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Foloker Folarin-Coker wants to take her Nigerian label global

Comments (0) Africa

Foloker Folarin-Coker is not a name that is as famous as some within the world of fashion, but she has created an African fashion label that has not only proved hugely popular within the continent, but has begun to attract attention from further afield. Folarin-Coker has already achieved many firsts for an African fashion designer, and is determined to build her label into something even greater.

Self-taught Success

Foloker Folarin-Coker was born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1974, and at a young age she went to Switzerland and the UK in order to further her education. Folarin-Coker eventually graduated with a master’s degree in petroleum law, and returned to Nigeria in 1996. While her education seemed to be leading to a career in law, her real passion was in fashion, and despite having no background in the competitive industry, she created a small collection of her own designs upon her return home.

By 1998, Folarin-Coker had launched her label, Tiffany Amber, and the label has gone on to become one of Nigeria’s most popular fashion brands. The label’s domestic success led to 4 stand-alone stores in Lagos and Abuja, and Folarin-Coker became the first winner of the “Designer of the Year” award at African Fashion Week in 2009.

However, it is not just in the domestic market in which the Tiffany Amber line has proved popular, as Folarin-Coker was invited to showcase her designs at the New York Fashion Week in 2008. Her collection was met with such praise that she was invited back the following week, becoming the first ever African designer to present a range twice at the prestigious event.

Continued Expansion

Folarin-Coker continued to innovate after her breakthrough into international recognition, and in 2008 she launched two new ranges within her company. TAN by Tiffany Amber is a diffusion line that was launched alongside Folake Folarin, which is a couture line

In 2013, Forbes magazine listed Folake-Folarin as one of Africa’s 20 Young Power Women, and by 2014, the self-taught designer had staged more than 60 fashion shows at home and abroad.

Another line, Tiffany Amber Living, was added to her burgeoning portfolio, and Folarin-Coker says that her success was based on the principle of reinvention without changing the core of the brand. The designer explained, “Continuously reinvent yourself but don’t change the DNA of the brand’ –that’s what I believe, everyone knowing what the Tiffany Amber look is, is what has kept us.”

As the designs continue to prove popular and her range continues to grow, Folarin-Coker is determined to create a brand that remains iconic long after she is no longer around. She has said that her ethos is to work for the future as opposed to the present, and she has a firm belief in the talent within the Nigerian fashion industry.

As she continues to look forwards, Folarin-Coker says that her goal is to “have a presence all over Africa and ultimately every major city of the world.” Only time will tell whether these grand designs for the future are achieved, but thus far her goals have certainly been met with success.

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Nigeria’s President continues to divide opinions

Comments (0) Africa, Politics

Muhammadu Buhari

When Muhammadu Buhari was elected as Nigerian President in March 2015; it was the culmination of a long and controversial involvement in Nigerian politics. While many have criticized his record on human rights, others have praised his seemingly incorruptible nature, and efforts to battle domestic terrorism. As recent health concerns have yet to be fully abated, the future of the President remains uncertain.

A history of political struggle

Muhammadu Buhari was born on December 17th 1942, in Daura, Katsina State, to a large family in which he was the 23rd child. By the age of 19, Buhari had joined the military, and within one year he had been sent to the UK for officer training. Buhari returned to Nigeria in 1963 and from here, until his election in 2015, he was rarely away from the political struggles within the country.

After serving the government in the Nigerian Civil War, Buhari was involved in the 1966 Counter Coup, before supporting the 1975 Coup that briefly led to him taking on nonmilitary roles within the new government.

But it is the 1983 Coup, that he led, which threw him into the limelight. Buhari took power from January 1984 until August 1985, in which time he led a fierce stamp down on political corruption, indiscipline and rising crime. While the measures were seen by many as necessary for economic reform, widespread human rights abuses were reported, and press freedom was severely curtailed.

Buhari’s brief stint in power came to an end in 1985, when he was overthrown and put into detention for 3 years. However, his ambitions as a leader saw him return to politics with a failed Presidential bid in 2003, followed by two more attempts at gaining democratic election in 2007 and 2011.

Legitimacy and the Future

Buhari finally succeeded in becoming the democratically elected President in March 2015, when Nigeria elected him to replace incumbent leader, Goodluck Jonathon. Buhari’s commitment to breaking the cycle of corruption within Nigerian politics was almost immediately displayed when he had former national security advisor, Sambo Dasuki, arrested for embezzling $2 billion worth of funds that were assigned for the battle with Boko Haram.

Several other senior government figures have also found themselves in jail, as Buhari looks to cut out the rot that he feels has hampered Nigerian progress for too long. However, this has echoes of similar moves that he made in his brief run of power in the 1980’s, and the world’s leaders are unlikely to be supportive of the other measures that Buhari employed at the time, including executions for drug users, and public floggings for people who did not line up at bus stops in an orderly fashion.

Thus far, none of the obvious abuses of the past have manifested themselves under Buhari’s new leadership, and there has been marked improvement in the security in Nigeria’s north-eastern region, which has borne the brunt of much of the nation’s Islamic extremism.

However, a recession hit Nigeria soon after Buhari’s electoral triumph, and Islamist forces pushed out of the north-east have begun to increase attacks within the nation’s oil rich, Niger Delta region. Buhari has also faced criticism over his recognition of women in government, as his cabinet is only 16% female, compared with the previous regime’s 31%.

Major concerns over Buhari’s health

Most recently, there have been major concerns over Buhari’s health, and whether he would be capable of continuing in power. In January of this year, Buhari traveled to the UK for treatment on an unspecified condition, and remained there for 7 weeks, before returning to Nigeria in March. Buhari then returned to London for more treatment on May 7th, and thus far has not gone back to his nation.

Although his wife has assured concerned Nigerians that he is recovering well, there is a growing demand in Nigeria for him to be declared unfit, and while vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, has been in control during Buhari’s absence, there are several other potential leaders looking for their chance to take the top post.

Buhari is a man who has fought in wars, coups and survived an assassination attempt in 2014; so regardless of ones opinion on his policies, it cannot be said that he is easily broken. The future of his leadership looks uncertain, but if he is physically capable, then we can be assured he is likely to do his utmost to retain his position.

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Africa gets its first smartphone manufacturing facility in Nigeria

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While mobile phone penetration has been rapidly increasing throughout Africa for several years, until now, all the smartphones sold on the continent were imported from overseas. However, as AfriOne opens up its first smartphone production factory on the continent, the hope is that the flourishing technology can provide greater employment opportunities for the next generation.

The First in Africa

Mobile phones have become an integral part of life for many people, and the proliferation across Africa has increased rapidly in recent years. In Nigeria, the market penetration has surged and investments in the telecoms sector skyrocketed by 6400% in the past 4 years. With such growth, it is no surprise that Africa’s first smartphone production unit has found its home in Nigeria.

The company AfriOne has established the factory in Nigeria’s Lagos Free Zone with an initial investment of $10 million. The plant will begin producing 120,000 units per month; however the company is confident that the facility will eventually produce as many as 300,000 products per month.

The new range of smartphones will cost between $92 and $108 and are aimed at Nigeria’s middle income consumers. AfriOne’s parent company, Contec Global, intends to open up a second production unit as it continues its expansion.

The investment seeks to capitalize on the huge expansion in e-commerce within the region. E-commerce is predicted to account for 10% of all retail sales in Nigeria by 2025, and consultant group McKinsey estimates it could be producing $75 billion in annual revenue by this time.

The 20,000 square foot production facility includes a Research & Development (R&D) department and testing laboratories. Mr. Sahih Berry, AfriOne’s Founder and CEO, said that the company has a goal to “democratize technology, by offering affordable innovations through our product offerings and removing barriers deterring the large scale adoption of advanced technology in Nigeria.”

By Nigerians, For Nigerians

The unveiling of a facility such as AfriOne’s new smartphone production unit offers immediate job opportunities as well as the obvious increase in options for the Nigerian consumer. AfriOne’s Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Sandeep Natu, told the press that the factory will initially employ around 500 people. Both the company and government officials are hopeful that the long term benefits of the operation will be more far-reaching.

Contec Global’s Managing Director, Mr. Roheen Berry, said that the company is dedicated to increasing opportunities for young Nigerians through a policy of Corporate Social Responsibility.

Mr. Berry explained that the facility will have various training programs for young men and women working at AfriOne, and added, “We are tangibly investing in Nigeria’s future through AfriOne, while providing a valuable skill set to its workforce that will facilitate continued innovation in Nigeria’s emerging, dynamic and robust market.”

The Nigerian government believes that the venture will not only create immediate employment opportunities, but will help foster a culture of innovation and technology within Lagos that could lead to greater long term growth. Lagos State Governor, Akinwumi Ambode, announced the plant’s opening at a press conference in which he expressed hope that this would lead to the city of Lagos create a 24-hour economy.

Mr. Ambode also discussed AfriOne’s commitment to working with a local college, Lagos State Polytechnic, for the maintenance and repair of mobile devices. He said, “The collaboration with Afrione will be of immense benefits to these students and the State.”

The factory promises to offer these students practical experience within the field of telecommunications and mobile technology, thus spreading the potential impact on future job creation far beyond the direct employment within the plant.

Lagos State Government already had a youth training initiative in place, known as the Empowerment Trust Fund, and Mr. Ambode believes that, “AfriOne’s collaboration will complement efforts by the Lagos State government in ensuring that these youths are empowered.”

Nigeria currently has around 154 million mobile phone users, and e-commerce and mobile banking are both rapidly growing sectors within the West African nation. As these markets continue to grow and attract investment, a domestic center for the production of the medium needed to access these fields may seem long overdue. AfriOne assured press that the phones would use cutting edge technology and would come with popular African apps for banking and farming already installed.

AfriOne will be looking to expand its production base quickly, and the local government hopes that further development provides an ongoing boost to economic growth and employment.

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Africa’s major central banks embarking on policy easing cycle ride

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters

By Vuyani Ndaba

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Africa’s major central banks are entering an easing cycle as they try to stimulate growth after months of drought, austerity drives and confidence issues across the continent, a Reuters poll found on Thursday.

Much of southern and eastern Africa is still recovering after an El Niño-related drought wilted crops last year. Poor business confidence in South Africa and foreign exchange restrictions in Nigeria have also hampered growth.

“We expect that African monetary policy is entering a widespread and protracted period of policy easing. This will provide a boost to growth,” said John Ashbourne, Africa analyst at Capital Economics.

Ghana, which agreed a three-year fiscal discipline deal with the International Monetary Fund in exchange for aid in 2015, cut 100 basis points from its benchmark interest rate in May and is expected to do the same on Monday, putting it at 21.50 percent.

Medians in the poll predict South Africa will make a first quarter trim of 25 basis points to 6.75 percent and while Kenya will hold steady on Monday it is expected to cut 100 basis points to 9.00 percent in the second quarter of next year.

Nigeria is expected to hold rates at 14.0 percent on Tuesday, and through this year, but will reduce borrowing costs by 175 basis points across 2018.

BATTERED CONFIDENCE CHIPS AT GROWTH

Aly-Khan Satchu, CEO of Nairobi-based Rich Management said policymakers in Africa’s biggest economies have lost credibility and it would be difficult to regain that.

To try to reduce demand for dollars, Nigeria banned the importing of 41 items, but that only fuelled the gap between the official and black market rates for its naira currency.

The policy, alongside a commodity price slump that hurt oil exports, has since 2015 forced its central bank to hike the benchmark rate 300 basis points to 14 percent as it tried to deal with much faster inflation and restore the currency’s strength.

Nigeria — Africa’s biggest economy — fell into recession for the first time in 25 years in 2016 but is expected to turn in growth of 1.0 percent this year and 2.5 percent the following.

South Africa is expected to expand 0.7 percent this year after escaping a six-month recession last quarter that was partly due to weak confidence and drought.

Confidence in South Africa’s economy has been sapped by the chopping and changing of finance ministers four time since the end of 2015 by President Jacob Zuma. The last change in March triggered a credit rating downgrade to “junk” status.

Kenya is expected to grow 5.2 percent this year and 5.9 percent next.

Growth slowed to 4.7 percent in the first quarter, hit by a credit slow down after authorities late last year capped the interest banks could charge on loans.

However, Ghana is expected to fare better than most, growing 6.1 and 6.8 percent in 2017 and 2018 respectively, supported by the IMF programme, recovering from 3.5 percent last year.

On Tuesday, President Nana Akufo-Addo said Ghana would not extend its three-year aid programme with the IMF beyond April 2018, but the fund urged it to do so to allow time to complete the programme’s goals.

 

 

(Editing by Jonathan Cable/Jeremy Gaunt)

 

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Holcim to wind up Nigerian company next month

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters

LAGOS (Reuters) – Holcim Nigeria plans to pass a resolution next month to dissolve the company after its Swiss-based parent firm merged with French rival Lafarge two years ago, the cement maker said on Tuesday.

Holcim Nigeria is now part of Lafarge Africa following a mega-merger in 2015 to create the world’s biggest cement maker LafargeHolcim.

LafargeHolcim Chairman Beat Hess has said the company was still adjusting its structures in big markets where both Lafarge and Holcim are present following the merger.

The cement maker said it will present the final accounts of Holcim Nigeria as part of the voluntary winding up process at a meeting of shareholders on Aug. 21.

Lafarge Africa expects to generate cost saving synergies of 9 billion naira ($46 million) by 2018 in Nigeria, following the merger, it has said.

The Nigeria-based business of the Franco-Swiss cement group is in the market to raise 140 billion naira in fresh equity and convert some loans into shares as part of a planned rights issue after it reported losses last year.

LafargeHolcim has said it will take part in a capital increase of the Nigerian unit to avoid diluting its nearly 73 percent stake, in a move which would also help simplify the ownership structure in Nigeria.

 

(Reporting by Chijioke Ohuocha, editing by David Evans)

 

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Etisalat Nigeria’s new CEO targets profit after regulator rescue

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters

By Chijioke Ohuocha

LAGOS (Reuters) – Etisalat Nigeria is focused on getting the telecoms group back on track to make a profit after it was saved from collapse, while working on the paperwork to eventually raise new capital.

“Our mandate is to make sure the business runs as profitably as it can. What is most important now is to … ensure that the business runs and meets its obligations,” the company’s new chief executive Boye Olusanya told Reuters on Tuesday.

Nigerian regulators intervened last week to save Etisalat Nigeria after talks with its lenders to renegotiate a $1.2 billion loan from 2013 with 13 local lenders failed.

Etisalat Nigeria has 20 million subscribers, making it the country’s number four mobile operator with a 14 percent market share. South Africa’s MTN has 47 percent, Globacom 20 percent and Airtel – a subsidiary of India’s Bharti Airtel – 19 percent.

“Once we’ve gotten ourselves to where certain decisions are made and the structure and form of the business is formed then maybe we would look at a capital raising structure that would be suitable for the nature of how the business will be run,” the new CEO said in an interview in his offices.

Olusanya, who took over as CEO of Etisalat Nigeria following the appointment of a new board led by Nigeria’s central bank, said that while the business could run without an immediate recapitalisation, he would not rule one out completely.

“Obviously if its possible to do it tomorrow we will do it, because that enhances the ability of this business to roll-out quickly, to get more subscribers, which is what everybody wants,” he added.

UAE’s Etisalat, which had a 45 percent stake in the Nigerian business, has said its exposure to Etisalat Nigeria related to services worth 191 million UAE dirhams ($52 million).

In June, Etisalat said it had been ordered to transfer its shares to a loan trustee after debt talks failed.

“We’re still in negotiations with Etisalat over the use of the brand name,” Olusanya said, adding that the technical service agreement with Etisalat covered the brand name but the telecoms company was run by Nigerians.

The former Celtel executive said he has plans in place to rename the company if needed after UAE’s Etisalat said it had terminated a management agreement and given its one-time Nigerian business time to phase out the brand.

All UAE shareholders in Etisalat Nigeria, including state-owned investment fund Mubadala, had exited the company and left the board and management, Hatem Dowidar, CEO of Etisalat International, told Reuters.

 

(Editing by Alexander Smith)

 

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Nigerian exchange bureau head urges rate unification

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By Oludare Mayowa

LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigeria’s central bank must step up efforts to unify the country’s multiple exchange rates to sustain gains in the local currency over the last few months, the head of the country’s exchange bureaus said.

Africa’s biggest economy has at least six exchange rates which include one for Muslim pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia, a retail rate set by licensed exchange bureaus, and a rate for foreign travel and school fees, in addition to the official and black market rates.

Nigeria is battling a currency crisis brought on by low oil prices which tipped its economy into recession and created chronic dollar shortages. It wants to attract foreign investors and strengthen its currency to ward off inflation.

The central bank has been intervening on the official market in the last few weeks to try to narrow the spread between rates on the official market and black market – where the local currency trades around 30 percent weaker. It has sold about $5 billion since February.

The bank opened a currency window in April for investors to trade the naira at rates set freely between buyers and sellers, hoping to increase the amount of dollars available in Nigeria.

“The gradual convergence of the exchange rate on both black market and investor forex window is an opportunity for the central bank to unify rate in all segments of the forex market,” Aminu Gwadabe, president of the country’s Association of Bureaux De Change Operators told Reuters late on Thursday.

Gwadabe said a move to eliminate multiple rates would restore investors’ confidence in the economy and boost offshore dollar inflows, further strengthening the naira.

Central bank spokesman Isaac Okorafor said the regulator would sustain its current efforts to improve dollar liquidity in the market until it was able to achieve currency rate convergence.

The naira was quoted at 365 to the dollar on the black market on Friday, while the local currency was quoted at 372.70 per dollar at the investor window.

The local bourse rose to a two-year high on Wednesday as investors snapped up Nigerian stocks after MSCI increased the country’s weighting in its frontier market index.

Nigeria’s forex reserves grew to around $30.22 billion by June, from $26.44 billion a year ago, as oil production and oil price stabilise in the wake of OPEC and non-OPEC oil output cut deal, analysts have said.

 

(Editing by Alexis Akwagyiram and Toby Chopra)

 

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Nigeria to sell 140 bln naira bonds on June 21 – debt office

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters

LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigeria plans to auction 140 billion naira ($460 million) in bonds on June 21, the Debt Management Office said on Friday.

The debt office will sell 40 billion naira of bonds due in 2021 and 50 billion naira each of bonds due in 2027 and in 2037, using a Dutch auction system.

Settlement is expected the day after the sale. The bonds are re-openings of previous issues.

The central bank on Wednesday announced plans to sell 133.24 billion naira worth of Treasury bills at an auction next week.

Nigeria, which has Africa’s biggest economy, issues sovereign bonds each month to help fund its budget deficit, support the local debt market and maintain a benchmark for companies to follow.

The West African country expects a budget deficit of 2.36 trillion naira this year as it tries to spend its way out of a recession. It expects to raise money to cover more than half the deficit from the local market.

It has a series of debt issues lined up including a $300 million diaspora bond and a 100 billion naira debut domestic sukuk this month.

($1 = 304.68 naira)

 

(Reporting by Oludare Mayowa; editing by Alexis Akwagyiram)

 

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Nigerian acting president to sign budget on Monday

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria’s acting president will sign the 2017 budget into law later on Monday, one of his aides told Reuters, as Abuja plans record spending to pull Africa’s biggest economy out of recession.

The OPEC member has been in recession since last year, largely due to low oil prices and militant attacks on the country’s Niger Delta energy facilities. Oil sales usually bring in two-thirds of the government’s revenue.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is standing in for President Muhammadu Buhari, who has been on medical leave in Britain since May 7, his second prolonged absence this year. Buhari’s medical condition is unclear.

“The acting president will be signing the budget today,” the presidency aide said.

President Buhari issued a statement saying it was in the interest of the country for Osinbajo to sign the budget into law.

Lawmakers last month passed the record 7.44 trillion naira ($23.6 billion) budget plan, which is bigger than the 7.298 trillion naira draft spending plan submitted by Buhari in December.

Two other presidency sources who did not want to be named also said the budget would be signed on Monday.

Sources said Osinbajo was at an event in the southeastern state of Anambra on Monday and would fly back to Abuja for the budget signing ceremony later in the day.

Last year’s budget, passed in May 2016, was delayed for months due to disagreements between lawmakers and the presidency over spending plans that cut the supply of government money and deepened the economic crisis.

Buhari said in his statement, signed by his spokesman Garba Shehu, that the 2018 budget proposal will be submitted by October and parliament will conclude the process by December so the country can return to a normal budget cycle from next year.

 

(Reporting by Felix Onuah and Camillus Eboh; Writing by Ulf Laessing and Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

 

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Starting up in Nigeria: a challenging environment

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

Nigeria startups

Nigeria has massive potential for innovative tech start-ups, although there are numerous obstacles in their way.

While it is officially Africa’s biggest economy, the Nigerian nation is struggling. Talk of a recession has darkened the horizon for over a year. The slump of global oil prices has been a hammer blow to the country, while terrorism and oil refinery problems have worsened the situation. Nigeria is currently beholden to oil for 70% of its revenues; it must rebalance its economy to unbind itself from market volatility. The country realizes this, and is making an effort to diversify its revenue sources. Many are starting to look toward innovative start-ups to take the country in a new direction.

Big tech potential in Nigeria, Konga leads the way

The conditions in Nigeria are rife for daring tech start-ups to create new solutions and drive growth. Unlike other regions on the continent, Nigeria has high rates of mobile penetration with approximately 75% percent of its 175 million people using mobile phones and data services, making it the largest mobile market in Africa. However, this market is currently woefully underexploited. According to a 2013 report by consultancy firm McKinsey, only 1.5% of the country’s $500 billion economy took place online. This void presents a glaring opportunity for tech start-ups to create revolutionary new services.

Konga, is one such start-up that seized the initiative. Launched in 2012, Konga was an early pioneer in Nigeria’s tech space, offering online retail services. Today the company is thriving, offering a range of original solutions, which have connected all manner of suppliers and manufacturers to consumers across the country. Other innovators are also following Konga’s lead, carving out their own niche in Nigeria. However for every success, many start-ups struggle to overcome barriers in their way.

Unusual obstacles: reluctance and electricity

The issues facing start-ups vary. Some are complicated while some are frustratingly mundane. One simple yet formidable roadblock that start-ups face is the availability of electricity. For a new business trying to carve its own niche in the ecommerce space, a reliable energy supply is essential. However, when energy supply is unreliable, as it often is in Nigeria, a start-up has to generate its own power and purchase alternative fuel sources in order to consistently operate. Ultimately, this can lead to greatly increased costs which squeeze margins, snuffing the life out of promising but cash-strapped startup ventures.

KongaPay launch

KongaPay launch

On the whole, Nigerians are still very wary about parting with their money over the internet, for fear of their capital or financial information being stolen. This paranoia is not entirely without merit, as Nigeria is a hotspot for online scamming and phishing schemes. In order to accommodate these fears, some successful start-ups such as Konga and Jumia have built cash-only payment methods into their business. Konga has also recently created a payment system called KongaPay whereby money is held securely until orders are delivered. Despite these efforts, reticence remains. While some start-ups have survived, this reluctance has certainly deterred some consumers from using new services, reducing the customer base that new start-ups rely on for growth. Tech firms must realize they need to foster a safe and reliable online payment environment, and convince the masses to use it.

Investment is needed, although so is caution

New accelerator programs sponsored by large foreign entities are helping more start-ups get off the ground, especially in the Fintech space. However, Nigerian banks aren’t traditionally interested in providing loans to risky start-up ventures, and encourage start-ups to attract private equity investors instead. Fortunately, foreign private equity is really starting to pick up in Africa, with more and more investors willing to take a punt on a good idea. Regrettably, these investors sometimes undervalue Nigerian enterprises, and strong-arm inexperienced Nigerians into unfavorable deals.

Other issues such as the country’s poor logistics system can bring woe to start-ups who rely on delivering a physical product. Sometimes the lack of skills in critical areas such as accounting and marketing can kill a promising tech business before it can get off the ground. In other instances, eager entrepreneurs try to make an idea that has worked elsewhere work in Nigeria; without analysis and adaptation this often leads to the graveyard.

A veritable gauntlet of obstacles faces Nigerian start-ups. However, those that have survived are serving as a shining example to those that wish to follow. Success is more likely if a fledgling firm is aware of the pitfalls ahead, provided they have a great idea, a solid business plan and the business acumen to make it all come together.

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