Nigeria has one of the biggest populations in the entire world, with more than 250 ethnic groups amongst its population, all influencing their cultural practices. The keys to successful business interactions in Nigeria are adaptability, flexibility and patience. Establishing personal relationships is important with the introductory section of meetings often lasting more than an hour.
- Primary Contact: While making appointments and announcing your meetings well in advance is quite important, due to the fact that Nigerian business culture is oriented more towards personal relationships and trust is highly sought, referrals are much more likely to get you in contact with your target decision-makers. People are much more willing to connect with you when you are introduced to them by someone that they already know and trust. Moving forward, try to get a mutual friend or colleague to make an introduction on your behalf.
- Punctuality: Nigerians tend to be quite casual about meeting times, as there are quite a few impediments that might affect it such as the incredibly heavy traffic. However, you should always respect the meeting times as much as possible as some of them tend to be quite professional and respect all meeting times.
- Greetings: When you have an in-person meeting, try to lead with a cordial, but not too aggressive, handshake and pay close attention to the hierarchal rules, as the person’s age and status should inform your actions.
- Gifting: Gift giving in Nigeria is expected when visiting someone’s home, but less so in business culture. However, a gift will always be appreciated in a business context as long as it is not too extravagant. Gifts should be given with only the right hand, or with both hands. Never give a gift with only the left hand, as within their culture, this is considered unclean.
- Dress-Code: It is important to dress well in Nigeria as the way you are dressed will signal your relative level of importance. Men should wear dark suits and ties and women should wear dark, demure business-style suits.
- Business Cards: Make sure you have your business card handy. Business cards are very important in Nigeria – some people will not take you seriously if you don’t have a professional business card. So make sure to exchange business cards to establish credibility before advancing your discussion.
- Business Meetings: The most effective way to communicate with Nigerian professionals is through in-person meetings, as face-to-face meetings are the most efficient way to vet a potential business partner and assess their level of professionalism. Don’t be too surprised if you call a Nigerian professional to talk business over the phone only to have them request that you come to their office to continue the discussion. It’s clear that Nigerian business people believe that if important matters need to be discussed, then you will make the trip to their office to discuss them even if the meeting is only 15 minutes long.
In conclusion, the most important attribute in Nigerian business culture is definitely trust. Pay attention to the norms, social cues and customs and you will be able to maintain long lasting professional relationships with your Nigerian counterparts.
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