Cultural intelligence

 
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South Africa - structure appreciated, mutual trust vital

South Africa is located on the southern tip of Africa and has a population of nearly 43 million. Parliament sits in Cape Town, even though the seat of government is in Pretoria, the capital. English is the language of administration and is spoken throughout the country, being one of the 11 official languages; the others are Afrikaans, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swazi, Tsongo, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.

Table Mountain in Cape Town is believed to be one of the oldest mountain in the world and is home to over 1,500 species of plant – more than the entire United Kingdom!

South Africa is rated third in the world in supplying safe, drinkable tap water and Soweto, a densely-populated urban area in Johannesburg in the only street in the world to house two Nobel Peace prizewinners – both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu had houses on Vilakazi Street in Soweto.

In traditional African society, the tribe is the most important community as it is the equivalent of a nation. As more peope move into the urban areas, they attempt to maintain familial ties, including providing financial support to family members who have remained in the village.

South Africans are transactional and do not need to establish long-standing personal relationships before conducting business.  If your company is not known in South Africa, a more formal introduction may help you gain access to decision-makers. South Africans strive for consensus and often use metaphors and sports analogies to demonstrate a point.

Relationships are important and it is vital to develop mutual trust before negotiating.  After a meeting, send a letter summarising what was decided and the next steps.  Structure and detail are often missing from business dealings but South Africans appreciate these qualities when they are supplied.  It is essential to be clear on delivery dates as deadlines are often viewed as guidelines rather than firm commitments.

Share your South African business experiences

Sources: Kwintessential, Wikipedia and Lark Tours

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