NIGERIA AND SA
ADEKEYE ADEBAJO: MTN shows why giants need to find common ground
Nigerians have often accused SA companies of engaging in predatory and mercantilist behaviour
When I delivered a lecture on relations between SA and Nigeria in Lagos in 2005, I was particularly shocked by the venom of the attacks levelled against SA telecommunications giant MTN, which was being derided as "Money Thieving Networks". At the time, MTN had barely been in the Nigerian market for four years, but was already the target of that much vitriol. Accusations that MTN’s mostly white managers used apartheid-style labour practices — including having separate staff amenities — did not help. Nigerians have often accused SA firms of engaging in predatory and mercantilist behaviour in its market of 180-million people, without opening up SA’s more saturated 57-million market. These perceptions have often become reality. While many Nigerians would be surprised to discover their popular stout Guinness is Irish, MTN has never been able to develop a Nigerian identity. After 1994, SA’s corporate community began to view Nigeria with great interest. It was ironically MTN that blazed th...