• Friday, April 19, 2024
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‘Doing business in Nigeria is challenging but lucrative’

‘Doing business in Nigeria is challenging but lucrative’

Sanjay Jain, chairman of the Indian Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAI) – Nigeria Chapter, who is also connected with a lot of social organisations in Nigeria, shares his views on various issues affecting Indian – Nigerian relationship and other relevant issues in this interview with BusinessDay’s John Osadolor. Jain is involved in a lot of charitable and social activities through these organisations. He is the President of Indian Cultural Association and Jain International Trade Organisation (JITO) as well as vice president of Rajasthani Samaj among others.

Excerpts:

Would you say the Indian community in Nigeria had a good run in the year 2022?

Yes, for that matter, I would say not only the Indian community but all other communities as well as the Nigerian populace had a good run in the year 2022. The biggest reason behind that was that we got a big relief from COVID -19 and that made everyone’s life much easier than what it was during the period of pandemic.

The negative impacts of the pandemic on daily life and the business became far less giving scope to people to go about their normal life and do whatever they wanted to do. International travels became as usual and all these gave a big relief to the international community as well as the Nigerian populace.

There was a time when both India and Nigeria were both on the same scale of development, are they still referred to as developing nations on the same scale today?

First and foremost, India as well as Nigeria, are both developing nations. They both are developing at a fast pace. There may be little differences in scale but that is because India got independence 13 years before Nigeria. More so, every country has a different footing based on their geographical location, the habits of its populace, the kind of food they consume, natural resources etc. So, India is doing well in its own segment as is Nigeria.

Is the number of resident Indians in Nigeria increasing or decreasing, why have the Indians found Nigeria a home to live?

In the recent past, due to Covid – 19, it is generally felt that the number of Indians have gone down. Not only Indians but other nationals too. This is a very normal phenomenon. The thinking style got changed in the minds of everyone. But, I strongly feel that as the world is coming out from the fear of Covid -19, people will start travelling in the usual manner and the numbers may increase.

This is a big compliment to Indians as well as the Nigerians when you ask this question as to why the Indians find Nigeria a home to live. Compliments to Indians – because they leave their own country and come here to work, contributing towards the economic development of the host country and in the process earn their livelihood. Compliments to the Nigerian populace – because they have welcomed us with open arms, they have shown warmth in interacting with us and that has encouraged us to come and stay here. That has made us feel home away from home. This needs a lot of accolades for our Nigerian brethren.

Another reason which makes businesses lucrative in Nigeria is that it is the biggest country in Africa and its population is over 200 million. And that itself gives a huge number of customers very easily. Though, like in any other country, there are challenges which the government is trying to tackle from time to time.

As a person in the helm of affairs of a business, what has it been like doing business in Nigeria in the last few years?

In general, the scope of various businesses has increased in Nigeria. The reason behind that is the Federal Government Nigeria’s thrust in encouraging the local manufacturing facilities/ production. So, lots of manufacturing facilities are being initiated.

Another reason which makes businesses lucrative in Nigeria is that it is the biggest country in Africa and its population is over 200 million. And that itself gives a huge number of customers very easily. Though, like in any other country, there are challenges which the government is trying to tackle from time to time.

Nigeria is on the cusp of another general election, some Indians have naturalised, some have even lived for over 30 years like you, what can you say generally about Nigerian elections?

This is excellent news. Whenever and in whichever country, if the general elections are taking place as per the laid down schedule, it indicates that the democratic processes are sound and well in place. There is a conducive atmosphere whereby the elections are held in time.

On the other hand, we have seen party primaries taking place and the best of the candidates emerging as Presidential candidates. All the candidates are highly experienced and seasoned leaders. Whoever wins, it will be a win for Nigerians as I see all of them with a great amount of zeal to do good for Nigeria and the Nigerians.

Read also: 135 Indian companies invest $19bn in Nigeria, says envoy

The Indian community participated during the fight against COVID 19 in Nigeria. Are you happy the pandemic has abated and what’s your opinion about it today?

Yes, you are right. The Indian community participated in a big way in the fight against Covid – 19 in Nigeria. We did lots of projects – distribution of free food to the needy, installing ‘No Touch’ hand washing machines, free oxygen support, lots of awareness campaigns, distribution of free face masks to curb the menace and others.. Even the Indian Government sent 1 million vaccine doses to Nigeria. We all are happy that the impact of Covid -19 has gone down drastically.

Recently, we are hearing that it is coming up again in a few countries and therefore, one has to be careful once again. I am sure the Federal Government must be evaluating the situation and at the appropriate time, they will put the curbs and controls to safeguard against it. I feel that it is the time to remain cautious and start using the face mask, at least.

This is the beginning of a new year, do you have a good will message?

Definitely yes. The year 2022 – the year of recovery has become the ‘last year’ now. In the New Year, let us energize ourselves and take a vow to remain positive and achieve whatever one sets the target for himself/herself without taking any rest and by putting in the hard work to succeed.

Surprisingly some Americans have taken an interest in Nigerian languages, and so do the British but the Indians here seem not to be interested in Nigerian languages, what do you think is responsible for this?

It is not like that they are not interested in Nigerian languages. Indians also take interest in learning local languages. We have some Indians who speak fluent Yoruba and Hausa. But yes, there may be differences in the level of interest in learning the Nigerian language as compared to Americans and Britons. But this is also because we find the majority of the Nigerian populace as English speaking and that makes life much easier for all the expatriate community. They can very effectively communicate with the people of the host community. This is another beauty of Nigeria which attracts foreigners and helps keep them here. At the same time, the need to learn the Nigerian language does not become a priority.