Hopes and Fears: Returning from Europe to Nigeria to Start Up a Small-scale Business

Ben stayed in Europe for quite a long time, say, more than five years. He sought for asylum, the request was rejected. Therefore, he never got the chance to legalize his status. He lived a life as a denied asylum seeker, pushed to the edge of the society.

Turning 24 years old, he ended up being totally frustrated, stuck in this vacuum of “No work, no money, no daily-life routine.” He suffered something called “bore-out,” at the age of 24 years! According to Wikipedia, boreout is “a management theory that posits that lack of work, boredom, and consequent lack of satisfaction are a common malaise affecting individuals working in modern organizations, especially in office based white collar jobs. This theory was first expounded in 2008 in Diagnosis Boreout, a book by Peter Werder and Philippe Rothlin, two Swiss business consultants.”

That’s when Ben decided to radically change his life and to return to his country, taking advantage of some government programme for denied asylum seekers who intend to return to their home country. He was granted a certain amount of money in order to establish a small-scale business back home in Lagos, Nigeria.

After a lot of preparation work, he finally boarded that plane towards Nigeria, full of hope and relieved to leave that vacuum of “no job, no money, no life” behind, despite the fact that his friends didn’t encourage him to return (they told him that he was crazy) and even he himself had doubts and fears of returning to Nigeria after a long time in Europe. He was aware of the difficulties that could possibly trouble his return. He feared the very common corruption problems, competition, the high price levels etc.

Anyway, in order to get back his peace of mind, he was all ready to take that certain risk!

Back in Lagos, after a warm welcome from both family and friends, he began to organize the formal requirements in order to receive the project assistance. He set up a detailed business plan for a “car spare parts business.” The business plan got approved by the local government office and Ben could proceed with the further steps. First, he looked around for a suitable shop to rent at a strategically interesting location. He found himself a nice place in Oshodi, one of the busiest areas in Lagos. This location was ideal for his business and luckily, the shop rent was affordable. After the purchase and initial stock, he has opened up his shop. This was in August 2009.

Today, Ben says that it’s tough to be self-employed and to work hard in order to be profitable. But after a rough start-up time of about six months, he can now see first success and soon he is going to be able to expand his business by renting a bigger shop. He says it is extremely hard to compete against various other shops that are in the same business, but he tries hard to differ himself with extraordinary service quality and good prices. He says that he is happy that he took the step to return and that he finally feels like a man again.

When it comes to his initial fears, Ben reacts with restraint. Of course he has faced corruption, and yes, he knows about these famous area boys who work for the “Union” and who ask “membership fees” from all the shop owners in Oshodi in order to be part of the “Union” (protection money, paid to a mafia-similar, criminal organization).

But hey, he says, everybody is part of the Union!

By Bety


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