Business Etiquette in Nigeria

business etiquette in nigeria

Now that you have been given an overview of business culture in Nigeria, you should learn more about other specific norms and customs to remain aware of while conducting business in this country. Learning more about business etiquette in Nigeria will help you foster professional relationships that will ensure the growth of your company in this market.


Business in Nigeria is very relationship-based, which is why learning how to adapt and conduct yourself in professional settings, such as meetings, will strengthen your chances of fostering the right business relationships. Furthermore, business etiquette in Nigeria is unlike most countries and familiarising yourself with it will help you build your organization’s presence in the Nigerian market.


Highlighted below is information in regards to business etiquette in Nigeria that will prove useful.



While making cold calls and sending e-mails to the right decision-makers can serve as an appropriate introduction that could lead to a meeting, there are more effective methods you can employ. Because trust is highly sought after in the Nigerian business world, referrals are much more likely to get you in contact with your target decision-makers. People are much more willing to connect with you when you are introduced to them by someone that they already know and trust. Moving forward, try to get a mutual friend or colleague to make an introduction on your behalf.


Once you have been introduced to a decision-maker or business contact, it’s up to you to make a good first impression, as an attempt to persuade your prospect into setting up another meeting where you can discuss business matters. When you have an in-person meeting, try to lead with a cordial, but not too aggressive, handshake and pay close attention to the hierarchal rules, as the person’s age and status should inform your actions. Also, make sure you have your business card handy. Business cards are very important in Nigeria – some people will not take you seriously if you don’t have a professional business card. So make sure to exchange business cards to establish credibility before advancing your discussion.


Upon the initial meeting with your target prospect, keep in mind that this person might not reserve a lot of time to spend with you unless they know that a commercial relationship will be mutually beneficial. For this reason, you should get to the point of your meeting quickly, and be sure to underscore how your company’s value proposition will benefit both of you.



The most effective way to communicate with Nigerian professionals is through in-person meetings, as face-to-face meetings are the most efficient way to vet a potential business partner and assess their level of professionalism. Don’t be too surprised if you call a Nigerian professional to talk business over the phone only to have them request that you come to their office to continue the discussion. It’s clear that Nigerian business people believe that if important matters need to be discussed, then you will make the trip to their office to discuss them even if the meeting is only 15 minutes long.


Depending on your relationship with the person you are having a meeting with, keep the meeting professional and respectful. Most Nigerian business owners will do the same, however, do not be alarmed if the person you are meeting with pauses the meeting to take an incoming phone call. Even though this may seem unprofessional, it is commonplace and should be taken in stride especially when you are forging a new professional relationship.


Lastly, a lot of business discussions occur in informal meetings. These meetings are known to take place in bars or lounges after business hours. Therefore, it is not unusual to receive an invitation to have important conversations in a casual setting, but you can feel free to accept or decline invitations as you see fit.


Dress Code

Nigeria, in general, is a fashion-conscious society, which means that Nigerian professionals are usually very well-dressed and, in most instances, dressed in formal wear. However, the way in which Nigerian professionals dress is also dependent on the industry they’re working in and the age of their business. For example, professionals in the financial services industry are typically dressed more formally in suits, while employees and executives of newer technology companies tend to dress in more casual clothing.


Understanding the demographics and the business culture of the company you are meeting with should inform what you choose to wear. Striking a balance between your personal style, which makes you comfortable, and the business etiquette in Nigeria is ideal.


Attitude Towards Time

Many Nigerian professionals are very casual about meeting times, and sticking to a previously agreed-upon meeting time in Nigeria is rare. As you begin setting up meetings with professional contacts, you will hear statements that highlight this aspect of business etiquette in Nigeria. For example, a potential business partner might say to you, “Let’s meet around 4 pm,” which means that the meeting could start anytime between 4 pm or 5 pm. If you are a stickler for punctuality, you might find this to be a frustrating experience.


It is important to keep in mind, however, that there are a few factors that contribute to this lack of promptness. Bad roads and traffic are two of the main reasons as to why professionals have a more casual approach to meeting times. Nevertheless, even without traffic issues, it is not uncommon for someone to get to their meeting location ahead of time and still have to wait for the other party to appear. In these instances, try to remain flexible so that you can adapt to unexpected changes in meeting times.


When you find a Nigerian who is diligent about time, take that as a very good sign in regards to their level of professionalism and the way they conduct business. You should even consider exploring that commercial relationship some more. If you do run into individuals that are casual about meeting times, be patient and focus more on how they treat you after the delay. Do they apologize for their tardiness or are they nonchalant about keeping you waiting? These social cues signify how this person will function in a professional partnership.


Building Trust and Managing Relationships

Building trustworthy business partnerships in the Nigerian market is one of the most important things you will find yourself doing as a new entrant. Due to how essential developing trust is when doing business in Nigeria, you will spend a lot of time vetting people in the business community as you explore forming commercial relationships with each other.


Forming these relationships might take some time in the beginning, but credible business relationships will ultimately yield so many benefits for your company in the future. Try to build trust and manage your relationships with business colleagues in Nigeria by staying in consistent communication with them about professional matters, as well as checking in with them in non-official capacities.



Business etiquette in Nigeria is most likely different from what you are used to experiencing in various professional settings. However, by paying attention to the norms, social cues, and customs outlined here, you will be able to successfully form and maintain professional relationships with your target decision-makers. The connections you make will inevitably help you establish your company’s presence in the Nigerian market.

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About The Author

Nifemi Aluko

Connecting global organizations with quality information and insights to help them succeed in the Nigerian market… Passionate about business, technology, and music.

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