World View: Focus on Nigeria
By Lexi Rifaat, Global Marketing Coordinator, Aperian Global
The history of what is now Nigeria goes back thousands of years, with evidence indicating that people have lived in this area of Africa since at least 9,000 B.C. Since gaining its independence from Great Britain in 1960, Nigeria has been ruled by a series of military coups interrupted by brief periods of democratic rule. Now a young democracy with a very recent constitution, Nigerians are still dealing with many years of political and social confusion.
Education, and higher education in particular, is held in great regard in Nigeria. In social and professional contexts, displaying and acknowledging degrees and credentials are important ways of showing mutual respect. Wealthier Nigerians are often well educated, with degrees from many foreign universities.
Training in Nigeria
Because education is highly valued, many Nigerians are interested in training and eager to learn. They generally have high regard for foreign trainers and consultants who have expertise in various subjects.
Nigerians respond well to an interactive training style where students are encouraged to comment and ask questions. In a more formal situation with a larger audience, introductions with lengthy expressions of gratitude are commonplace, especially if people of high status are present. Also in this scenario, junior employees may be more reluctant to speak up. However, in less formal settings, trainers can expect a more free-flowing style with active participation by their Nigerian students.
Although Nigerians in business generally have a good command of English, when presenting to a Nigerian audience, keep in mind that there are many different accents, some of which may be difficult to understand. The use of visual aids can help effectively communicate your point and often is appreciated. PowerPoint presentations are widely accepted in business settings in Nigeria.
Nigerian society is status oriented. Such factors as one’s title, age, status, and credentials are key in determining that person’s place within a given hierarchy. The culture has a strong emphasis on formality, protocol, and courtesy, so it is important to treat everyone—especially senior-level people—with respect. This includes using honorary and polite titles, as well as professional titles.
Communication and Building Relationships
The influence of a person’s family and tribe is important in Nigerian culture, so there tends to be a great deal of emphasis on personal relationships. Showing an interest in your Nigerian counterparts and their personal lives is important in developing good relationships and trust between one another.
As a result of being a relationship-oriented culture, much information already is known about the people with whom one lives and works, so communication may rely more heavily on context with minimal verbal information exchanged. Also, when talking with a foreign business associate, Nigerians may be more indirect in their communication, putting emphasis on what someone wants to hear rather than what they believe to be true. Paying attention to nonverbal cues and situational factors such as a person’s level of enthusiasm may help determine whether a response is merely polite or sincerely meant.
Nigerians have a strong sense of loyalty to their group as a whole and to its individual members. Patience and persistence are key ingredients in establishing long-term credibility and trust.
- Take an interactive approach to all training programs by encouraging participation.
- English-language trainers should keep in mind that accents can be tricky for everyone, so be patient and clarify often to ensure understanding. Remember to slow down when speaking, avoid idioms, and repeat key points.
- Use visual aids during your presentation and supply written material prior to the meeting.
Lexi Rifaat is the Global Marketing coordinator at Aperian Global (http://www.aperianglobal.com) and is based in San Francisco, CA. Content from this article was drawn from Aperian Global’s Web tool, GlobeSmart, which contains information on how to conduct business in more than 65 countries.