Two weeks ago, I blogged about the mounting combination of anxiety and excitement leading up to my trip to Nigeria. Outside of the exceptional opportunities for investors in the country’s capital markets — which did little to soothe my fears as a traveler — I’d heard few reassuring stories about Lagos. Meanwhile, my imagination went to work on the news reports, rumors and exaggerated tourist tales I had heard, conjuring up images of an urban center descended into anarchy.
I should have known better!
Jindra Zitek ’08 and I arrived at the Lagos airport expecting to be harassed by an unruly mob of aggressive taxi drivers, con artists or worse. We found instead only a few families waiting for their loved ones. The first person to approach us was our smiling classmate, Gbolade Arinoso ’08, wearing his finest traditional Nigerian clothes. From the moment we exited the airport, we knew we’d have to throw all preconceived notions about Lagos out the window.
In fact, throughout our week in the city, we were struck by how poorly we’d misimagined the place. At no point did we feel threatened in any way. Rather, we were welcomed warmly by everyone we met, from security guards and restaurant workers to private equity investors and government officials.
In the end, it was this inviting stance toward foreigners that made our project such a success. Our goal was to write a world-class business school case study about Computer Warehouse Group, West Africa’s leading IT systems integrator. As soon as we explained our project, we found that the local business community was quick to rally around us. Even normally secretive private equity firms were willing to openly discuss their valuations of the company!
Ironically, it was the very hospitality that made our trip so exhausting: the 9–5 work days were simply too short to speak with all the people who so generously offered their time. We frequently found ourselves meeting deep into the evenings, exploring the intricacies of valuing the IT services company in the Nigerian context. We learned more than we ever imagined — about the firm, the country and, most of all, about the tricks our imagination can play on us when we operate on incomplete information!
Photo credit: The New Black Magazine