The Big Adjustment
Moving back is never easy, but in Nigeria, it’s worth it
Moving to another country is never easy and comes with personal and professional challenges. To discuss some of the difficulties and advantages associated with moving back to a country like Nigeria, Movemeback sat down with Dr Femi Sunmonu. Read Dr. Sunmonu’s accounts below.
I qualified as a medical doctor in the United States and came to the UK to do my MBA and work as a doctor, specialising in haematology. My job was rewarding but after a while, I found the day-to-day of clinical medicine too repetitive. After trying my hand at investment banking and consulting, I ended up volunteering for a public health organisation in the UK. I was keen to do healthcare work in my home country, Nigeria, and visited rural areas to get experience in their facilities. This was where my journey really began.
I ended up meeting my current business partner after working on a healthcare reform project set up by a small healthcare consulting firm based in London and Nigeria. We realised we shared the same vision of healthcare reform and he brought me in to his business. We purchased a chain of primary healthcare facilities, pinpointing this area as where we could make the most effective changes. We set up PurpleSource Healthcare and the rest, as they say, is history.
What were some of the challenges of trying to set up a business in Nigeria?
I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a few. One is that it can be quite difficult to find competent, intelligent, motivated people to work with. My business partner was a rare gem and when we met and realised that our visions for the future of Nigeria’s healthcare aligned quite nicely, I knew I had gotten very lucky.
There is a lot of easy money to be made in Nigeria, due to the gas and oil industries. You hear of a lot of rags to riches stories, where someone living in basic accommodation or hustling on the street made it to billionaire status seemingly overnight. This breeds a load of dreamers who aspire to almost unimaginable levels of wealth, without appreciating the effort it may take to get there. Dealing with incompetence and wasting huge amounts of time fixing other people’s mistakes is unfortunately a daily struggle when working in Nigeria.
And you set up your business whilst living outside of Nigeria, that’s uncommon…
The early stages were very stop-start; flying back and forth to sort out issues is no easy feat and can be very frustrating at times. There are also a lot of logistical challenges to moving back, especially with a family in-tow. It’s the little things you don’t think of sometimes. For example, my wife has a sensitive stomach and everything she ate made her ill for the first 3 months. Finding decent healthcare and support for things like this is not easy and services aren’t as accessible as in the UK or USA.
You can waste a lot of time trying to get things done. You might have a to-do list of 10 things to do in a day – you’ll be lucky if you can do 2. This can be due to ridiculous traffic, incompetence, laziness or simply corruption and greed. It can be very frustrating. Mental adjustment to this way of life takes about a year, I would say.
Alright Femi! Is there any hope?
Yes, definitely! Nowadays, a lot of people are returning to Nigeria so there is rising demand for quality and efficiency across all industries. Quality based competition is becoming more prevalent, limiting the amount of incompetent ‘cowboys’ coming in to do their own thing.
If you are willing to work hard, Nigeria is a place you can really make a difference and make your name known.
Any advice to those trying to do business in Nigeria?
Work smart and learn to cover all your bases. Raising money for our project proved to be difficult at first. It’s a small scale project and therefore not attractive to big investors. However, we decided to keep it small for now as this minimises risk and makes it easier to implement changes. We approached venture capitalists and small business owners – it’s not easy to do in a place like Nigeria.
Now that you’ve read Dr. Femi’s story, what are your thoughts? Are you considering taking the plunge and moving back, or are you a member that’s already moved back? We would love to hear from you. Share your stories in the comments!