Lagos, the capitol of Nigeria is growing fast. A great number of office buildings is being constructed in new business areas like Ikoyi and Victoria Island. Many thousands of square metres of office space have to be filled with cubicles, desks and chairs. But as office furniture is on Nigeria’s list of banned import items, demand for office furniture is far exceeding supply. Entrepreneur Joop van de Vinne spots an opportunity for business in Nigeria.
In Lagos, over 150 new office buildings are under construction. About 90 of them are to be built on what will look like a new Manhattan on a stretch of coastline adjacent to Lagos. In Eko Atlantic aka The Great Wall of Lagos on Victoria Island, hundreds of thousands of people are going to work and live. The largest part of the 90 towers of this town will be office space. The brochure that was developed to attract enterprise to rent an office here, describes the future of the country’s economy – projected growth in 2014 according to IMF: 7.5 % – as follows: “Lagos is to become the financial hub of Africa. With its wealth of facilities and infrastructure, Eko Atlantic will help make this possible, and its investors will stand to gain enormously.”
There is only one problem. There is not enough office furniture for the future white-collar employees of Eko Atlantic to work on. “For local and international companies that wish to set up office in new business areas like this, it is hard to find the right chairs and desks. Importing international furniture brands is out of the question, these goods are blacklisted for import to promote local production. Local produce is scarce and either not suitable or very much overpriced. With the steep increase of demand, there is a clear business case for international office furniture brands to step into the local market.”
Van der Vinne has a number of strong and reliable investors waiting to put their money into assembly and production of office furniture. The investors are hoping to connect to international office furniture enterprises that seek to establish local presence in West Africa. “We have the production and assembly locations, we can find and help train the workers that are readily available in the Lagos area. All we need is the party that has the brand and the products, to form a partnership with. Local assembly lines can be set up in a matter of weeks or months.”
Van der Vinne is convinced that Nigeria’s need for office space is actually based on firm economic growth. “It is not the oil and gas industry that is developing in a positive way, with large investments being done in refining capacity. Other economic sectors like agriculture and the food industry are also growing. Despite some ethnically and religiously inspired disputes in some parts of the country, in my experience Nigeria is a healthy economy where sound investments can reap high rewards. A office furniture investment can be one of the them, but that is basically true for any investment in products and services that can help build and maintain Nigeria’s offices.”