Nigeria is one of the largest economies in Africa and work prospects for highly skilled expats are good, with opportunities available in a variety of sectors. Despite its wealth, Nigeria still gets bad international press given its safety, inequality and corruption issues. Expats working in Nigeria may find themselves embittered by daily struggles, despite the country's continued efforts at reform within the business world, while others may embrace their experience in the country.

Those lured to work in Nigeria with high salaries should weigh this against the high cost of living, particularly when it comes to accommodation, healthcare and schooling, and should ensure that provisions are made to cover these costs when negotiating a contract for relocation to Nigeria.

When moving to Nigeria, expats will have to consider the employment market, how to find a job and aspects of business culture.

Job market in Nigeria

While oil refining only contributes a small amount to Nigeria’s GDP, government revenues are largely chained to the oil sector and many expats in Nigeria are employed by oil and mining companies. There have been moves to diversify the economy, and major industries include manufacturing, food processing textiles and pharmaceuticals.

Many expats work in the banking, telecommunications and construction industries. Popular expatriate jobs within these sectors include project management, business development, engineering, human resources management, IT systems management and chartered accountancy.

Apart from jobs in these industries, expats who possess exceptional skills in the IT, journalism, communication and health sciences sectors will have more work opportunities available to them. The NGO sector is also a significant employer as several agencies and UN projects use Nigeria as their West African operations base.

Finding a job in Nigeria

Expats are commonly recruited and transferred from their company abroad to relocate and take up a position in Nigeria. These expats won’t need to search for a job but must be prepared to face the challenges of a different business culture and, if they have a spouse and children, will need to consider the relocation process for their dependants.

This involves immigration and visa matters. Employers hiring foreign workers must obtain an Expatriate Quota from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Only workers coming from other Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) do not need a work permit. Expats should consult with their company on visa processes and regulations.

Expats who do not have an intra-company transfer will need to look for a job in Nigeria. One of the best ways of searching for employment opportunities is through online job portals, such as Jobberman, MyJobMag and LinkedIn. Jobseekers interested in a particular organisation or corporation may be able to apply directly through the company website.

Note that Nigeria is notoriously associated with scams that pivot around job offers. For this reason, expats offered a position in Nigeria should confirm that the employer is legitimate by consulting with their local Nigerian embassy and by attempting to contact expats on the ground.

Work culture in Nigeria

With over 250 different ethnic groups and a multitude of foreign-owned multinational companies, expats working in Nigeria will find themselves in a very diverse and mostly welcoming business environment. Still, adjusting to working life here may require a great deal of flexibility and patience.

It won't be long before expats find themselves a victim of the workforce policy on punctuality – “hurry up and wait”. The country functions at a relaxed pace, even when it comes to doing business, meaning that a meeting scheduled for 10am may very well only happen at 3pm, if at all. This may not apply to all companies, and expats should prepare accordingly and learn to be as flexible as possible.

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