Now that the labor strikes have come to end, it's back to business as usual in Lagos, Nigeria. My team was eager to see the manufacturing facility of Superflux, our host company, in full operation. Superflux is Nigeria's largest secure printing facility. The company manufactures checks and a variety of other printed materials for 17 of the 24 deposit-taking banks in Nigeria.
During our first visit to Superflux the Founder and CEO, Tokunbo Talibi, explained his vision during a walking tour of the facility. One particular point of pride for Mr. Talibi is his strict policy on business ethics. He described how Superflux consistently refuses to participate in corrupt practices, which are all too common in the Nigerian business climate (consistently ranked in the top 50 most corrupt countries).
Corruption comes in various forms - in some cases, individuals responsible for awarding contracts will demand that suppliers inflate prices and over-bill their company. The difference between the actual price and the billed price is pocketed in return for awarding the contract. In other cases, local utilities (monopolies) overcharge customers by as much as ten times the contractual rate. Given that the utility is a monopoly, the only options are to appeal and/or take legal action. When it comes to the courts, however, it is much less expensive for utility companies to pay officials for favorable rulings than to reach a settlement.
With a population of 150 million, rich oil reserves, and booming banking and telecom industries, Nigeria is a huge driver of growth in Africa. Corruption can be blamed for much of the countries underdevelopment. These practices deplete national wealth, slow foreign investment, increase the cost of goods and services, and lead to misallocation of resources. Fighting corruption isn't easy, but Mr. Talabi has managed to build trust among customers and take a stand against corruption while also growing his bottom line.