When it comes to export opportunities for ambitious Irish companies, a number of markets initially come to mind: our closest neighbours, the UK, the Eurozone countries, North America, with which we share historically close ties, and even some opportunities further afield, such as Asia and Australia.
However, one region that may not initially be in the limelight, but can provide innovative entrepreneurs with limitless opportunity and potential, is Africa.
Many African countries boast arable land, abundant natural resources, young populations, and a rapidly developing middle class as critical national assets.
And of these African countries, Nigeria has emerged in recent years as a viable and lucrative export market for Irish companies.
Enterprise Ireland has had a presence in Africa for some time, with a head office and team located in Johannesburg, South Africa, as well as a representative office in Lagos, Nigeria.
Nigeria is the largest economy on the continent and accounts for almost half of the population of West Africa and 15% of the total population of the entire African continent.
This population is also growing rapidly; it currently stands at more than 200 million and is expected to grow by 200 million by 2050.
This is in stark contrast to the aging and declining populations of much of the world.
Nigeria also plays an important leadership role in both West Africa and the African continent and hosts the headquarters of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The Department of Foreign Affairs recently hosted the seventh Africa-Ireland Economic Forum in Dublin, an event attended by the President of the African Development Bank, of which Ireland is a recent member, and a ministerial delegation from Nigeria.
This was the first Enterprise Ireland-led visit to Ireland by West African business leaders since pandemic restrictions were eased.
For the past two years, the Enterprise Ireland Africa team has been virtually connecting Irish businesses with African customers and partners across all sectors.
On this recent visit to Dublin, there was an oversubscription at a particular Enterprise Ireland event on high-tech construction, demonstrating the desire of stakeholders from both sides to meet in person.
Although Ireland is a small country compared to Nigeria, we share some key attributes: a pioneering spirit, a very international business outlook and a strong entrepreneurial mindset.
Although Nigeria is dependent on imports and offers opportunities in all sectors, it is worth remembering and respecting the large scale of the country.
For example, its largest city, Lagos, has a GDP that alone counts as the seventh largest economy in Africa, surpassing entire countries like Ghana and Rwanda.
Many Irish businesses have already found that navigating Nigeria’s great opportunity is far less daunting when working with a trusted local partner. This is a crucial service for Enterprise Ireland in the region.
In July 2021, Galway healthcare company Revive Active signed a new distribution deal to expand its presence in Nigeria, worth over €1 million in the first year.
CEO Daithí O’Connor explained the importance of having these “boots on the ground” in the country.
“For Revive Active, having discovered how many opportunities there are in Nigeria, we signed a distribution agreement in 2021, and this has been nothing short of transformational.
“With a population of over 200 million, the size and scale of the opportunity in Nigeria is simply mind-boggling.
“However, with that kind of size and scale comes challenges, many of which can be solved by having a local partner who knows the business environment and has the right contacts. This is absolutely vital to success.”
Personal relationships and knowledge of the market are also essential; Enterprise Ireland’s presence in the country can provide the latest market intelligence and connect Irish businesses with local industry and professional services. – making Nigeria a tempting prospect for any ambitious Irish company. For more information see https://irishadvantage.com/africa/
Nicola Kelly is Overseas Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa for Enterprise Ireland