A couple of years ago, being open about buying Nigerian products was an invitation for derision. People looked at you like you were inferior. It was like confessing that you ate local rice, with all the stones and shaft because you were poor and couldn’t afford better.
To compete with foreign brands which were considered superior in the market, many Nigerian producers and manufacturers packaged and sold their products with foreign brand names. They slapped Made in China and Made in Italy on Nigerian made products because they fared better in the market.
Besides a strong general preference and value for exotic goods, Nigeria products performed poorly in the market because Nigerians had a reputation for being able and willing to make inauthentic copies of almost anything. They looked for the cheapest ways to produce and maximise profit. This often meant compromising with quality and resulted in largely poor products. This isn’t to say there were no quality Nigerian products. There were, but the poorer products, in their numerousness, controlled the narrative.
Another problem was that quality Nigerian products were expensive. Quality is, especially when resources are sparse. People were more willing to buy foreign products at the same or higher costs because there was a greater feeling of assurance that the goods would be original. People’s avoidance of Nigerian brands because they were considered substandard and too expensive was ironic because so many people still looked for cheaper goods. They looked for this in foreign brands, and because they often couldn’t afford the quality they wanted, they still ended up buying substandard products packaged and sold under foreign brand names. Many Nigerian producers understood that it was easier to sell their products when they did not bear Nigerian brand names. Compromising on quality and selling more was easier than struggling to find a market for expensive but standard goods. The negative effect of the boycott against Nigerian products was more pronounced on manufacturers who went the extra mile to ensure their products were quality.
Today, the market dynamics is still fairly the same and Nigerian products still have a bad rep. There have been shifts, however, and the growth in the quality of Nigerian goods has been spectacular. While there are still fakes that populate the market, producers of quality products have increased and people are becoming increasingly bolder in using Nigerian made products. There is almost a sense of pride associated with it now. Some brands have been able to establish themselves as purveyors of quality goods and even smaller startups are prioritizing quality.
The slowly growing trend in buying Nigerian brands has been made popular by influential figures and celebrities who have inspired more people to patronize Nigerian brands. They have helped draw attention to the high quality of some Nigerian products and the need to own what we have. In 2017, Chimamanda launched a Wear Nigerian Campaign, which saw her wear Nigerian brands in all her public appearances.
On the more technical side, to ensure that Nigerian manufacturers follow best practices and produce goods that meet industry standards, the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) was established in 2015. They provide certifications for industrial products which meet quality benchmarks and are responsible for designating, establishing and approving standards. For those more reluctant to follow this shift in trend, SON employs stringent measures in dealing with them. They have built cases awaiting prosecution in court against a number of defaulting importers and manufacturers of substandard products. In 2019 alone, they confiscated and destroyed substandard products worth billions of naira.
Efforts are being made to ensure quality and wipe the Nigerian market clean of substandard goods. With brands increasingly choosing to prioritize quality and strict measures put in place to deal with those who fail to meet standards, there has never been a better time to buy Nigeria.