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Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard’s Welcome Remarks in U.S. Commercial Service’s Virtual Franchise Trade Mission
September 23, 2020

Distinguished guests, I am delighted to see you all here today virtually to welcome you to the first ever Virtual Franchise Trade Mission! When the COVID crisis first struck the world and eventually Nigeria earlier this year, there were so many massive changes that we all had to take in. In short order…our way of life, our ability to see family and friends….it all changed overnight. Part of the changes included changing how we do business with one another, particularly in a country like Nigeria, where personal relationships are so highly valued, and face-to-face interactions are such an important part of building those relationships.

I think it speaks to adaptability and pioneering spirit of every single one of us on the line today that we took in the challenges and adapted our way of life and our way of doing business. Here we are today continuing to meet one another and engage in exciting new business prospects in spite of the challenges….and in such a fun market sector! For the U.S. franchises on the line, I hope we get to welcome your brands to this market very soon!

You probably already know that Nigeria holds tremendous market opportunity, particularly in this sector, since it is the largest African economy and boasts  both an enormous (and fast growing) population as well as a rising middle class. When we think of Nigeria we often think of the oil and gas market, but there is so much more to it than just oil and gas. The Nigerian government recognizes this and is looking for ways to diversify the economy away from hydrocarbons and grow other sectors. Franchising can be a great way to do that by offering Nigerian people the chance to be entrepreneurs and provide jobs in partnership with some of the best brands the U.S. has to offer. It’s a win-win for both sides.

We have noticed that the franchising business model is gaining popularity in Nigeria. Drive down any street in Lagos and you might see any number of Domino’s or Pizza Hut stores, Pinkberry Yogurt or Krispy Kreme donuts, Kentucky Fried Chicken or Johnny Rockets, to name just a few. Those are just the food-focused franchises, among many others.  The presence of these brands in the market, and in many cases their longevity in the market, is a testament of the opportunities that Nigeria has to offer this sector.

Over the course of the next three days, you all will hear from speakers about their experiences with franchising in Nigeria and some best practices regarding doing business here. Then we get into the really exciting part, the business to business matchmaking where you’ll all have the opportunity to meet and connect virtually with a whole host of potential partners. This is a particularly key point because partnerships have always been the lynchpin of successful business relationships, and it has never been truer than it is now given the current circumstances under COVID.

I’m looking forward to hearing about the outcome of this event. I anticipate many successful engagements and subsequent partnerships, and I look forward to celebrating new commercial agreements in the not-too-distant future. Even more importantly, I hope that also in the not-too-distant future I can pop into Ace Hardware for some new paint for my living room, have a bite to eat at Dickey’s BBQ, or squeeze in a workout after a long day in the Embassy at Golds Gym or Tapout Fitness…not to mention all the other exciting American business represented here today like Belfor Franchise Group, Stockade, Tumbles and Ziebart.

Thank you all for being here today and for keeping the world moving despite the incredible challenges we all face today. Your spirit and adaptability will pay dividends! From here, I’ll welcome Jennifer Woods, the Commercial Counselor from the U.S. Commercial Service in Nigeria to speak to you about the Commercial and Franchise landscape in Nigeria. Thank you!