Business Travel Guide – Nigeria

Doing business in Nigeria? Starting this month, Kenya Airways flies to Nigeria’s capital city Abuja. Msafiri makes some recommendations for a memorable business trip 
Nigeria

With a youthful and ever-expanding population of more than 168 million, oil-rich Nigeria has West Africa’s largest and strongest economy. The bulk of business activity is in Nigeria’s two fast-paced main cities. Abuja is the modern purpose-built capital city in the geographic heart of the country where most government and corporate headquarters are based, and a venue for large conferences and conventions, while the bustling, densely-populated metropolis of Lagos in the southeast is the commercial capital of Nigeria and considered West Africa’s largest marketplace. Each offers world-class facilities for business travellers and Kenya Airways flies to both Abuja’s Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport and Lagos’s Murtala Muhammed International Airport.

ABUJA

SLEEP
Transcorp Hilton Abuja
The largest hotel in West Africa, with 670 rooms on 10 floors, this is a mini-city within itself. Facilities include several restaurants and bars, casino, shopping mall with duty-free shops, gym, tennis and squash courts and an enormous swimming pool. Business lunches can be held over a tasty Nigerian buffet at the Bukka Restaurant or coffee and cake at the Pastry Shop, and the Capital Bar has long been popular with Abuja’s expats and visiting dignitaries.
Business facilities: Wi-Fi, business centre, secretarial and concierge services, 24 meeting rooms, and a ballroom that accommodates 1200 for conferences and exhibitions.
Rates: US$410-2000.
Aguiyi Ironsi St, Maitama, tel: +234 (0)9 461 3000, www3.hilton.com

Nordic Villa & Residence
A highly-rated new boutique-style offering in two locations in Jabi, an upmarket residential area that is a 15-minute drive from Abuja’s business district. The Villa has 10 rooms and the Residence 22, all beautifully decorated with luxurious imported Scandinavian furnishings. A more intimate and affordable alternative to the large hotels, where cars with drivers are available 24-hrs to take guests to restaurants and around the city.
Business facilities: Wi-Fi, comfortable lobby and bar for meetings, the Villa has a well-equipped boardroom for up to 18.
Rates: US$135-200.
• Nordic Villa, 52 Mike Akhigbe Way, Jabi, tel: +234 (0) 703 682 9922, www.thenordicvilla.com; Nordic Residence, 14 Patrick O. Bokkor Crescent, Jabi, tel: +234 (0) 817 176 4638, ww.nordicresidence.com

Sheraton Abuja Hotel
Abuja’s second largest hotel in a 12-storey block with 540 rooms and a full range of facilities – restaurants and bars, nightclub, gym with sauna, swimming pool, and a vast lobby with useful shops, car hire desks and cafe. The business-orientated Club Rooms have a speedy separate check-in and dedicated lounge. Restaurants include the Papillion with a nightly themed buffet such as Chinese or seafood, and Luigi’s, an authentic Italian.
Business facilities: Wi-Fi, 24-hr business centre, secretarial services, three meeting rooms for up to 100. The ballroom accommodates 1000 delegates for functions.
Rates: US$320-650.
• Ladi Kwali Way, Wuse Zone 3, tel: +234 (0)9 461 2000, www.sheratonabuja.com

EAT
Working breakfast…
Salamander Café
Brightly decorated with Wi-Fi and complimentary use of laptops, offering good breakfasts, sandwiches, light meals, coffees and smoothies. Sit outside for a bit of calm and coolness in the hot city, or cosy up inside with an interesting read from the indoor bookstore specialising in West African books and music.
• 5 Bujumbura St, Wuse 2, tel: +234 (0)702-785 0932, daily 8am-10pm.

Al Basha Palace
Abuja’s best Lebanese restaurant, with swift service and a lovely outdoor terrace that is a fine venue for a meeting; colleagues can share a mezze of authentically-flavoured hummus, baba ghanoush and falafels. The menu-favourite is the roast leg of lamb (very rare in Nigeria) garnished with chunks of onions, fresh tomatoes and toasted pine nuts.
• 1 Cassandra St, off Usuma St, Maitama, tel: +234 (0) 807-766 7766, daily 12am-11pm.

Dinner…
Wakkis
The city’s top Indian restaurant and a long-term favourite with diplomats and airline crews, where the tandoori-style food is prepared by busy chefs on an open grill. Seafood, lamb, chicken and vegetarian dishes are accompanied by buttery naans and fragrant rice, and there’s a good choice of international wine and beer.
• 171 Aminu Kano Crescent, Wuse 2, tel: +234 (0)9 780 2929, www.wakkis.com, daily 11am-10.30pm.

SEE
Admire the impressive golden dome of the National Mosque (which also includes a library and conference centre) and the neo-gothic style of the National Church facing each other across Independence Avenue. Built in the 1990s, they dominate Abuja’s skyline and underline the determination of the government to ensure the right of all Nigerians to worship as they like.

SHOP
Nigerian crafts include woodcarvings, masks, drums, calabashes, leather goods, beaded jewellery, pottery, batiks and other colourful textiles. The big hotels have curio shops and across Memorial Drive from the Sheraton is the Abuja Arts & Crafts Village (daily 8am-7pm),  a compound of traditional-style huts selling a variety of items.

LAGOS

SLEEP
The Wheatbaker
In a residential area of Ikoyi with easy access to Victoria Island, this is Lagos’s newest 5-star boutique hotel. The 65 spacious rooms have special touches like Nespresso machines, there’s a swimming pool and gym, and the comfortable bar and lounge has a good choice of wine, champagne and cigars. The Wheatbaker Grill Room offers prime steaks and seafood, while the Saraya Deli has gourmet sandwiches, milkshakes and specialty coffees, and can cater for functions.
Business facilities: Wi-Fi, 24-hr business centre, a suite of meeting rooms, the Wheatbaker Rufkatu conference hall seats up to 200.
Rates: US$490-670.
• 4 Onitolo Rd, Ikoyi, tel: +234 (0)1 277 3560, www.legacyhotels.co.za

Protea Hotel Victoria Island
A solid choice from this mid-priced South African chain and centrally located in Victoria Island’s business district, with 59 sleekly modern rooms with good city views, a rim-flow swimming pool and gym. The Avalon Brasserie offers a good international menu and the coffee bar serves drinks for meetings on the pool terrace.
Business facilities: Wi-Fi, business centre, a boardroom for 12, two cinema-style conference rooms seating 30-60.
Rates: US$335-435.
• 1700 Violet Yough Close, Victoria Island, tel: +234 (0)1 448-5693/4, www.proteahotels.com

Radisson Blu Anchorage
Quality business hotel managed by Radisson with 170 tastefully decorated rooms in a great waterfront location on Victoria Island. The reception with its bubbling fountains, comfortable sofas and four-storey atrium is good for lobby-style meetings, and there’s a gym, swimming pool, steam rooms and saunas. The best dining option is the Surface Bar & Grill with its broad terrace overlooking Five Cowrie Creek.
Business facilities: Wi-Fi, a dedicated business lounge on the top floor, two boardrooms, six meeting rooms, the largest of which accommodates 110 delegates.
Rates: US$407-807.
• 1a Ozumbe Mbadiwa Ave, Victoria Island, tel: +234 (0)1 461 0125; www.radissonblu.com

EAT
Working breakfast…
Chocolate Royal
In the centre of Victoria Island’s financial district, this glitzy French-style patisserie is totally unique to Nigeria. Once through the glass doors you are enveloped by the smell of freshly baked all-butter croissants, moist fudge brownies and smooth chocolate éclairs. Enjoy these with a creamy cappuccino on the sun-splashed terrace, or prop up your laptop and hook into the free Wi-Fi
while standing at one of the busy steel tables.
• AIM Plaza, 267 Etim Inyang Crescent, Victoria Island, tel: +234 (0)1 271 4157, daily 7am-10pm.

Business lunch…
Browns Café & Restaurant
One of Lagos’ most elegant cafes offering lunches of gourmet burgers and club sandwiches followed by black forest gateaux or cheesecake. Popular with expat shoppers at the two upmarket malls around the corner and for business meetings and corporate entertaining in the upstairs function rooms/lounges. La Casa is another outlet on the air-side of the airport.
• 16 Akin Olugbade St, Victoria Island, tel: (0)1 270 2606, www.browns-cafe.com, daily 9am-10pm.

Dinner…
Villa Medici
Pricey but serves excellent French and Italian food and wine in a lovely atmosphere at elegantly-dressed tables with sparkling silverware and crystal glasses. Expect the likes of beef fillet medallions, lobster and Norwegian salmon, and save room for the delicious offerings on the dessert trolley. A popular venue for corporate functions and embassy receptions.
• 1 Alhaji Babatunde Jose Rd, Victoria Island, tel: +234 (0)1 262 1717, Mon-Fri 12am-2.30pm, 7-10.30pm, Sat 7-10.30pm.

SEE
Lagos can feel overwhelmingly congested for the visitor, so escape from the city for a few hours. Take a boat taxi from Victoria Island through Lagos Harbour to Tarkwa Bay, a sheltered beach where the sea is calm and safe for swimming and has sunshades and deck chairs to rent, while hawkers do the rounds with snacks and drinks.

SHOP
The best place to buy souvenirs is Lekki Market, east of Victoria Island off the Lekki–Epe Expressway. The buzz of trade that runs through the narrow ramshackle lanes is very atmospheric and there is no shortage of hidden treasures to be found from all over West Africa.

FACTBOX
Capital city: Abuja
Call: Country code: 234; Abuja: 09; Lagos: 01.
International airports: Abuja: Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport; Lagos: Murtala Muhammed International Airport; Enugu: Akanu Ibiam International Airport; Kano: Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport; Port Harcourt: Port Harcourt International Airport.
Climate: Abuja has a warm, humid rainy season April-October, and a dry season November-March when daytime temperatures can reach as high as 40°C. Lagos has comfortable year-round temperatures averaging 30°C and two rainy seasons; the heaviest is April-July. Lighter rains fall in October-November.
Language: Official language: English; major local languages: Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Edo, Efik and Kanuri.
Time: GMT + 1
Currency: Nigeria Naira, US$1 = N164
Couriers: DHL, Fedex and UPS are represented; check the websites for locations. DHL, www.dhl.com.ng. Fedex, www.fedex.com/ng. UPS, www.ups.com.