2018: Managing a Business in a Pre-Election Year

By Hauwa  Abubakar

It’s a New Year and like everything new, the new year brings with it, hope.

Every new year for an entrepreneur provides the opportunity to take stock and assess the previous year. Even as January always turns out to be one of the most difficult months in the year, after the holidays, many business owners often enter the new year full of hope.

However, for entrepreneurs in Nigeria, 2018 might be one of the most challenging years yet. This is because 2018 is the build-up-year of the country’s general elections that would usher in a new government. Many people who are conversant with electioneering in Africa would agree that election periods come with many uncertainties. Not only are people unsure about the new administration that would be voted in, political activities tend to take over other activities and while some economic activities slow down, others tend to be confronted with higher security risks.

The possibility of political instability which in turn affects economic stability abounds especially if an incumbent refuses to step down and if violence erupts following the announcement of election results. “Traditionally, elections in Nigeria provoke reactions ranging from verbal attacks on the election management bodies to outright violent protests” says the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).

According to the Frontier Strategy Group, economic activities may not pick up strongly after elections. Also, where money politics is the order of the day, political office holders may spend the next few months working to regain monies spent during elections. The Frontier Strategy Group (FSG)  noted before the 2015 general elections which brought President Buhari into power that “the business environment will continue to deteriorate ahead of elections. Business customers, partners, and government agencies will be in a wait-and-see mode up until after the elections, as it becomes clear who will be in power and how Nigerians will react to the outcome. This could have implications for demand, investment plans, and the speed of moving through regulatory processes.”

There is no doubt that the wait-and-see mode would be activated in 2018, with businesses being cautious of their investments and buyers being even more cautious of their spending especially in a state of post-recession witnessed in the past two years and high inflation which still persists due to factors like low crude oil prices and high cost of petroleum products including scarcity.

However, these factors would help businesses plan their year in a pre-election era.

Study the political terrain: As a business owner, you should at this point, begin to study the political environment of each community where your business is located. Some communities are very volatile in election periods. Little disagreements can lead to a riot or ethnic clashes including vandalizing of property by miscreants. What measures have you put in place to protect your interests and property in such communities? Are you planning to cut down supplies to those areas, or are you setting up a backup plan in case of eventualities? Nobody wants to think of the ‘what ifs’ but sometimes, this helps you to prepare for the unexpected.

Be current: Follow the news, and be updated on current political activities across the country and in states where you have business stakes or interests. This would help you make informed decisions regarding your business.

Budget reasonably: In a place like Nigeria, politicians tend to spend money a great deal to gather support from the public. Money politics according to IFES remains a major form of politicking in Nigeria, with the expression of interest forms sold at very high costs in political parties, making politics an activity only the rich or politically daring people attempt.

This is the period where many political office holders visit their constituencies bearing gifts both in cash and goods. Foodstuffs are shared almost on a weekly basis in certain parts and other goods ranging from cooking pots and wrappers to cars are also doled out. Many businesses would by now begin to take note of politicians seeking an elective office. If you are a supplier, for instance, it would be wise to identify goods that make up gift items in this period and stock them with the aim of marketing to specific target customers who may buy in bulk and avoid running out of supply if the demand is high.

There is also the boom in the business of souvenirs and printing during the pre-election period. For instance, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) would use many umbrellas during their campaigns during this time as it’s the party’s symbol. The All Progressives Congress (APC) on the other hand would carry brooms at its campaigns.These products would be bought in large numbers by party supporters or by the parties themselves. Sales of these products would witness an increase just as it recorded in 2015. Consider how you can tap into this and make it worth your while. If you own a gift business, you may consider marketing your gifts and prepare good deals for your target customers. At this point, making a list of target customers and reaching out to them would be very handy.

Make wise investments and partnerships: Don’t, however, be carried away by the thought of making huge profits during this period. Note that because it has been the norm in the past, it may not be the same this year. So, invest wisely. Buy products you have studied to have popular demand, Build partnerships with relevant industry players and never forget to do a risk assessment of your investments.

Finally, follow up on financial trends and endeavor to look before you leap.

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Image Source: BBC Africa