Nigeria’s middle-class: How we live, and what we want from life

A recent survey by Renaissance Capital of the booming Nigerian middle-class delivered some interesting results.

The majority of middle-class Nigerians shop at open-air markets.

The majority of middle-class Nigerians shop at open-air markets.

The survey was conducted with 1,004 middle-class Nigerians, with an average monthly income of between N75,000 and N100,000 (US$480 and $645). Participants were drawn from the cities of Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. 70% of respondents were aged 40 and younger.

Renaissance’s findings are summarised below:

Education and work: 92% of middle-class Nigerians surveyed have a post-secondary education or have studied at higher institutions of learning. 99% have one or more members of their household in full- or part-time work. About half of the middle-class population are skilled professionals in paid employment, while 38% are entrepreneurs. Only 2% are employed in other forms of work or are part of a NGO.

Attitudes: The report notes that middle-class Nigerians are concerned about the welfare and upbringing of their children and the values they grow up with, hence the overall sentiment that children must complete high school in a Nigerian institution. However, more than half aspire to send their children overseas to complete their tertiary education. 35% would like their children to become engineers and 34% would like them to become doctors.

Car ownership: 45% of middle-class Nigerian households do not own a car. The average number of cars per middle-class household is 0.8.

Banking: Although banking penetration in Nigeria is generally low, this is not the case among the middle-class. The survey found that 94% of middle-class Nigerians currently have or have previously had a bank account. Just over 9% have owned a credit card, although 42% plan to apply for one in the future. The main reason to have a bank account is to save money (81%). Other reasons are to withdraw money when you need it (42%) and to keep money in a safe place (40%).

Spending habits: Renaissance posed the following question to respondents: What would you do with a large sum of money that you intend to spend immediately? 67% of respondents said they would purchase land or property, while 36% would spend it on education for either themselves or their family. Slightly more than 24% said they would risk it on the stock market and 21% would invest it into agricultural or trading activities.

Household appliances: The vast majority of middle-class households own a refrigerator, electric fan, electric iron and DVD player. However, only 42% own a fridge freezer, and only 8% a washing machine. Between 20% to 25% of respondents plan to buy microwave ovens, washing machines, and dishwashers in the coming year, and another 20% to 25% plan to do so within five years.

Travel: Only 15% of the Nigerian middle-class have travelled abroad. The four most popular international travel destinations are the UK, US, Dubai and South Africa.

Retail outlets: The majority shop at open-air markets (73%) as well as convenience stores (62%).

Media: Television (98%) and radio (95%) are the most popular sources of information for middle-class Nigerians, while 78% read newspapers and 48% use the internet.

Perceptions about Nigeria: The majority (76%) of respondents are positive about the future of Nigeria, while 17% said they are not and 7% were not sure. Nigeria’s poor electricity supply, unemployment and inadequate infrastructure are key concerns for the middle-class.

Implications for business

So what are the implications of the survey for companies operating in Nigeria?

Renaissance says there is potential for consumer lending formats in Nigeria. “We see great scope here, as white goods ownership is still low: only 42% of the middle class own a fridge freezer, and only 8% a washing machine. This may be influenced by availability and affordability. If retail chains can offer 12-36-month credit for white goods purchases, we would expect an increase in white goods ownership. There is potential for consumer finance businesses to thrive,” notes the report.

Nigeria also holds considerable opportunity for more formal retail outlets and online commerce. “The majority still shop in open-air markets. Formalised retailing is still in its infancy in Nigeria, which we see as positive for Shoprite, Walmart and others. As noted, 48% of the [middle-class] population has internet access, so internet shopping also has potential.”

Many of the Nigerian middle-class aspire to be home owners, which means there are good prospects for building materials and equipment companies. “The growing population and rising levels of wealth both have positive implications for housing development.”

Renaissance also notes that because mortgage levels in Nigeria are very low, there are plenty of opportunities to provide affordable loans for future housing needs.

In the area of education, the high level of interest in overseas education among the Nigerian middle-class presents potential for those planning to establish local campuses, as well as for strategic partnerships with home-grown institutions.