Nigeria is the largest economy in West Africa and the second largest in Africa, after South Africa. 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.
This West African country experienced economic liberalisation in 1995 and has had a more open system available to foreign investors since then. There has certainly been a strong push to evolve business practices and to entice more skilled labourers to Nigeria; but as most expats working in Nigeria will admit, there's much improvement still to be had in the business environment.
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.
Corruption is also commonplace in Nigeria, and it’s likely that expats working in Nigeria 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.
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. It won't be long before expats working in Nigeria find themselves a victim of the workforce policy on punctuality, "Hurry Up and Wait". The country very much 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.
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 the service of 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.
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 provision is made to cover these costs when negotiating a contract for relocation to Nigeria. The hardship and safety factors that will inevitably be faced are also important considerations, especially if working in the insecure southern oil-rich Nigerian states or moving to Nigeria with a family. Transport is another matter to take into consideration; traffic congestion in Nigerian cities can be extreme. Expats should therefore consider their proximity of their accommodation to their workplace and children’s school. Many multinationals provide transport for their executive staff in the form of a personal driver, which is a better and safer option than trying to brave the Nigerian traffic alone.
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