When we told American friends we had been invited to go to Nigeria, most said: “Try not to catch ebola.” This, as you will see, summed up beautifully a misconception in the United States (and elsewhere, we’re sure) about Africa in general and Nigeria in particular: many people are not well informed about Africa.
Ebola’s epicenter is at least a thousand miles west of Nigeria, in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Cote d’Ivoire shares a border with Liberia, has a thriving economy, and there has been not a peep about ebola even in the country next door to the epidemic.
Other Facts About Nigeria
We learned a lot more on our trip, which was purposed by introductions to some prominent successful local businessmen there. Many Nigerians proudly told us that Nigeria now boasts the largest economy in Africa. But they import almost everything. The country does still lack a lot of infrastructure, and there is a small manufacturing base.
Many Nigerians are painfully aware that outsiders think the country’s biggest export is internet scams. That conclusion is, we think, unfair to a country which has the potential to be a dominant force in the region. Moreover, writing off Nigeria in that way is probably not even in one’s own business interests, as we shall explain.
China sells a lot to Nigeria. However, we frequently heard that there is a great demand for products originating in the United States, which has a good reputation for quality products. This led to an obvious question to the importers we met: what happens when you try to buy from American suppliers. All too often, the answer was: nothing. We learned that many American businesses treated Nigerian customers with great skepticism, and had concerns that any payments for shipments might not be secure. Since many American businesses have had little experience shipping overseas, perhaps their concerns are understandable.
Selling Safely into Nigeria
(and Elsewhere in Africa)
It can be done. It requires either that you have the skills in your business to know exactly what to do with incoming letters of credit, or you need to engage someone who can handle that task for you. The third option is to do neither, and leave a
robust and growing market to alert competitors.
We, along with our partners, can now provide the means of handling many LC’s coming from banks in Nigeria and other African countries, making certain that the recipient has a secured payment against the provision of shipping documents. As always, the deal has to begin with someone on the buyer’s side who has the capital to do the deal. With that, we can, in most cases, get the deal the rest of the way home, taking care to secure the LC payments. and helping suppliers get comfortable with their means of payment.
There are quite a few spots in the developed world where businesses don’t stray outside their national boundaries, sometimes by preference, sometimes by banking limitations, as not every bank has the same international skills. If you know how to manage the risks properly, the rewards can be substantial.
Contact us if the idea appeals and you can use some help capturing new markets.