Last Sunday, I set foot for the first time in Lagos, Nigeria, accompanied by my two great supervisors, Francis (from Uganda) and Kwashie (from Ghana ).
What a busy and lively city, was my first reaction after the 45 minute flight from Accra.
We landed to the Lagos’s Murtala Muhammed airport (MMA). MMA is a bit larger than the Accra Kotoka airport, and, according to the federal airports authority of Nigeria (2006), it is the country’s busiest airport with nearly 900,00 passengers traveling through the domestics and international wings in just a three month period. Some construction was taking place to expand the airport when we arrived, mainly to the parking lot. The city of Lagos is among the most populated cities in Africa with a population of approximately 21 million. I was in awe when I realized that the population of Lagos is almost equal to the population of my whole country, Cote d’Ivoire, which has approximately 22 million people. Lagos is made up of a collection of islands connected by bridges. You can see a multitude of transit buses called “danfo” or “molue” (like the troto in Accra) getting people from one end to the other, but also intriguing are the keke napep tricycles on the same straight roads where others wait at bus stops.
One thing that surprised me as soon as I got into the city, was how some churches and mosques are very close to each other, only separated by one street, in some cases. And, I was even more surprised when registering for a mobile sim card, I was asked to specify my religious affiliation.
Generally speaking, the financial service industry in Nigeria is very developed, with many established banks and financial institutions. I was pleased to see how the Nigerian financial institution, United Bank of Africa (UBA), where I interned last year from the Dakar office, is leading the market in Lagos with its many branches throughout the city.
But, more importantly, I was there for the Training Need Assessment (TNA) of staff in the Nigerian microfinance industry, the project that I have been working on from Accra since I arrived. It was here that I would brave the intense traffic of Lagos to conduct the assessment. The TNA consists to gathering information around the training needs of select heads of staff from leading MFIs in Ghana and Nigeria. Then, that information is used to develop new programs, customized mainly for middle management, to address the needs that were identified in the TNA. The goal is to strengthen and develop the skills and capacities of the staff at local MFIs. Better staff lead to better operations, and that is good for the clients.
The methodology for the first part of the project is pretty simple: either send the online survey by email, conduct a phone interview, or, interview the MFI staff in person. It is the latter that brought me to Lagos. As we all have experienced, face-to-face interaction is the best means of communications. In just five short days, I visited seven different Nigerians MFIs (including Accion partner, Accion Microfinance Bank), and interviewed staff from all areas of their work: the heads of the Human Resources department, the Operations department, and the Credit department, and the Branch managers of four institutions. Everyone I met with was very accommodating to the project and provided great input from their personal experiences and job priorities related to their own training needs and those of the MFI in general. At some places, I was faced with additional security measures, because of the latest attack in Abuja. Roads and streets have written names, signs and numbers to ease your driving, although when driving in Lagos traffic, patience is key.
After a very fruitful five days experiencing life, traffic and microfinance in Lagos, I left and headed back to Accra. Now it’s time to get to work on consolidating all of the information I collected …