Light-hearted anecdotes from Lagos & Accra
Moving back to Africa is laden with benefits and opportunities. However we cannot ignore that moving anywhere comes with its challenges. For those moving back to who have lived outside of the region for some time, it may take a little acclimatising. So to prepare you for the exciting journey ahead, we share with you some light-hearted anecdotes from our most recent trip to Lagos.
1. The Forbes entrepreneur
Ok – so I’ve started with an obvious one. You don’t need to travel to Nigeria to know the hustling mentality of the Nigerian. But you may be surprised by the lengths they may go to make a buck…or a Naira…
Whilst in traffic, we were (naturally) met by street hawkers – chewing gum, mobile credit, peanuts and DVDs were all on sale. A friend we were travelling with decided to stop one hawker for a Forbes magazine. The magazine was being sold at a discount to the RRP – not too surprising as you can haggle for almost anything in Nigeria. A quick check on the front cover – “April” – told him that it was the latest edition.
As he started to read, a look of confusion appeared on his face. “I’m sure I’ve already read these stories” he uttered. Turning to the front cover again, he noticed that whilst it was indeed the April edition, it was for April of the previous year. The “3” in 2013 had been carefully etched out!
Key learning – due diligence isn’t just a business skill – it’s a life skill!
2. The waiters who were just too plain honest!
The Honest Waiter & Burnt Chicken – Light hearted anecdotes from Ghana & NIgeria
Imagine the scene – you’re sitting in a reputable Lagos restaurant, frequented by many high earning expats. In the drinks menu you spot a drink you don’t recognise – in this case, a “Chapwoman” (the equal opportunities take on the popular “Chapman” beverage)…
Waiter: What do you want to drink?
You: I was thinking of a Chapman. [Pointing to the drinks menu] Actually, I’ve never heard of a Chapwoman – is it nice?
There’s no follow-up to the “No”. No explanation of why you might like it, or even a suggestion of a drink you may enjoy. Just a “No”! On one hand it’s refreshing to get an honest opinion from a waiter. I would have been disappointed if I had ordered the drink on the recommendation of the waiter and it turned out to be awful. But on the other hand – it would have been nice to have gotten a bit more constructive feedback!
This blasé take to customer service bordering on the amusing was not an isolated case. On another occasion we ordered some chicken – which came burnt to a crisp. What would you make of this scenario?
You: Excuse me this chicken is pretty burnt.
Waiter: [blank stare]
You: Seriously – look [Thud Thud – as you hit the chicken against the table].
Waiter: [blank stare]
You: Would you eat this?
Waiter: [pause] As for me…I wouldn’t eat this.
**I must caveat this by saying that on our trip, we ate at many establishments in Lagos with awesome customer service and food.
Key learning – if you want an honest answer – ask a waiter!
3. Innovative approach to marketing
Entrepreneurs in West Africa do not wait for customers to come to them! I turn my attention to Accra – sitting in a meeting one afternoon, we heard the progressive crescendo of music. Looking out the window, we noticed a vehicle with huge speakers on top, driving very slowly through the street. To our surprise, we saw a man who had taken it upon himself to convert his vehicle into a portable store front. Thanks to his wheels, sound system and mobile POS, he was able to not only showcase his goods directly to his consumers, but he could sell them and take electronic payments on the spot too.
Key learning – In business, go direct to your customer
4. “No p*ss here N5,000”
If there’s the most remote opportunity that your action can be monetised – you bet someone will try it! It’ll start at the airport, where if you’re not travelling on a Nigerian passport and don’t have a Yellow Fever certificate, you’ll be charged for the vaccination (or at least charged for the signature in a book to say they’ve given you the vaccination), to when you park and pay someone to watch over your car, to the “foreigners tax” you’ll be charged for absolutely everything and anything if you don’t look like you’re local. But the funniest thing you may be charged for is avoiding the “no piss here” warnings. Whether or not the warnings will be actioned are questionable – I didn’t try it…
Key learning – err… don’t urinate on the street…
5. Pop champagne!
The fact that Nigerians like their champagne is nothing new. It’s well reported that despite 63% of the population earning less than USD1 a day, the Nigerian elite spend USD 59 million on importing champagne per year, with that figure forecast to rise to USD105m in 2017! And it’s not on the cheap stuff!
This trend was supported by a close friend of ours who works with number of Lagos clubs and bars, who anecdotally shared that 70% of all drinks sales in Lagos bars and clubs were in Champagne, with 20% of sales in Hennessy!
However what caught our eyes was the role of the supermarkets and grocery stores. Whilst in the UK, the front of larger grocery shops are usually reserved for quick snacks and soft drinks, champagne and other alcoholic beverages the front of many grocery stores in Lagos. This was no surprise to a local friend we mentioned it to, citing that most drinks sales in Shoprite are in Champagne.
Key learning – drink plenty of water before you leave home
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