A postcard from... Nigeria


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Our 'postcard from' series keeps you updated on key HR areas in different countries

Economic briefing

Nigeria (located in West Africa) has one of the world’s highest economic growth rates, according to the 2014 World Bank economic report on the country. However, poverty remains high at 33.1%, with urban areas receiving more government funding than poorer rural areas.

Nigeria’s main exports are oil and natural gas, with 78% of all exports in 2011 being crude petroleum. Farming is also a key industry; Nigeria has the largest farming output in all of Africa. Products such as cocoa, peanuts, rubber, and palm oil provide work for a third of the population.


Very high birth rates have caused Nigeria to quadruple its population over the past 50 years, with women having an average of 5.5 children each. As such the country’s average age is notably low, at just 17.9. Only 2.7% of the population in 2010 was over 65.

The United Nations anticipates this trend continuing, predicting the population to reach 391 million by 2050. The literacy rate is lower than the world average, with 78.6% of all men able to read and write (compared with a world average of 90%), and 72.7% of women (compared with a world rate of 82.7%).

Legal lowdown

One of the key legal issues to consider when working in Nigeria is lack of rights for LGBT people. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Nigeria. Some states opt to punish offenders with 14 years in jail, or stoning to death.

The country also has a lax attitude towards forced child labour, with the US Department of Labor estimating that 31% of Nigerian children aged between five and 14 are engaged in it.

The national minimum wage is NGN18, 000 per month, which is just over £37.50, but this can be set higher by individual states.

From the HR frontline

Nick Holley, director of learning at the Corporate Research Forum and former director of global people development at Vodafone, says HR professionals are very well-educated. “It’s a far from perfect country, but the people have a real passion for education,” he says. “They are curious and incredibly hardworking. Since there’s no direct route into HR often the people in this field have experience of other areas of business such as finance.”

However, he warns that Transparency International currently ranks Nigeria as the 136th most corrupt country in the world. “HR has to be the moral compass of the business. They have to keep asking themselves if what they are doing is ethical,” he says.

One of the key differences between Nigerian HR professionals and their UK peers is their attitude towards change. “You have to be able to deal with ambiguity,” Holley says. “If you can’t cope in a chaotic environment you won’t survive.”

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