Chioma Agu, a US born & raised recent returnee is our refreshing feature for the week. She shares with us her journey discovering Nigeria and explores her experiences in her homeland as well as discussing her business concerns and future aspirations, all with a palpable sense of positivity. Enjoy!
Thanks for speaking with us. Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Chioma Agu. I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States. I recently moved back to Nigeria and currently reside in Abuja, where I work as a business consultant and also own a business.
Can you take us briefly through your educational background?
Sure. I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and thereafter continued my education at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, where I earned a law degree in business law and entrepreneurialism. I studied law because I always wanted to be a lawyer and English I studied because I just had a natural flair for the subject area. However, while I was in law school, I found that my interest within the legal field was really in business and entrepreneurialism, so at that point I catered my course work to business law and entrepreneurialism and now I work as a business consultant.
What came next? Did you go straight into the labor market and how did your professional life begin?
I graduated from law school and I came straight to Nigeria.
Tell us about that?
I always had a passion for the country and I had a passion for investing in the country. I felt like the period after law school was the best time for me to explore life in Nigeria and to create a career from my experiences.
My journey here has been a positive one thus far. Ultimately, I hope that my story inspires other Nigerians in the diaspora to consider Nigeria in their life’s plans.
How did your family take the news that you were moving to Nigeria?
They loved it! My family is very supportive. They are my backbone, my biggest cheerleaders, and the reason that I am still here.
How did the ‘move back’ process start and what inspires your passion for Nigeria?
Ok. Well, first when I decided to move, I chose Abuja because it was the capital and just seemed ideal for professional growth. I also started reaching out to people that I know who used to live in Atlanta but now live in Abuja. I asked them questions like where and how to find a place to live, and they assisted me.
So you reached out, you networked and then you moved to Nigeria 7 months ago.
What were your first impressions and how did you start to integrate?
The first few months in the country were quite emotional. It took me a while to settle in. I had to think fast and learn fast as not only was I learning my way around, I was learning the culture, the lifestyle of the people, how the Nigerian labor market operates and much more. Admittedly, It was a lot to deal with at once.
So you moved to Abuja with nowhere to live and no job lined up, how did your story change?
Well God is good to me. I was employed at a multinational corporation. I just walked in and asked the human resources officer if they were hiring. She said yes, interviewed me, and I was hired.
Can you like to tell us about your current role?
I work as a business consultant, dealing with those who have aspirations for opening a business and we help them in a step by step process: from securing finances to developing business plans and business proposals to maximizing their fullest potential. We also offer business classes, certification and more for our clients. In addition, we serve as financial advisors for multinational corporations and banks.
On a different note, how is life in Abuja?
Abuja is very beautiful and the people are very diverse. There is the immigrant factor as people come from all over the world to make a home and living there. What I find is that most people who move back usually prefer to go to Abuja as the infrastructure works better. Abuja is less populated so it is more sane than Lagos for example.
Would you say that this is a long term move and you are in Nigeria for good?
I am exploring the country.
Are there any particular challenges you faced and how did you manage them and stay focused on your dreams?
I have faced many challenges, but I was able to manage them by practicing patience and by remaining prayerful. Patience is key because I am learning a new culture and a new society.
Nigerians in the diaspora talk about inconveniences associated with living here, like no light, a less organized infrastructure, and etc. However, I think that if you just remember that you are no longer in the U.K, or the U.S, then a natural aura of patience will overtake you.
Nigeria can be a really expensive place. Did you find this to be true?
Yes, it is very expensive. The cost of living is something to take into consideration when planning a move back as it can almost certainly truncate plans.
What are your plans for the long term in Nigeria particularly?
I aspire to own several businesses in Nigeria. Currently, I own one and a NGO. I own a boutique called Chioma’s Closet that specialises in pearl beaded jewellery and accessories. My favorite project, however, is my NGO called the Agu Foundation, Inc. My siblings and I started it 4 years ago in order to help relieve financial burdens faced in obtaining an education. We started by giving book scholarships to Nigerian American youths that have demonstrated academic excellence and consistent involvement in the community. This year AFI has added to its emphasis on education and community service by partnering with local orphanages in Abuja to host read-a-thon events with the orphans. Volunteers meet at the orphanages each week to read with the children, color, play, and etc. We use the books to instill a moral and educational foundation in the children, and thereby allowing them to be responsible adult members of society. Additionally, we hope to remind them that they are not forgotten, but rather valuable and loved members of the community.
Finally, what would your advice be to those who may be considering moving back?
I would say to do whatever feels right to you. When I decided to move back, people thought I was crazy but it felt right to me and has thankfully worked out so far. I have always felt that Nigeria does not necessarily need foreign assistance or aid, what Nigeria needs is Nigerians. Whilst the honest truth is that not everyone will move back to Nigeria and love it or make it, the overriding truth is that Nigeria needs Nigerians.
Many Thanks For Your Time And Best Wishes Moving Forward.