From Nigeria to Kenya

Strathmore Business School, my host in Nairobi
Strathmore Business School, my host in Nairobi

Last week I moved from Nigeria to Kenya, where I’m being hosted by Strathmore Business School (SBS), Strathmore University. Just as I got out of the plane, I could feel a difference: a nice freeze of fresh air, as opposed to the mass of humid, hot air that greeted me in Lagos. Weather played an important role in the way the British colonized one and another country. While to outsiders all African countries may look alike, there are important differences.

To start with, the 54 African countries are grouped in three large, distinct regions: Northern Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), and Southern Africa. SSA is further divided into Western, Central, and Eastern Africa. As I explain in the introduction to this blog, my interest lies on SSA and Southern-Africa. The countries with most dynamic economies are South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya.

New shoping mall in Lagos
New shoping mall in Lagos

Nigeria is the leading country in Western Africa. As they say, their main strength is their population: about 170 M people (no one seems to know the exact population) make Nigeria the most populated country in Africa. 10 days ago or so, it  was classified as the largest economy in Africa, surpassing South Africa for the first time. This will make Nigerians very happy, as they love beating South Africans — even in football matches! Retail, real estate, and hospitality are growing sectors.

Kenya is the country to watch in Eastern Africa. It’s a smaller country, with a 45 M population. Kenya Vision 2030 lays out a plan aimed at increasing annual GDP growth rates to an average of 10 % over this time horizon. The key sectors that have been prioritized are tourism, agriculture, wholesale and retail trade, business process offshoring, and financial services. With regards to infrastructures, they don’t have the power problems Nigerians face but their roads are not much better than those in Nigeria. From the limited experience I’ve had, I can attest to this.

These are some of the most evident differences across these countries. But cultural differences are also important. Nigerians are perceived as aggressive across the board. In fact, they describe themselves as “proud and loud.” Interestingly, while Kenyans are softer than Nigerians, they are still thought to be aggressive by their neighbors in Eastern Africa. It will be interesting to observe! Do you have any experience you can share?


8 thoughts on “From Nigeria to Kenya

  1. Dear Africa,

    I’m a follower of your interesting blog. I’m doing an internship in a Market Research company that is specialized in the African continent. I would like to make some particular questions, is there any way I can reach you )email address)?

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on that blog and for your help. Keep enjoying that wonderful trip.


  2. You will soon notice that Kenya’s also have strong opinions when it comes to tribal attributes. Kikuyus for example are known to be business people (both in the positive and negative sense). In any case, its a great country. Make sure that you see more than Nairobi!

    1. Christian, I know you have a pretty good understanding of Kenya and of its people. Thanks for sharing this insight: getting to know tribal attributes, and inter-tribal issues is an important element for doing business in the continent. I’ll write a post on this another week.

  3. Africa:

    I am enjoying reading your posts. Thanks for sharing your experiences in Africa!
    Many of us will not ever have this opportunity to visit Africa and can somewhat experience it with you as you share your experiences and insights.


    1. Hello Beverly: yes, I’m aware this is a great opportunity I’m having, and I’m glad you are participating in it somehow.

  4. This is good.Now i know many information about Nigeria.Thanks.I wish Real estate business will be more successful business in Nigeria.Government will be more flexible for this business.

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