Nigeria: a hierarchical society
It is easy to understand why the official language of Nigeria is English, once you know that there are 521 languages currently estimated and catalogued in Nigeria. Even though most ethnic groups prefer to communicate in their own language, English, is the official language and is widely used for education, business transactions and official purposes.
Nigeria is a hierarchical society. Age and position earns, and even demands, respect. Age is believed to confer wisdom so older people are granted respect. Family relationships are guided by hierarchy and seniority. Social standing and recognition is achieved through extended families and are in fact the backbone of the social system.
Nigerians prefer to develop personal relationships prior to conducting business. Therefore, if this is the first time you are meeting with a Nigerian company, you should expect to devote a decent period of time to getting to know people on a personal level. This may take as long as two hours for an initial meeting. Any attempt to bypass this protocol will hamper your business success. Expect the first few meetings to be somewhat formal as your Nigerian counterparts continue to become comfortable with you as a person. It is a good idea to maintain a polite and somewhat reserved manner until the person you are meeting drops some of the formality. Try to avoid using hyperbole or making exaggerated claims when presenting a business case as Nigerians are naturally suspicious of a deal that sounds too good to be true.
Team members should present a united front at meetings. Any disagreement between members will be interpreted as meaning that you are not relaying the entire story and that they should proceed cautiously. If you plan to work from an agenda, it is a good idea to send it in advance of the meeting. Nigerians will generally follow the agenda point by point and may want to consult with key stakeholders who will not be present prior to the meeting.
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