Business culture

in Nigeria


  • When introducing yourself (or on your business card), professional and academic titles are important.
  • Greet everyone individually beginning with the highest ranking participants.

    Try to greet each person in a group individually, in order of seniority. This is a common sign of respect, which can also be applied to superiors. It is also appropriate to bow your head when shaking the hand of someone much obviously older than you.

    When speaking to superiors and seniors, try to avoid eye contact. In general, Nigerians make much less use of eye contact than members of Western cultures. Insisting on looking others in the eye during a conversation might easily be taken as a sign of rudeness or even aggression.

  • Nigerians prefer the use of Mr./Mrs./Ms. and surname. Wait for them to use first names, before you do likewise.
  • Generally, Nigerians live and work at a more relaxed pace than you might be used to. Punctuality is valued, but sticking to schedules is less important than an individual’s particular situation. Also, due to the erratic traffic conditions, being on time can be quite hard.

    Patience is a virtue you will sorely need when doing business in Nigeria. It is often wise to schedule important meetings well ahead and to call in the day before to confirm.

  • Be ready to spend a lot of time on small talk at the beginning and sometimes during meetings.
  • Keep the meetings professional and respectful.
  • Be prepared for lots of interruptions. Stopping to take phone calls is perfectly normal during meetings.
  • Meetings may take place in bars or lounges after business hours.
  • Take your time. One meeting may just be a way of preparing future meetings. Don’t expect to get everything done quickly.


As a general principle, Nigerians go for as much as they can get in negotiations, so expect hard bargaining tactics, mixed messages, lots of haggling  and lots of contingency clauses.

This doesn’t mean they don’t engage in cooperative negotiating. They do but will often push bargaining to the breaking point before conceding anything. Although Nigerians want to build long-term relationships, their negotiating aims tend to be more short or medium-term. For Nigerians a win-lose negotiation is just fine if they can get both the best deal for themselves and maintain a good relationship. Even when conditions seem unreasonable, avoid showing negative emotions and use your local network if you need some leverage. Relationship-building is essential and time-consuming, so negotiations may take more time than you would like. Time is not money for everyone so be patient and be prepared to go round in circles and back and forward. Point by point agendas are not easy to implement.

Openness is expected from you and you will receive lots of information from your Nigerian counterparts. Like in any negotiation, check that the information is not being presented in a more than positive light and that your counterparts have the power they say they have. Saying they need their manager’s approval may be a tactic but even if not, ask for him to join the negotiation.

So, the message for negotiating is : build the relationship and go in high because you’re probably in for a process of long, hard bargaining.


  • Building business partnerships based on trust is the most important thing required to do business in Nigeria.

  • Forming these relationships might take some time in the beginning but will bring many benefits for your company in the future.

  • Remember that there are a number of different ethnicities, cultures, and religions living side by side in Nigeria. Make sure to ask co-workers about their background in order not to offend anybody by accident.
  • Maintain consistent communication with your Nigerian contacts about professional matters, as well as asking for advice on non-official matters.

  • the “thumbs up” sign, which in Western societies usually denotes that everything is all right, can be very offensive in Nigeria!

    Nigeria is a predominantly Muslim country (54%) so avoid left-hand contact and when greeting women, wait for them to extend their hand.


  • Corruption and bribery are common in Nigeria’s public and private sectors. On the 2021 Bribery perception index published by Transparency International, Nigeria was ranked 154 of 175 countries. But be careful: basic hospitality, however lavish may only be that.