Working in Nigeria
Nigeria has overtaken South Africa as the largest economy in Africa and work prospects for highly skilled expats are good, with opportunities available in a variety of sectors.
Nevertheless, despite its wealth, Nigeria remains somewhat of a hardship destination, and expats working in Nigeria will most likely find themselves embittered by the daily struggle, despite the country's continued efforts at reform within the business world.
Job market in Nigeria
Nigeria's economy is still largely chained to its oil sector, which accounts for around 95 percent of its foreign exchange earnings, though the government is starting to take slow steps to diversify its economy. As a result, most expats working in Nigeria are in oil and mining companies or work in the banking, telecommunications and construction industries. Popular expatriate jobs within these sectors include project management, business development, engineering, human resources management, IT systems management and chartered accountancy.
Apart from jobs in these industries, expats who possess exceptional skills in the IT, journalism, communication and health sciences sectors will have more work opportunities available to them. The NGO sector is also a significant employer as several agencies and UN projects use Nigeria as their West African operations base.
Nigeria is notoriously associated with scams that pivot around job offers. For this reason, expats offered a position in Nigeria should confirm that the employer is legitimate by consulting with their local Nigerian embassy, and by attempting to contact expats on the ground.
Employers hiring foreign workers must obtain an Expatriate Quota and a Business Permit from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Only workers coming from other Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) do not need a work permit.
Work culture in Nigeria
With over 250 different ethnic groups and a multitude of foreign-owned multinational companies, expats working in Nigeria will find themselves in a very diverse, and mostly welcoming, business environment. However, adjusting to working life here may require a great deal of flexibility and patience, especially when it comes to dealing with local counterparts.
The corporate structure in Nigeria is hierarchical and managers, and especially elders, are respected. It won't be long before expats find themselves a victim of the workforce policy on punctuality – "hurry up and wait". The country functions at a relaxed pace, even when it comes to doing business, meaning that a meeting scheduled for 10am may very well only happen at 3pm, if at all. Prepare accordingly and learn to be as flexible as possible.
Challenges of working in Nigeria
Corruption is commonplace in Nigeria, and it’s likely that expats working there will be exposed to this at one point or another, particularly when negotiating business deals or even jockeying for work contracts. Connections with ministers and government officials are all-important and readily dictate levels of success or failure.
Those lured to work in Nigeria for high salaries should weigh this against the high cost of living, particularly when it comes to accommodation, healthcare and schooling, and should ensure that provisions are made to cover these costs when negotiating a contract for relocation to Nigeria.
Hardship and safety factors are particularly important considerations if working in the insecure and volatile Niger Delta or the northern areas of the country, especially if moving to Nigeria with a family.