I am now over a week into my fellowship. Things have been slow moving so far, but I’ve been learning a lot. I’ve yet to receive the Vital Voices survey that I will spend much of the summer administering to Wimbiz members, so most of my work in the past few days has concentrated on expanding the role of social networking in Wimbiz’s advocacy efforts. See the new Wimbiz Flickr and Twitter pages to get an idea of what I’ve done so far!
Although I have yet to formally interaction with the Nigerian business women that compose Wimbiz, I’ve already gotten quite a frightening impression of how difficult it must be to run a business here, particularly as a result of the following:
The “go-slow” that perpetual clogs up all major roadways in Lagos brings standard big-city-congestion to epic proportions. During the past week, I’ve spent up to 1 hour traveling a distance of less than 2 miles. The upside is that while you wait for the hold-up to clear, you could do your weekly grocery shopping or refurnish your apartment based on the wide array of products offered by vendors walking through traffic or those that who have smartly setup shop along the road. Lagosian could buy everything from fruit to a new love seat without even leaving the car during their morning commute!
What makes Lagos traffic so bad, you might ask? There are several explanations:
- As sub-Saharan Africa’s most populous city, Lagos is very densely populated.
- While there are major construction projects underway, the condition of most roads remain poor.
- The city lacks a mass transit system.
All of these factors make navigating through the city to accomplish the simplest of tasks, an incredibly frustrating and time-consuming endeavor.
Lagos has long been Nigeria’s commercial and economic capital, even after State Administrative bodies moved to Abuja in 1991. Yet local residents and business owners cannot rely on the State to provide the most basic of services. NEPA (the National Electric Power Authority) rarely provides more than 8-12 hours of electricity per day. The rest of the time, Lagosians most either reply upon generators for electricity or sit in the dark. For Wimbiz’s modest 3 room office, the cost of using a generator to subsides the electricity provided by the State can reach up to $80-$90 per week, plus generator maintenance fees. When one takes into account the productivity lost each time an unexpected power outage wipes unsaved work off of office computers, the costs soar even higher.
These are just two of the major obstacles that I’ve come in direct contact with in my short time here, there are many more. In fact, the World Bank recently identified a whole host of government regulations that constrain business activity here in Nigeria in Doing Business Nigeria 2010: Reforming Through Difficult Times, an annual publication that presents quantitative indicators on business regulations across 183 economies. According to this report, Nigeria ranks 125th in Ease of Doing Business, approximately 30 positions after Ghana and 50 before Benin. Unsurprisingly, Singapore ranks first.
It bears mention that all of the above were difficulties I well anticipated. (This is my 4th stay in Nigeria in the past 4 years.) But these annoyances take on a whole new life force when experienced through the eyes of a local worker. Hopefully, once I start to administer the baseline member survey and profile Wimbiz success stories later this week, I’ll have a better idea of just how one overcomes the many obstacles to doing business in Nigeria.
**Personal highlight of the week: taking a horseback riding lesson on Lekki beach Saturday afternoon 🙂
Posted By Abisola Adekoya
Posted Jun 14th, 2010