Meeting Nigeria’s challenges with courage and innovation

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, formerly the German Foreign Minister and now the Federal President, called Nigeria the ‘powerhouse of Africa’ when he visited the country a few years ago. He was referring not only to its large population and abundant resources, but also to the many opportunities and the great business potential lying dormant there. Africa’s most populous country also has economic, social and environmental challenges to tackle, however. As a result, a long-term commitment and forward-looking business ideas are rapidly gaining momentum.

Nigeria – a market of the future in Africa

In addition to South Africa and Ghana, the West African country Nigeria is one of Africa’s main markets of the future. While many European companies and investors are still hesitant about investing there, many business-minded Nigerians see the country’s problems as an opportunity and as an incentive for innovation. The technology start-up Interswitch is a good example. It was founded in Nigeria but now operates throughout Africa. The company offers various digital payment options and is tipped to become Africa’s first ‘unicorn’, in other words a start-up valued at over $1 billion.

Overcoming the resource curse and diversifying

The technology and digitalisation sectors are currently attracting a large number of entrepreneurs setting up new businesses, as reflected in the very vibrant start-up scene in these sectors – not only in Lagos, a metropolis of 20 million people, but also in cities such as Abuja, Enugu, Kano, Ogun and Port Harcourt. Other sectors also harbour potential for people with an entrepreneurial spirit. The fact that the government is devoting considerable effort to fostering innovation, diversifying the economy and manufacturing more products in the country itself is another source of hope, not least as a way of reducing the heavy dependence on oil and the negative impacts of oil price fluctuations.

Scoring high with experience from Germany

Many Nigerians who live abroad and who want to realise a good business idea in Nigeria have an edge over businesspeople from other countries – they are familiar with the country and its people, a big advantage in a vibrant, complex country like Nigeria. Nigerians living in Germany can also draw on the expertise and valuable experience acquired during their stay abroad. Business Ideas for Development aims to assist Nigerians living in Germany who have a good business idea in setting up a company in Nigeria.

Story of an entrepreneur

Donald Umunna

Starting a business in Nigeria

After spending several years in Germany, Donald Umunna decided to return to Nigeria and start a new chapter in his life – as an entrepreneur. In the past three years, Umunna, a trained electrical engineer and expert on energy systems, has already set up two companies in Nigeria. His energy consulting firm Savidon Energy Services advises clients such as the Nigerian Ministry of Power and provides training for staff in the energy sector in several African countries. Umunna recently set up the career platform Next Professionals Network with his second firm. The platform is already being used by more than 50,000 people in Africa and elsewhere. As Umunna explains: ‘Nigeria is a very dynamic country with huge potential. However, there are a range of problems to be solved before this potential can really be harnessed. As an entrepreneur in Nigeria, you really have to stick to your convictions and not stray from your course. On no account should you allow yourself to be distracted by what people in other parts of the world think about Nigeria.’

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