A Pinay ‘Nigerwife’ in Enugu

August 5, 2008

After a year in Lagos doing marketing coordination job for a lottery company, I was transferred to Enugu state in Southeast Nigeria for a lotto expansion project.

I was full of apprehension but a friend, Guiller, who worked in Enugu for 3 years, told me that Enugu is fine. So there i was in September 2007, on an Arik plane heading for the hills of Enugu.

After a week in Enugu, I was beginning to feel like I was the only Filipino in this part of Nigeria. Then in December, Jaime Lumbay came as Maintenance Engineer for the Pepsi Bottling plant in Enugu. We knew each other in Ikeja, Lagos where we met in one of those regular Sunday gatherings and Family Days.

Guiller called to tell me about a Filipina doctor who is married to a Nigerian (hence the term ‘Niger-wife’) and has been living in Enugu for quite a while. I decided to look for her bakeshop. To my pleasant surprise, it was just within walking distance from our lotto office.

I decided one day to give her a visit and went to Faye’s Bakeshoppe at Ogui Road. Only her Nigerian staff were there, but the moment they saw me, they asked if I was looking for my ‘sister‘. In Nigeria, a compatriot or fellow-countryman is described as ‘my brother’ or ‘my sister’.

I said yes, I’m looking for ‘my sistah’.

“Is madam dey?”

“A dey”, the Nigerian staff replied.

She then called somebody. “Auntie, your brother is looking for you…”
(In Nigeria, ‘auntie’ and ‘uncle’ is term of respect for somebody older than the speaker, even when not related by blood.)

I looked into the kitchen and saw an chinese-looking woman looking at me in astonishment. She was a typical Pinay, petite with Chinese eyes and as old as my mother.

Filipino?” she asked.

Opo“.

Eyyy, chinike (oh my god )!”, as she came to cheerfully hug me.

As we were making the usual ‘kumustahan’, I could sense from her accent that she was not Tagalog. So I asked where she was from in the Philippines. She said she was born in Cebu, but grew up in Samar.

“Yay, Waray.” I said, as we both laughed.

I have finally met Doc Fely (Fely Maglasang-Chioke), a retired doctor, and now a full-time businesswoman baking cakes and pastries and catering. She is well-known in Enugu as a pesky, fighting ‘oniyocha’ (white-skinned) doctor. In her prime, she was an active officer of Enugu Nigerwives Club (composed of women from different countries who are married to Nigerians), and also a one-time Rotary official in Enugu.

Doc Fely (I call her ‘Nang Fely‘) has been in and out of Nigeria for 25 years. Although she, her late husband and 3 children are also American citizens, she chose to stay in Nigeria.

After the death of her husband, she decided to retire from medical practice and put up a modest bakeshoppe. She is alone in her business since all her children are now working overseas.

I am so glad to meet Nang Fely. When I got sick of malaria (p. falciparum) and had thyphoid fever, it was Nang Fely who brought me to good clinics and also helped to treat me.

When I get hungry during lunchtime, I would go to her bakeshop for a free lunch. Lami gyud basta libre. – D
I was also her official taster. I was the first to taste her hamburger, hopia and peppered chin-chin ( a kind of salted doughbread and cut into small pieces. Good for pulutan).

It was through Nang Fely that I was able to go to Anambra to attend the traditional wedding of the daughter of a Filipina (from Butuan) who is also married to a Nigerian. There, I met other Filipina Nigerwives. There were at least 4 couples. I was also introduced to Nigerians who studied and finished Engineering and Medicine in the Philippines. They formed an association called PHILGRAN – Philippine Graduates from Nigeria.

Nang Fely is also the contact person of the Philippine Embassy in Southeast Nigeria. Once, Ambassador Umpa from Abuja called her and requested her to meet and accompany an arriving Filipina whose Nigerian husband died in neighboring Anambra state. It was the Pinay’s first visit to Nigeria.

There are now three of us Filipinos in Enugu. Myself, Jaime of  Pepsico and Nang Fely. Because of our varying schedules and Nang Fely being almost always fully-booked in the weekend; it is not very often the three of us can get together. But after nine months in Enugu, we were finally able to spend a Sunday lunch together at Jaime’s house.

Through Nang Fely, we were able to meet Ate Mayette, a Filipina from Iloilo who is married to a Belgian expat. She invited us to the Anamco Expat Clubhouse in posh GRA, Enugu to celebrate her birthday and the independence day of Belgium. I was with Roland Rosales, my Pinoy colleague in lotto who was in Enugu that time for a two-week assignment.

Ate Mayette and her husband have been in Nigeria even longer than Nang Fely. She lived with her husband for a long time in a palm plantation in Benin City, Edo state before moving to Enugu. She invited me to play golf at Enugu Golf and Country Club, but I never had time for that opportunity. Sayang.

Ate Mayette, Nang Fely, Roland, Jaime, myself (standing)

Ate Mayette, Nang Fely, Roland, Jaime, myself (standing)

Nang Fely rues about the Filipino’s lack of entrepreneurial interest in putting up business in Nigeria. She narrated that before the ‘pure water’ became a hit in Nigeria as a poor man’s packaged water, she had already thought about doing it in Enugu, using the regular ‘heat sealer’ that can be bought commercially. But because she was still active as a doctor at that time and barely had the time, she was not able to pursue it, until ‘pure water’ business arrived in Enugu from Lagos.

She also told us stories about the late 70’s to 80’s when Filipino doctors, teachers, nurses and engineers came to Nigeria at the height of its oil wealth. She said those OFWs just preferred to be employed, take their money and go home. Unlike Lebanese and Indians who made big bucks trading in Nigeria.

She said she will take a vacation to Cebu this December and try to check if she can attend a training at the TLRC on homemade ice-cream making. She’s planning to introduce a ‘real’ homemade Pinoy ice-cream in Enugu; assuming that the NEPA will remain good in Enugu.

At her age, this feisty waray is still thinking about expanding into other business ventures in Nigeria.

As my time in Enugu winds down, I am feeling sad about the thought of leaving Nang Fely and Enugu. As of this writing, I haven’t told her that I will be leaving for vacation next month and won’t be back in Enugu.

I have come to like Enugu. It is a peaceful place with good electricity. The police are polite to expats (unlike the Lagos police). I will miss the nkwobi, the ise-ewu, the ram suya, Raya’s Chinese Restaurant, quick beer at Polo Park with Johnny, shopping at Roban’s, Wednesdays at the New Haven market, swimming or boating at Protea Hotel/Nike Lake Resort, Abakpa , and of course, the cakes and pastries of Nang Fely.

So to the Pinoys and Pinays travelling to Enugu, please drop by at Doc Fely’s Faye’s Bakeshoppe at 84 Ogui Road, Enugu. She makes great and tasty cakes for all occasions, special hamburger and other pastries.

Kachifu. (Igbo for ‘goodbye‘)
—-
Maynard Flores
In Nigeria since Sept 2006.
—-

Posted by: Maynard Flores
In Nigeria since Sept 2006.



Business opportunities in Nigeria

May 4, 2008

Business opportunities in Nigeria

I go around nigeria and i noticed that the big business, manufacturing and construction companies are owned either by Indians or Lebanese. Okay, in Lagos the Chinese are into restaurant, manufacturing companies and casinos. Lebanese are into gaming, casinos, construction, manufacturing and import/export. Indians are into import/export, telecoms, stores, restaurants, and manufacturing plants.

And where are the Filipinos situated in Nigeria? Workers… OFWs..

One Lebanese friend told me that from his village in Lebanon, all the richest men made their money from Nigeria. And that any young man is considered ‘not cool’ if he has not been to Nigeria. They consider Nigeria as a sort of extended village of Lebanon and the ‘way’ to get rich. All they need is guts and right connections.

I wonder why Filipinos are not interested in investing in Nigeria.  Among SE Asian countries, only the Chinese and Koreans have strong business presence. Even Indonesians have cashed in on the West African market.

This considering that Nigeria welcomes foreign investments with open arms.

Business Opportunities
Fishing:

Do you know Nigeria is facing the Atlantic Ocean? And yet, fish supply is negligible and the country sometimes need to import fish from neighboring countries. The ’sardinas’ here is labeled ‘Product of Thailand’. The squid and oyster-in-can are ‘Product of Indonesia’.  Why? Because the fishing industry in Nigeria has not reached commercial capacity despite its rich fishing grounds. This is good area for investment — fishing and canning.

Food and Beverage

Nigerian are the largest consumer of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage in West Africa. Guiness beer and malt products are the number one here. Heineken is brewed by the Nigerian Brewery, which also produces Star, Gulder, and Guiness Stout. The sweetened malt-based drinks are also big hit among the locals. I am sure San Miguel will be able to challenge Nigerian Brewery products with SMB Pilsen, Cerveza Negra and Red Horse beer. Along the way, we can copy the sweetened malt drink and market back to Philippines.

There is a rumor that KFC might be coming to Lagos. For now, the only foreign named fastfood chain is that of Nando’s (South Africa). I don’t know if the Nigerian goverment purposedly protect the local fastfood industry from foreign competition since I never saw any western-brand fastfood chain here. But Jollibee in Victoria Island and Abuja will sure beat KFC and McDonald’s (if ever it comes to Lagos also.)

Ice cream, fruit shake, pearl coollers will also make good business in Nigeria because the raw materials are cheap. Magnolia and Selecta will make a sorbetero out this “Fan” Ice Cream here.

Telecoms

Nigeria’s telecoms is anchored on wireless providers. Landline service (NITEL) is almost nil because of the decaying telecoms infrastructure and corruption. So the mobile providers makes big money. Despite the presence of several mobile companies, they are still unable to provide sufficient service, with all the busy trunks and delayed SMS, and service shutdown. Smart, Globe and Sun will make waves here. This 2008, Middle East-based companies like Zain and Etisalat have entered the mobile market of Nigeria.

Internet access is exclusively wireless (radio and sat). Internet cafes cannot offer internet gaming because of the low bandwidth that is offered by companies. Indians are doing well with IT companies and corporate telecoms requirement.

Downstream Steel industry

You will see the testament of Nigeria’s heyday by the numerous junk cars (european brands) on the roads and in junkyards. Piles of washing machines and fridges also. I think in those times, Nigerians imported almost everything leading to the collapse of local manufacturing capability. Steel mill factory and metal recycling is a good opportunity here.

Construction

Construction is big business in Nigeria. Not only of commercial buildings but also government road projects. The leading company is Julius Berger Plc where more than half of its expat staff are Filipinos. Lebanese are also big players in construction. There are many abandoned constructions all over Nigeria. Some reasons is the spriraling prices of cement and construction materials and government stopping the construction because of haphazard structural design and shortcutting the mix of materials (some buildings collapsed).  Since the Nigerian government is already familiar with Filipinos in construction industry, the entry of Filipino construction company will be welcomed and stands a big chance of getting big projects.

Services

Indians controlled the major port of Apapa. In fact, there are streets in Apapa named after Indian places like “Bombay Crescent”, “Calcutta Street”, among others.. From stowage, warehousing, transporting and ship chandling. But as you know, there are Pinoy seamen in Nigeria, especially in oil-rich delta, manning ships that handle transports of crews, supplies and oil.

Medical and Education sector also promises big business in Nigeria. HMOs are also a growing industry here. Supply and maintenance of medical equipment is a big business opportunity.

Solid Waste management & Recycling is also a promising business in Nigeria. The use of cellophane and plastic bottles has cause a blight on the environment that 80% of the tons of trash is made up of these materials.

Transportation

Improved mode of transportation is just beginning to be implemented. With protests from the small time operators who used dilapidated vans and rolling coffins they call ‘Molue’ buses. Recently, the Lagos state has started deploying modern Benz buses to run on major thoroughfares. The state government made sure the buses have their own lane and speacially designated drop-and-pick zones. You will see long queues of people lining for their turn to get into the bus.  Hino Nissan (Santarosa?) and FMC can do business here to build big buses.

Balikbayan Box/Cargo Forwarding

With more than 5000 OFWs here, i have heard numerous clamor for a ‘balikbayan’ box business. One Pinoy attempted to establish it and there were plenty of OFW customers. Unfortunately, the attempt ended in disaster when the Nigerian contact turned out to be a 419 scammer and ran away with the money. There are reputable Nigerian freight forwarders that Filipino cargo forwarders can partner with. I hope LBC or JRS will be encourage to come to Nigeria.

Consider this, OFWs in Nigeria are all professionals. There are no domestic helpers (nannies), nurses and doctors. Most work in oil companies, airlines, construction, and manufacturing companies. So imagine the spending power of these pinoys.

If the Lebanese and Indians made millions here by making/risking investment, why are Filipino entrepreneurs afraid to invest in Africa in general, and Nigeria in particular??

State Visit

Well, for starter, the government should consider a Presidential State Visit to Nigeria. Madam Arroyo would go down in history as the only Filipino head of state to have visited an African state. This will also allow a creation of economic cooperation between Nigeria and Philippines.

The State visit will also let our “friends and supporters” in DFA, POEA, DOLE and OWWA to see and hear the real status of peace and order in Nigeria, not just the oil regions, so they will know that the present TOTAL BAN is illogical. Maybe the Philippines will end buying bunker oil from Nigeria at discounted price.

Then maybe create a Philippine-Nigeria Business Cooperation Office, to facilitate  mutual investments by both Filipinos and Nigerian investors.

It is a requirement in Nigeria to have a Nigerian in the management level. Better if there is a reputable partner. While their are unsavory business practices in Nigeria, but is nothing unusual to us Filipinos — just the same as in Philippines.
The Brave and the Few

Very few Filipino residents in Nigeria have set up businesses. There is one Pinay (Niger-wife) in Enugu (Southeast Nigeria) who owns a bakeshoppe. Another Pinay Niger-wife married a Nigerian doctor and they operate a hospital in Lagos (Humana Hospital). A Niger-wife based in Port Harcourts owns and manages Barrio Fiesta Hotel and Restaurant. Other than these intrepid women, i haven’t heard of any Filipinos owning a manufacturing or trading business in Nigeria.

Well then, i hope that more OFWs will use their hard-earned money to re-invest either in the Philippines or in their host country where they have residency.


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