Planning for Success – Doing Business in West Africa

Are you looking to sell and market a service or product in Nigeria or Ghana? Do you have a plan of action on how to enter this market? Are you already in West Africa but looking to expand your operations?

Sub Saharan opportunities are vast but also complex for organisations looking to do business there, arguably high risk but high rewards for those who can stay the course and find a niche. Covid-19 has also exacerbated an already fragile landscape and taking its toll on economies in the region, health care systems, reducing agricultural productivity and weakening supply chains but in all this doom and gloom the future is bright; Africa has a very young population, vast resources and is a huge market with opportunities for many years to come. Nigeria and Ghana have strong ties with Scotland, both countries have strong oil & gas, energy and education ties with the north east and the rest of the UK.

My International Office advises considering 5 things when exploring the West African market, notably Nigeria and Ghana.

1. Research the Market Potential

Carrying out market research to explore the potential customers or clients in the region is a must but you should also check out what the competition are doing. Data gathering will depend on what you are trying to gauge whether it be buying patterns or demand for a particular product, look at the market size, barriers to entry, legal or tax implications and any environment factors that might pose a barrier to entry or future growth. There might be off the shelf reports on your industry or you can buy a market research service to do this for you and will in the long run save you time and money if done correctly. Use both a mix of qualitative and secondary research methods.

2. Carry Out Due Diligence

In volatile markets it is critical to carry out due diligence whether that be on potential business partners in country or agents who will sell or market your product or service. This can take time depending on the industry but remember and make it a business decision based on all evidence and not just data.

There are in country organisations that can also assist such as Scottish Development International based out of the British Embassy in Accra, DIT, British Council, and local UK chamber links in both countries are also a potential resource. These organisations are built to support business, trade and increase growth so use them if you can.

3. Think Long Term, Not Short Term

Nigerian and Ghanaian markets are not for those looking for a quick return, what you put in you will get out. Think long term, build up relationships, build brand awareness, build trust in agents, suppliers, partners and keep your finger on the pulse of what is going on. Things will not always work out at first but stick at it and stay the course if you believe in the market potential and your service or product.

4. Pick Up the Phone

Many business relationships in this market start with a chat on the phone or in person. It is sometimes easy to send a few emails and expect responses from potential clients or partners but picking up the phone and speaking to these organisations is a far better use of time and money than sending a few emails. Yes, pick up the phone and get hold of the right people to discuss business and set potential future meetings. You might get bounced around, phone lines cut out or you don’t get answers to questions you ask but keep at it. Eventually, you will speak with the right person or decision-maker.

5. Take a Trip to Market

Once covid-19 subsides and international flights to Nigeria & Ghana start operating again, the best piece of advice is to get out to the market to explore the opportunities. Get your inoculations up to date, secure the visas, and plan an itinerary with some meetings and book hotels, regional and international flights. This trip could be the beginning of opening up a market for years to come. Don’t forget the sun cream!

We Are Here to Help

At My International Office, we can assist in securing your visas, booking accommodation, building your itineraries and setting meetings or even leading a delegation to market for a visit. We also run regular training both in-person and online.

If you would like to discuss any of the points above or require further information please contact us at or +44(0)7792313724 to have an informal discussion.