Nigeria: Data collection at the subnational level: Lessons from Nigeria, Africa’s giant

Author: Madalina Papahagi, Luis Aldo Sanchez-Ortega
Publication: SmartLessons 2010

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Benchmarking local commercial regulations and their enforcement is useful, not only for assessing the impact of government rule making and monitoring the evolution of the regulatory environment, but also for stimulating public debate on policy design as well as fostering competition to reform. Producing a rigorous set of primary quantitative micro data can be challenging even in the best of circumstances. Imagine what the task is like when attempting to reach even the remotest corners of Nigeria to benchmark local business regulations and their enforcement across 36 states and the federal capital, Abuja. With such a vast territory to cover, there was a lot to be learned, including securing local buy-in, maintaining flexibility, and building a team on the ground—some of it along the way. The lessons below describe the steps we took to overcome these challenges and design an efficient data collection process.

Main Findings

  • In the absence of a reliable countrywide telecommunications infrastructure, build a team presence on the ground, and build local capacity.
  • Trust but verify… and be prepared to adjust course in midstream.
  • Involve the public sector early on to validate your findings and get buy-in.
  • Choose the right partner: focus on substance first and on simplicity of administration second.
  • Engage the support of your colleagues to manage relations on the ground and maximize project outreach.