THE dominance of South African retail stores in the country may soon be challenged, going by plans of Walmart- America's foremost low-price merchandise retail store and assessed world's largest company of its type, to open two stores in Nigeria.
The two outlets would be located in Lagos and Abuja respectively.
The disclosure was made yesterday by Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States of America (USA), Professor Ade Adefuye.
Speaking from Dallas where he met with the Nigerian community, Adefuye said representatives from the world-famous retail store had recently visited him at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC, making inquiries about opening shop in Nigeria.
“It is an indication of the growing confidence in Nigeria's economy," Adefuye stated, disclosing that he is currently engaging with the leading US company that is also the biggest employer of labour here, on the conditions and requirements that would have to be met to do business in Nigeria.
Walmart currently employs about 2.1 million workers and Cable Network News (CNN) ranked it last year as the biggest global company, saying despite the global recession, the discount retailer’s bargain prices continued to lure consumers worldwide.
According to the CNN report on Global 500 firms, a list topped by Walmart, the US discount stores " continued expanding globally, reaching further into Asian markets, and it completed its biggest Latin-America acquisition: a controlling interest in Chile’s largest grocer, Distribucion y Servicio."
The company's plan to open stores in Nigeria was described as part of the strategy of its new leadership team led by its new President and Chief Executive Officer, Michael Duke.
At the company's yearly general meeting last year, Duke was reported as saying global markets are “becoming an even bigger and more important part of our company.” Indeed in 2009, about 25 per cent of the company's income was from outside the USA.
Adefuye explained that currently the USA State Department has also become involved in the preparations to bring Walmart to Nigeria and as soon as a new cabinet is formed, the Federal Ministry of Commerce would start work on the procedure.
“We are waiting for the formation of the cabinet to link up with the Commerce Ministry and in couple months, the plan to have Walmart in Nigeria should have advanced.”
The Nigerian Ambassador had initially announced the development over the weekend in Canada at a forum with Nigerians abroad under the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation.
According to Dr. Ola Kassim, a Canada-based medical practitioner and NIDO leader, who was at the event there was “some applause from the audience when the ambassador initially disclosed the initiatives from Walmart, during his keynote address but some of the attendees later expressed their concerns about the development.”
There has been a debate among Nigerians abroad on the impact of a Walmart Store in Nigeria with some praising it and others raising critical questions.
For instance, Kassim said some of the "concerns centred mainly on the possible devastating impact the Walmart stores would have on neighbourhood businesses especially the small 'mama and papa stores.”
Others, he added are “that the end result of Walmart Stores might be a situation whereby more foreign made products mostly from China will now be sold to Nigerians at cheaper prices- to which local Nigerian manufacturers will not be able to compete."
However there was also the view that other similar international stores like Game and Shoprite, Spar and Goodies are already in Nigeria, while Chinese products are also already in place in the country.
But at the forum in Canada, Adefuye responded that he was quite willing to take into consideration written comments from Diaspora Nigerians regarding the proposal to setup Walmart Stores in Nigeria.