I guess there comes a time in every returnee’s stay that they think to themselves “what the hell am I doing here?” This usually happens after some total bullshittery that is more likely than not related to power outages, grossly inappropriate coworkers or flagrant violations of personal space.
While, this has definitely floated, refloated, reverse-floated and over-floated through my mind over the last two odd years, now that I’m reaching a possible break clause, the question is taking on an entirely different tone. Do I stay or do I go?
We all know that Nigeria is a pretty interesting place. It is one of those peculiar corners of the earth where 61% of the population live in absolute poverty, there are countless riches to be made. And I’m not talking about the shameless corruption ravaging the nation like an endemic contagion; but rather of a young, ripe and underexploited market hungry for innovation. In Lagos, if you look beyond roadside bukas and shacks selling fruit, pedicures and everything in between, you will see a bourgeoning renaissance in indigenous art, entrepreneurship and technology. The dot com boom has been reignited here with cloud-based services popping up here, there and everywhere. Hipster-style and high end restaurants for the discerning gourmand abound, in increasingly lavish and decadent ways.
This is of particular significance to the returnee. Despite the pall of the reigning recession, this fertile market represents an opportunity to grow or transplant ideas into viable, flourishing and scalable businesses. We have seen recruitment companies, supermarket chains, fashion designers, art dealers and tech guys absolutely mopping it up and raking it in. Armed with vision and capital in pounds in an age of a pretty dismal naira, what can you not do? As a sage friend tells me, multiple streams of income is the key.
While a venture capitalist I am not, I have noticed Nigeria also offers something remarkable to the salaried and contractors. Opportunity to handle greater responsibility than your counterparts back home. Contracts! Monetizing your foreign expertise. While I would strongly caution against that annoying diasporic ideal of “giving back” to the poor, unenlightened indigenes back home, there is a lot of good that a returnee can achieve in Nigeria and a whole lot that Nigeria can do for you. Nigeria is where you can enter a successful conglomerate, assume a tremendous of responsibility and build processes and departments from the ground up. Nigeria is where you can be
Essentially, the question boils down to what spectacular thing can I do here? Or do I go home to place my feet in safe, pre-measured footsteps?