touts and ‘border crossing facilitators’. Ensure that your belongings, especially your carry-on baggage are with you at all times. If you have any concern, do not hesitate to contact the most senior Immigration/Customs Officer on duty.

In recent years, a growing number of Bus Companies using air-conditioned vehicles travel along this route, up to Accra, Ghana. Patronizing these bus companies would save you a lot of hassles. On the other hand, Virgin Nigeria flies to Cotonou a couple of times in a week. Check schedule and rate with the Airline.

If these tips have been helpful as you plan to make that business or leisure trip to Cotonou, Benin Republic, email us on ibgnigeria@gmail.com. Our blog is http://ibgnigeria.blogspot.com.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Nigerian/South African Business Relationship Deepened

Actis commends Chamber for deepening Nigeria/South African Relationship

The Nigerian-South African Chamber of Commerce (NSACC) has been commended for its role in deepening the understanding between Nigeria and South Africa.

Speaking at a Breakfast Forum of the Chamber, sponsored by UBA Metropolitan Life Insurance, Mr. Simon Harford, CEO, Actis, while making a presentation on Multilateral Financial Support for Private Sector Development in Nigeria, stated that the Chamber had played a pivotal role in the relationship between business people from both countries, noting that both stood to gain a lot from each other.

He said that the business relationship between Nigeria and South Africa was exciting, and would get more exciting in the next few years, as lots of companies from South Africa now saw reasons to invest in Nigeria, with the success recorded so far by South African companies in Nigeria.

According to Harford, Actis would help to build the image of Nigeria, using the success that it had recorded so far operating in Nigeria. He added that, presently, Actis had investments in seven Nigerian companies.

He revealed that a delegation of South African businessmen would be visiting Nigeria soon to explore areas of investment, observing that South African companies that were not ready to go out and invest in places like Nigeria with its huge potential would soon be left behind.

He stated that Oando Nigeria that was recently listed in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) and Phillips Consulting were some firms from Nigeria that were doing excellently well in South Africa, adding that one of the major problem facing foreign businesses in Nigeria was the lack of skilled manpower as there is a dearth of manpower in some vital areas of the economic, which were vital in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

He enjoined the embassies of the respective countries to make the process of issuance of visas to genuine businesspeople faster, as a lot of business opportunities were being lost as a result of the problem of getting visa, especially by Nigerian businesspeople, observing that this snag served as a hindrance between the synergy of the two countries.

In his response, Mr Osayaba Giwa-Osagie, Legal Adviser of the Chamber, called on the government to pay attention to manpower development as there could not be any meaningful development when the necessary skill that was needed for growth was not available, adding that the Chamber would continue to contribute its own quota to the development of both countries.

PS: The International Business Group (IBG Global) is ably represented in South Africa by Zurcom International (Pty) Ltd, a trusted international development outfit representing the trade interests of a couple US states in the Great Lakes Region and activities covering several Southern African countries including Mauritius.

Richard Zurba, its Managing Director is a Canadian citizen with over ten years residency in Africa. He has worked in eight countries on four continents and has experience selling into over 20 countries. His office can do for you what he is currently doing for the Council of Great Lakes Governors (CGLG) etc.

Have an inquiry, email us on ibgnigeria@gmail.com?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

WEEKEND GETAWAY TO THE MARINA HOTEL, COTONOU


IBG Nigeria/Infoplus (www.ibgnigeria.com) has joined hands with Benin Marina Hotel, formerly Benin Sheraton Hotel (www.benin-marina.com) to provide you with a relaxed weekend offer, away from hustles and bustles; at the Benin Marina Hotel situated right at the beach in Cotonou, Benin Republic.

The hotel prides itself on its superb cuisine, attentive staff and luxurious accommodation. Enjoy a game of tennis, tee off on the golf course, relax by the pool or have a drink at the bar.

Please find hereafter the weekend package rates.
Accommodation on half board basis, standard room, including 1 buffet breakfast per person in "le POPO" restaurant + lunch or dinner at Tanekas restaurant + taxes.

* Single occupancy : 74,000 CFA (USD 178)
* Double occupancy : 93,000 CFA (USD 224))
* Rates are up to June 2008. USD rates are subject to change

NB : All drinks during meal are in extra and charged upon consumption
Check-in time : 3.00 pm
Check-out time : 1.00 pm

Late check-out:
- Until 3.00 pm without extra charge and upon availability.
- 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm is charged at 50% of room rate
- After 6.00 pm, 1 full night is charged

Early check-in: the room is blocked the night before; a full night is charged accordingly.
General information: rates in Fcfa include all taxes applicable as of this date and they are subject to change according to Benin fiscal or monetary law.

We can assist you with VISAS at the Consulate in Lagos and flights arranged with Virgin Nigeria
For enquiries, contact Ndudi on the following email addresses nosakwe@ibgnigeria.com, ibgnigeria@gmail.com or telephone: +234 80 2353 0007, +234 1 400 3293

Back to Future: Information and Communication Technology as socio-economic development multipliers


One of the basic tools to achieving the Millennium Development Goals is Information and Communication Technology. This terminology has commonly been used to refer to newer technologies of wireless phones, networked computer and internet other than the more traditional communication media such as radio and television. However, digital convergence has brought in devices to the market that increasingly blur the distinction between old and new ICT in what may be referred to as Communication revolution.

Communication revolution is profoundly democratic and liberating, leveling the imbalance between large and small, rich and poor, urban and rural, educated and uneducated, old and young, male and female among other exclusions. It is about opportunities and increasing human contact. It enhances a knowledge-based society and makes it easier to learn new things and acquire new skills. It amplifies brainpower and has the power to change social and physical space.

It has the potential to raise the productivity and quality of service provisions in the way that mass production raised the efficiency and quality of manufacturing. It helps the late starter to catch up with rest of the world in industry, healthcare, education, pattern of consumption, raising aspirations amongst others (Frances Caincross, 2001, The Death of Distance).

It was therefore not a surprise when the International Telecommunications Union, an agency of the UN met and drew up action lines and targets at the World Summit on the Information Science (WSIS) in Geneva, with a mandate to find ways to use Information and Communication Technologies to advance development goals, such as those contained in the Millennium Declaration (see.wsis.org). The following targets were set:

• To connect villages with ICTs and establish community access points to connect universities, colleges, secondary and primary schools
• To connect scientific and research centres with ICTs
• To connect public libraries, cultural centres, museums, post offices and archives with ICTs
• To connect health centres with ICTs
• To connect all local and central government departments and establish websites and email addresses
• To adapt all primary and secondary school curricula to meet the challenges of the Information Society, taking into account national circumstances
• To ensure that all of the world’s population have access to television and radio services
• To encourage the development of content and to put in place technical conditions in order to facilitate the presence and use of all world’s languages on the internet.

Given a regulated and liberalized government agency such as the Nigerian Communication Commission that seemingly allow foreign investors to roll out their plans, compete for services and subscribers which ultimately cut down tariffs, the multiplier effects of ICT deployment in the society as ours are immense.
Its positive impacts would be felt in the educational sector through the availability of learning materials, distance-learning capabilities through conferencing, health care delivery services including raising awareness on communicable and preventable diseases, open communication, dialogue and debate on issues such as HIV/AIDS, supply chain logistics, in business as in ecommerce, the monitoring of prices, products and extension services.

E-Government ushers in responsive administration and provision of efficient services to the citizenry. The use of smart cards technology such as credit cards and ATMs and financial services in the form of mobile banking and e-payments is the driving force behind the now popular branch network, online real time. It provides opportunities for the outsourcing of jobs and increase in the availability of home businesses. Apparently, more women, urban poor and rural folks hitherto excluded are empowered.

The bottom line are that there would be less in-migration from rural to urban areas, less traffic on the roads, infrastructure are adequate for the population in a given geographical space, reduction in avoidable trips, improved well being of the people and a healthy nation. In the opinion of Ndi Towo, arivia.kom’s Africa division executive in an interview with a business magazine (not My Companion) thinks that ‘while he would not suggest that ICT is more important than water, roads and electricity, he believes it is certainly among the top five’. I tend to agree with him. ICTs cannot solve poverty on their own but they can contribute to the processes that lead to achieving the MDGs.

The idea is not to paint a rosy picture of a utopian environment. Obviously, there are constraints but it is achievable in an enabling business and political environment. The private sector is instrumental in expanding ICT for development access so should be encouraged with enough incentives. Government and the civil society should take the lead in its applications (OECD, 2005)

Doing Business in Benin Republic: IBG Nigeria Presents


It is our pleasure to welcome you to this special seminar on doing business in Benin Republic, facilitated by the Embassy of Benin Republic, Lagos, the International Business Group (IBG) and My Companion, a business and leisure magazine.

Many people that we spoke to in the course of putting together this seminar wondered why the focus should be on Benin Republic. Many even wonder why we should abandon Nigeria, our turf to promote doing business in another country. Well for the benefit of those that are not familiar with our services, the IBG advances a concept whereby companies from across the world can benefit and interact with existing global network, with the capacity to assist with market evaluation and locating the best potential in- country partners. Benin Republic is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), our mandate with the International Business Group to promote business activities from the sub-region.

Benin’s economy has entered a new era. With restored international confidence, it has become the new address for business on the West African sub-region. These positive developments in Benin Republic has been noticed by the international business community, including the International Business Group, a consortium of trade facilitators and business developers operating out of twenty offices with satellite offices in over thirty others.

Present day Benin was the state of Dahomey, a prominent West African Kingdom that rose in the 15th century. The territory became a French colony in 1872 and achieved independence on August 1, 1960 as the Republic of Benin. The election of Thomas Boni Yayi as the president in 2006 introduced the seeds of change as he vowed to bring about economic growth and eradicate corruption in the country.

The president’s efforts to build a platform for growth are paying off. Economic development is set to follow, with a special focus on five priority sectors namely, renewable energy resources, agriculture/agro-processing, tourism, industry/services such as telecommunications and development of port of Cotonou.

Though its economy is highly dependent on subsistence agriculture, cotton production and regional trade especially with Nigeria, Benin plans to attract more foreign investment, place more emphasis on tourism, facilitate the development of new food processing systems and agricultural products, and encourage new information and communication technology.

The United States Government recognized these initiatives by the award of USD307million on its Millennium Challenge Account to Benin Republic to improve on its business climate. These include reforms to the land tenure system, the judicial and court system, the financial sector especially as it relates to agriculture and in improving the competitiveness of the port of Cotonou under the Access to Markets section.

Benin Resource Persons would provide detailed information on these and other subject areas. We wish you success as you consider doing business in Benin Republic or expanding your existing business in the country.

Nigeria-Israel Business Relationship: The Journey So Far!


Nigeria-Israel business and cultural relationship is on the upward swing. In recent years since the renewal of diplomatic ties between both countries, many Israeli firms have located in the country while increase in trade and commerce have been recorded. On the cultural front, there seem to be one-way traffic of Nigerian Christians visiting the Holyland. The same may not be said of Israelis coming to Nigeria on tours.

Our correspondent, Festus Owete met with Yair Frommer*, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Israel at Abuja. Below is an excerpt of the interview.

What would you consider the major achievements of your embassy in forging business relationship with Nigeria in 2006 and what are your projections for this year, 2007?

During the past year, we meant to make very important steps in strengthening the strong economic and commercial relations between Israel and Nigeria and this was manifest in many events that we held in Nigeria and Israel. First and perhaps the most important is the inauguration of Nigeria-Israel Business Forum which comprised people from the business sector and public sector who are interested in relations with Israel. Right now we have about 100 members of the Nigeria-Israel Business Forum. It will be enlarged this year. We are going to strengthen business opportunity and building on them between the two countries.
I will also mention some major events that took place in Israel in which Nigeria delegation participated. The three most important were the Prime Minister Business Conference, which was held in November 2006 in which there was participation of senior Nigeria delegation headed by the Honourable Minister of Environment and the Honourable Minister of Co-operation and Integration in Africa; Agriculture Technology 2006 exhibition, which is the leading Exhibition in the world for agricultural commodity. We had a very senior delegation and over one hundred Nigerians participated. The official delegation was headed by the Minister of Agriculture.

Another event was Israel Telecom 2006 exhibition in which again we had a very strong delegation headed this time by the Minister of Communication. We had many governors and other officials from Nigeria who visited Israel and many Israeli businessmen came to Nigeria to seek opportunities. We hope to extend this collaboration in 2007 to hold some major events in Nigeria in which Israeli official delegation will participate.

Were these events you mentioned favourable to Nigeria in any way? In other words, has Nigeria really benefited from this relationship with Israel?

Certainly, Nigeria is the major beneficiary but both countries are benefiting. The stronger the relations are, the more benefit there is for both countries because Israel has a lot of technologies and industries that are relevant to Nigeria for its development. Nigeria has a lot of resources and also capacity in economic terms at is relevant to Israel and the collaboration is beneficial to both.

If you look at Nigeria, it has enormous potentials to become a leading world power in agricultural production and it can benefit and it does indeed enjoy and benefit from the Israeli technology and Israeli companies that are investing in Nigeria. And we believe there are a lot more to do and a lot more of collaboration. This is just an example but of course, more food security and more income generating projects for Nigeria will come through collaboration with Israel.

What are the other business sectors that Israel engaged in and of what relevance are they to developing countries like Nigeria?

The major sectors in which Israel companies in Nigeria and Africa are engaged in are the Construction, Infrastructure and Telecommunication which is becoming very strong (Nigeria is a very important market for telecommunication because it is an expanding market) and agriculture and agricultural technology as I mentioned before. Other important sector will be civil security and civil engineering and many sectors.

We are aware of your collaboration with National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) in the area of information and communication technology. What do you intend to achieve?

NOTAP is one of many agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria. It is under the Ministry of Science and Technology and it is a very important agency because its main target is to promote acquisition of technology which means to improve the ability of economic sector in Nigeria to produce more, to be more efficient. And this is very important if you want to become part of the international economy.

We believe that Israel has a lot to offer in terms of transport technology and technical assistance and we have done so mainly through training programs. There are many institutions in Israel which work together with Israeli Government which are bringing people from Nigeria to Israel to experience first time Israeli technology and many of those people are coming back to Nigeria with better skill and knowledge and with a lot of good contacts that they can use to improve their businesses.

With the economic reforms and war against corruption Nigerian economy is opening up as the government calls for foreign direct investment. Have Israeli businesses been responding to this call or are there still some reservations?

Israeli companies are interested in coming into Nigeria. This is the essence of direct investment. I must say Nigerian economy is being liberalized and it is today more open economy than it used to be two decades ago. And this is something that is encouraged both by Nigeria government and Israeli government. A lot of these investments will yield result depending on how economic it is for a company to come into Nigeria.

What efforts have you made in encouraging the activities of the Nigeria-Israel Chamber of Commerce?

That is the bilateral chamber of commerce operating from Lagos. The current President of the chamber is Senator Ben Obi from Anambra State but we have manymembers from across Nigeria. We are encouraging their activities and we are also assisting them in publishing quarterly publication which is called NICC News. And we are sharing information with chamber on anything that is relevant. There is also Israel-Africa Chamber of Commerce which operates from Tel Aviv in Israel.

But in your opinion what actions are necessary to encourage business relations between Nigerian and Israeli small and medium scale enterprises?

Small and medium scale enterprises are of major importance for the stability and sustainability of modern economic system. In Israel, there are small and medium enterprises highly developed and they are working together with Israeli Export Institute (IEI) and Israeli Union of Industrialists and there is a lot of cooperation between the government and those entities. What is important I think is to create more awareness to the possibilities and this should be done through spreading information, approaching those institutions.
For example the IEI is a highly effective tool in spreading information and being in touch with these organizations is quite vital if you want information to pass in an effective way to all those small and medium scale enterprises. They usually don’t have the means on their own to collect the information. They are depending more on the information that are collected through these unions and organization.

* Mr. Yair Frommer has since been reposted to another country.

Nigeria, the toast of Nations.


Smooth transition from one civilian president to another, first in the history of the country, a population of about 150 million people, an educated (and sophisticated) middle class and abundant natural resources with oil and gas on top of the chart, Nigeria is gradually emerging as the preferred business destination in sub Saharan Africa, and would overtake South Africa shortly.

The Chinese National Oil Company, Petrobras, Korean and Singapore Oil companies have in recent times joined the likes of Shell, Exxon Mobil, Chevron Texaco, Totalelfina, Amoco, and Halliburton etc in upstream and downstream oil and gas activities. The Russians are asking themselves why it took them this long to enter the booming Nigerian oil industry. Well, with the Asian Tigers here, the Russians may have to work a bit harder.

MTN, a South African mobile phones company, Celtel, UAE owned, Glo, an indigenous company amongst others are slugging it out in the competitive world of mobile telephony. Visafone, the latest in the industry is already wooing Nigerians with juicy offers. We have not seen anything yet; with Blackberry handsets, 3G technology and internet ready, the best is yet to come. The companies are not complaining.
Oracle, IBM, SAP and People soft etc are well represented in the country. For example, Oracle counts among its clients, the government, major corporations and banks using its e-business suite. There is also the Oracle Treasury, a software aimed at modernising accounting and related processes; a necessary tool in this era of greater transparency and corporate governance. Very much in use in Nigeria! Microsoft is here. Bill Gates, once the World’s richest man was here to have a personal experience. Indigenous companies including Zinox and Omatek have become the toast of overseas companies as they sign on technical and strategic alliances.

Internet service providers, MWEB and digital television channel, DSTV are some of the many providers of related services with local presence, and include Dimension Data International (Didata), South Africa’s largest technology firm. More Nigerians are picking up subscriptions with Cable Television companies…they have to watch the premier leagues!

The country has also witnessed the arrival of the Brewery Giant, Heineken, Becks etc (to join the likes of Guinness, Star), and enlarged activities by the British American Tobacco Company even as students union officials in universities protest the increase in teenage smoking. The Japanese Tobacco Company is taking a foothold despite the ban placed on smoking in public places and advertising constraints.

JP Morgan, Citibank, State Bank of India, Standard Chartered Bank have shops in the country, with numerous regional and global financial institutions such as Ecobank, HSBC, Barclays, Stanbic having shareholding in consolidated banks. By the consolidation, the banks now tow paths they feared to thread. The Nigerian Stock Market has gained attention of top Exchanges such as the London and New York Exchanges. With a trillion Naira traded on the floor of the Lagos Stock Exchange, you know why.

British Airways, Virgin Airlines, Lufthansa and all European Airlines, South African Airlines, Emirate, Qatar etc have daily flights to Lagos, (increasingly becoming a hub to W. African sub region) with many including BA, Air France and Lufthansa also landing in Abuja, the Federal capital and Port Harcourt. Delta Airlines fly non stop from Nigeria to the United States of America.

Marriot, Radisson, Meridien, Sheraton, Protea, Sofitel, Novotel, Hilton, Moorhouse etc are here in Nigeria. They have positioned themselves to benefit from the dividends of the arrival of business tourists and corporate travellers to the country. The hospitality industry is booming. Professional Managers have taken over the running of hotels. Steers, Chicken Republic have not only setup shops but have a wide branch network and in competition with indigenous franchises such as Mr. Biggs, Tantalisers and Tastee Fried Chicken. Countless number of Chinese, Korean, Mongolian, Japanese, Indian and Continental Restaurants dot the Nigerian cityscape. Shoprite, South African superstores is a Mecca of some sort, thanks to the sprawling Palm Mall in which it is situated alongside Game, yet another South African company, putting city favourites including Megaplaza, Silverbird Galleria and City Mall on the defence.

Activities in property development are beehive as Developers accompany the penetration of the Nigerian market by investors in the key sectors of the economy to provide decent housing facilities for the arriving expatriates and their families. The growing trend is the construction of residential houses with the trappings of comfort in secured environments, an artful balance between captivating designs and everyday practicality.
The offerings include a combination of home types, landscaped gardens, nicely paved roads, clinics, schools, shops, theatres, recreation grounds, back-up electricity generating plants, 24 hour manned security and a courtesy shuttle bus service. Finally, home financing and mortgage facilities are available as financial houses such as Abbey Building Society Plc dangle carrots. Pace of investment in residential lettings have picked up, encouraged by the liberalized investment climate which offer tax breaks for foreign direct investment and facilitate payments in stable major currencies.
Nigeria is surely a country whose time has come. Investors are guaranteed tax holidays, incentives and concessions. Check out the website of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Council (NIPC): www.nipc-nigeria.org

Are you interested in making big bucks? Ask MTN and Shoprite…a lot of them. Get in touch with us for more information. Send email to nosakwe@ibgnigeria.com or give him a shout on
+234 80 2353 0007. You may visit our website: www.ibgnigeria.com.

NIGERIA BECOMES AUSTRIA’S LEADING TRADING PARTNER IN AFRICA


Nigeria has emerged as Austria’s leading trading partner in Africa. According to the Commercial Counsellor, Dr. Albrecht Zimburg, Austria recorded over 70% increase in export to Nigeria up till the last quarter of 2007.

Achieving this feat took the joint efforts of the Austrian Embassy through its indefatigable Commercial Counsellor, Dr. Zimburg and the Austrian Government during its tenure as the President of the EU, 2006. During this period, the Austrian Government mobilised the EU machinery to inform and educate its business community to engage in doing business in Nigeria and Africa, with a newsletter, Go Africa to boot.

On the part of the Commercial Counsellor with an office in Lagos, its task is Herculean for the fact that he has over fifteen African countries under his jurisdiction. It is therefore worthy of note that despite this busy schedule, momentum at promoting Nigeria-Austria business has been sustained.

Part of the Counsellor’s responsibilities include creating awareness through the various chambers of commerce in Austria, participation in trade fairs, partnering with local companies by establishing ‘initial contact’ with Austrian Companies, qualifying companies, assisting with translations, mediating where necessary, encouraging open communication and facilitating visits to break cultural barriers.

These were necessary considering the fact that Nigeria has a bad press and every business is considered a scam until proven otherwise. Further, there was the need for policy change in Austria on its relationship with the most populous country in Africa, therefore a major market for Austrian products and services. These products include consumer items such as energy drinks, machinery, extruding equipment, gas generators and services including aviation technology, medical technology, hydropower and construction amongst others.

Small wonder therefore that Austria’s export to Nigeria hit 162 million Euros in 2007 as against 93 million Euros in 2006. It should be noted that for the first time in many years, the trade balance between both countries was even…usually, a huge surplus for Nigeria because of oil purchase.

Austrian companies are expected to play significant roles in the Nigerian economy particularly in the areas of renewable energy, construction of quick fix bridges, airport towers, medical technology and engagement in financial services as foreign direct investors. Further, as the tourism sector develops, stakeholders would benefit immensely from Vienna experience as Austria’s cultural and convention city.

Some of the ways Nigeria-Austria tie can be further strengthened include:

a. Set up of a bilateral chamber of commerce or trade association
b. Encouragement of trade visits, fairs and exhibitions
c. Establishment of twin cities to facilitate cultural exchange
d. Encouragement of the learning of German language in Nigeria
e. Identification of areas of comparative advantage and the support of its development.
f. Encouragement of more Austrians to visit Oshogbo Shrine in Osun State (and other parts of Nigeria) as a means to opening the tourism gateway to Nigeria, which would eventually translate to more business as cultural barriers collapse.

Singapore’ Infocommunication Technology Industry

Singapore is a place where information and communication technology (ICT) works seamlessly and efficiently, with people from all walks of life using ICT in one way or another. Today, more than 63 per cent of Singapore’s population are computer users. Over 74 per cent of its households own a computer and more than 83 per cent of companies in Singapore adopt IT for work. Over 93 per cent of the population owns a cell phone.

The ICT industry is also a significant economic generator in Singapore. The ICT industry contributed 6.4 per cent to the country’s GDP in 2002, but by 2008, its contribution will increase to 7 per cent. To get on this journey of growth, Singapore is focusing on building capabilities in new growth areas such as Grid and Utility computing, Web Services, Infocomm Security and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). Strategic projects include:

• A Digital Exchange that rides on the country’s excellent state of connectivity to distribute, manage and process digital assets, such as online games, digital cinema and animation, to the rest of the world. This project aims to generate S$500 million worth of digital transactions.

• The Singapore Government will invest up to S$50 million (US$29.4 million) over the next five years to develop an integrated IT platform for the logistics sector, which will make Singapore more competitive as a world class port and logistics hub.

• The Infocomm Development Agency (IDA) has invested S$9 million to help 45 companies develop solutions in Web Services. These companies expect to generate S$125 million in revenue over the next two years

• IDA has also allocated S$10 million to help companies in the manufacturing, distribution and retail sectors build their capabilities in Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). Industry partners have committed an additional S$12 million in trial projects, technology and infrastructure development. By 2007, the RFID initiative is expected generate ICT spending of S$50 million in the development and adoption of RFID technology.

• The Singapore Government will award S$1.5 billion worth of IT tenders this year for a project which will reduce the time to deploy new ICT services in Government, improve its ability to respond to ICT security threats, and make it easier to operate and maintain desktops and networks.

For its innovative use of technology, Singapore is ranked first in the world for Networked Readiness in 2005-2005 in World Economic Forum’s latest Global Information Technology Report. Singapore is also rated the Number One Business Environment in Asia Pacific, according to EIU, 2002. It is ranked first in Asia for Intellectual Property Rights Protection by PERC 2004 and Global Corruption Report, 2003. Singapore also topped the Global e-Government Survey by Brown University, 2003.

The achievements that Singapore has made over the years in the advancement of ICT may be attributed to the vision and drive of early pioneers from back in the 1980s in recognizing the importance of technology to the development of the economy. Prior to 1980, the government itself had only one computer, and one central department provided computer services for the entire government. That was the era of the mainframe computers. But technology was changing, and decentralized systems using mini-computers was emerging as a powerful alternative to the centralized approach.
As early as 1979, the government had recognized the need for computerization, and a Committee for National Computerization was formed, chaired by the Senior Minister of State for Education. In 1981, the government established a separate statutory board, the National Computer Board or NCB (the precursor of IDA). One of its roles was to set up an information systems department in every government ministry, so that new applications could be developed more quickly. At the same time, the Government also recognized the need to train more computer professionals. The NCB spearheaded this, and formulated a comprehensive manpower development programme to convert mid-career professionals from other vocations into IT specialists, and to launch new courses to turn out graduates in ICT. Thirdly, the NCB also concurrently embarked on a nation-wide programme to encourage the use of computers, and to train people to use them.
This encouraged demand for more computerization, and prepared the necessary manpower to deal with the surge in demand. This combination of both supply-side capability building, and demand stimulation, enabled the ICT market to grow rapidly. Today, the NCB has merged with the telecommunication authority to become an integrated agency, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, or IDA. This new agency promotes and regulates the whole Infocommunications sector.

Throughout our history of ICT development, progress was driven by the vision of using ICT to transform and benefit society. This shared vision has made it possible to coordinate actions across the civil service, to build shared databases, integrated applications, and a national IT infrastructure, so that we can make full use of ICT to enhance national competitiveness. The results of this strategy have borne significant results for the country.
This article was contributed by Sarath Menon, Orissa Associates Pte Ltd, the International Business Group Office in Singapore. For inquiries, contact the local IBG office in Nigeria on
+234 1 4003293, +234 80 2353 0007, email: nosakwe@ibgnigeria.com or ibgnigeria@gmail.com. We answer to your inquiry within 24 hours.

Nigeria: Home to Businesspeople that dare


Nigeria has a bad press, no doubt about it.
Nigerians are involved in corrupt business practices, so are others.
Nigerian cities are unsafe but so are other cities; infact, it is in the character of cities, it depends on the reporting.
Nigeria is a poor country and half its nationals live below a dollar or two a day, well in the words of one of the former presidents, they still have their two square meals and should they choose reverse migration may have three.

These are some of the negative perceptions that have scared away the chicken hearted from Nigeria…a country that is so unregulated that tax evasion is commonplace even among well known multinational companies and money laundering is largely unchecked. Where else in the World can you walk in and the next day, you are on the phone to a Senator.

Welcome to Nigeria, the home of the daring, where a thousand percent return on investment is guaranteed, and thanks to economic liberalization policy of the Government, a foreign investor with 100% ownership of business earns 100% benefit.

Daring people from all walks of life (many without their families) are coming to Nigeria in droves to contribute to its socio-economic development. The irony is that same planes that bring in the expatriates take Nigerians out of the country to distant lands.

Despite various travels around the country, visits to offices and recreational facilities patronized by the expats, yours sincerely was not aware of their number until the Small World event (the small world is a charity event organized by the expatriate community to raise money for Nigerian charities). It gladdened my heart to see many expats mill around the British International School, defied the rain, and paid the otherwise expensive ticket to be part of the annual event.
There is no gainsaying that these expats are engaged in various professions, contributing in various ways in the development of the country and making lots of money in the process. However, one would have expected these developments to translate into good tidings for the country. Nigeria is still off-limits to many businesspeople and in some countries, Nigeria is treated as a pariah nation and its citizens subjected to inhuman treatment. Project Nigeria and efforts by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency and similar agencies have not convinced other nations especially in the West of the seriousness of the country in combating sharp business practices.
Little wonder therefore, daring nations such as China and its Asian Tigers coalition moved swiftly into the country knowing full well the opportunities that are associated with high risk bearing.
Well, if you think only the Asians are reaping bountifully, wait a minute. At the 60th independence anniversary dance by Israelis living and working in Lagos, I had a discussion with one of the celebrants, a Real Estate Developer, who told me in confidence that, his returns on real estate investment has been wonderful. His company is presently seeking land in upscale Ikoyi and Victoria Island for new development. Properties in Lagos and other major cities in Nigeria are quickly snapped before completion by Mortgage bankers and speculators who in turn make super normal profit, thanks to the burgeoning middle class and thriving business environment.

In the health care sector, there is a surge in the number of foreign owned clinics that have positioned to take advantage of the influx of expats that in turn demand high class Medicare, the Nigerian nouveau rich and sophisticated middle class (those that would potentially afford Medicare overseas).

Business opportunities are so many that expats hired to work in the country are resigning to open their own businesses. Companies opened in turn create employment and with regulated tax regime contribute to the economic development of the country. We have had cases of companies that prior to locating in Nigeria had problems with raising finance but now declare profits in billions of Naira. A retail outlet from Southern Africa discarded its flawed business plan when it realized that it broke even in three months and not three years as contained in the plan.

Success stories abound on business turnarounds experienced by companies operating in Nigeria. However, these turnarounds and opportunities are only available to those that dare. While the chicken hearted read the bad news and abide by travel advice handed down by their Foreign Ministries, the daring takes a plunge, ignoring the risks and pitfalls.

The daring understands that Nigeria with its strong 150 million people, an educated middle class, abundant natural resources, undeveloped infrastructure and gateway to the West African sub region is one of the few remaining countries with unlimited opportunities. To make big bucks in Nigeria, you have to dare. If in doubt, ask MTN Telecoms.