Unlocking career success for expat Finance Professionals in Nigeria's Thriving Economy. Should you make the move?
Want to grow your finance career in Nigeria? It’s one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Companies like Nestle, and SMEs operate here. Indian CA and CFO, Lagos Free Zone shares insights.
- Nigeria has a nominal GDP of $128.6 billion, with the majority of the market being driven by SMEs.
- We spoke to CA Ashish Khemka, who became the CFO at Lagos Free Zone in less than 5 years.
- With the presence of Unilever, Nestle, and more, Indian Finance Professionals can find significant opportunities in Nigeria, says Ashish.
Take us through your journey from India to Africa.
I qualified as a Chartered Accountant from The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India in 2010.
Afterward, I joined ICICI Bank (one of the largest private sector banks in India).
The Nigeria stint happened when a friend of mine told me about the Tolaram Group. It is a company with diversified business interests in consumer goods, fintech, infrastructure, and industrials; employing more than 16000 people globally.
I went for the interview, got selected and in the next 40 days (Feb 2013) days after the interview, I was in Nigeria.
And the rest is history.
Tell us about your career growth in Nigeria.
If you want to grow in your career by 10-15%, you can’t achieve that in a saturated job market like Europe, or America. That’s where Nigeria comes into the picture.
My first assignment in Nigeria was doing IFRS accounting for the company which involved big internal restructuring. I was to prepare the first year of accounts after the restructuring.
Naturally, I had to study the Country's Tax Laws. Like most people, I too got accustomed to the local laws and taxes by studying.
In 2014, I moved into the internal audit aspect of Tolaram Group.
Then the US company Kelloggs acquired a stake in Tolaram's distribution arm in Africa.
I got the opportunity to work on the sales side of one of the biggest merger and acquisition deals of that time.
This enhanced my knowledge drastically and enabled me to have CXO-level conversations. Then I was moved to a different arm of the group itself, which is the infrastructure arm.
In the arm of the company, I became a chief financial and operational officer. I am now the CFO of the Lagos Free Zone.
Can you give us an overview of the Nigerian economy? Why is it considered one of the fastest-growing economies in the world?
Africa is the future, and you cannot ignore the biggest economy in the continent; Nigeria.
It is the seventh most populous country in the world with over 200 Mn people.
Unlike many other countries, Nigeria is still developing with a nominal GDP of USD 128.6 Billion in December 2022.
Urbanization is happening at a faster pace in the country. People are moving from rural areas to major regions such as Lagos, the financial capital of Nigeria. More than 10% of the country's population resides in Lagos.
Port Harcourt, which is located in the western part, is rich in oil and natural resources. Kano and Kaduna in the north are also rich in resources that support manufacturing and provide opportunities for economic growth.
The population of this country is predominantly young. This sizable young population represents a significant potential for development.
The food sector in Nigeria is critical, particularly the packaged food market, and Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) Industry as a whole due to urbanization.
Nigeria produces around 2.8% of the world's crude oil, making the oil sector crucial to the country's development.
The agriculture and infrastructure sectors also play a vital role, for obvious reasons.
Do SMEs, and Big 4s in Nigeria hire a lot of expat Finance Professionals?
More than 60,000 Indians currently reside in Nigeria.
- All the Big 4 firms, such as KPMG, Ernst & Young, PwC, and Deloitte, have a presence in Nigeria.
- However, there are only a few Indians in these firms, accounting for around 5.6% of the total workforce.
- My wife is also a CA. She joined PwC upon coming to Nigeria with me. Over the 6 years that she was with the firm, there were only 10-12 Indian expatriates at the director, or senior manager levels.
- Most of the Indian expatriates are employed at large Multinational Corporations (MNCs), such as Unilever, Procter & Gamble, and Nestlé that have a presence in Nigeria.
- MNCs account for about 10 to 15% of the market.
- Over 39.65m MSMEs operate in Nigeria driving the majority of the economic growth.
- This sector is often managed by second or third-generation locals.
- Numerous businesses in Nigeria are backed by Indians.
- Olam, Quantum Group, and even Tolaram Group have significant roots in India but are currently headquartered in other countries.
- Small manufacturing setups in various sectors, (i.e. pharmaceutical), are also driven by Indians.
What kind of remuneration should a freshly qualified Chartered Accountant expect in Nigeria?
Typically, there are two components in salary:
- Overall, you would get a lower amount of salary than in the UAE, UK, and US but it should cover basic needs such as housing, annual travel allowances, and visa requirements.
- Most companies provide accommodation and additional benefits on top of the basic salary.
- Net savings: Instead of looking at the absolute amount of salary, think about how much you would be able to save on an annual basis.
Although the remuneration depends on the job role and the company, a fresher CA would be able to save around $1500-$2000 a month.
What should Indian expat Finance Professionals consider before making the move?
Nigeria is a growing economy, so Finance Professionals can expect a lot of hiring throughout the rest of 2023.
Here are some pointers to keep in mind before applying for a job in Nigeria:
- In Nigeria, it's important to be young, a problem-solver, and you have to think outside the box.
- Companies in Nigeria prefer to hire freshers and professionals with 5-6 years of experience who have received proper training.
- There are two main sources of hiring: reference-based and campus placements.
- Campus placements are organized by The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India - ICAI and are typically held in March, September, and October.
- Reference-based hiring takes place throughout the year.
- Chartered accountants (CAs) are highly valued in Nigeria because they are considered problem solvers. They are sought after for finance, supply chain, marketing, and admin roles.
- Many individuals who start in finance roles can grow beyond this function and move on to General Manager or CEO positions.
- Companies in Nigeria place more importance on a person's core values and whether they align with the company's vision than on their academic records.
It's important to have a positive mindset and your family's support if you want to move to Nigeria.
Socializing can be limited in certain areas of the country, so if you're a social person, Nigeria may not be the best place for you.
There are some issues with the currency and inflation rate right now, but this is a normal occurrence in Nigeria. It usually doesn't have a significant impact on expats in the long run.
Q. How can a Financial Professional from India find job opportunities in Nigeria?
Ans: If you're sitting in India and need to find a reference in Nigeria, there are a few ways to go about it. One option is to use LinkedIn, which is a great platform for connecting with professionals all over the world. Another option is to contact recruitment agencies that specialize in hiring for African countries.
You can LinkedIn to engage with people in your industry, share ideas and insights, and build relationships that could lead to future job placements.
Q. What is the tax rate like in Nigeria?
Ans: In Nigeria, the tax rate varies depending on the type of tax and the income level of the individual or business.
Personal Income Tax: This tax is levied on the income of individuals, and the rate varies from 7% to 24% depending on the income bracket.
Corporate Income Tax: This tax is levied on the profits of companies operating in Nigeria, and the standard rate is 30%.
Value Added Tax (VAT): This tax is levied on the value of goods and services consumed in Nigeria, and the rate is 7.5%.
Withholding Tax: This tax is deducted at source from payments made to individuals or companies, and the rate varies depending on the type of payment and the status of the recipient.
Q. How much does an Indian Chartered Accountant earn in Nigeria?
Ans: Although the remuneration depends on the job role and the company, a fresher CA should expect between $2000 to $2500 salary per month. Most companies provide accommodation and additional benefits on top of the basic salary, such as housing, annual travel allowances, and visa requirements. After taking care of the other expenses, you would be able to save around $1500-$2000 a month.
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