As would be expected in a country as diverse as South Africa it is difficult to give an overview of what to expect in a meeting situation in a few words.
Meeting styles will differ depending upon who you are dealing with – a traditional, white-dominated business, a start-up black African company or the subsidiary of a multi-national located in Johannesburg or Cape Town.
However, it is possible to give a few simple tips which are worth bearing in mind. Firstly, South Africans expect you to have a good idea of the current situation on the ground in South Africa. Show that you have done your research and that you have adapted your policies or ideas to meet the local conditions.
Secondly, take time in the meeting to try to develop a good relationship with the people you are doing business with. This is important within all sections of South African society as relationships have always formed the basis of good business – regardless of cultural background.
Thirdly, avoid anything that could be considered a hard sell approach. It is much better to be understated and patient with South African contacts as being too pushy will probably alienate people.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
If central Africa is poised to take off from an economic perspective then South Africa should be seen as the continent’s engine. South Africa takes on super-power qualities when looked at from an African perspective. South Africa is far and away the largest economy in Africa and the economic health of so many of its neighbours are intrinsically linked with the robustness of South Africa’s commercial sector.
The transition from the previous apartheid-led policies to a fully functioning democracy, offering equal opportunity for all, was never going to be an easy one. The birth pangs of the new rainbow nation are still being felt and political corruption and in-fighting have not helped the process. Nonetheless, South Africa has made significant progress in most areas and, critically, has not descended towards social chaos and economic meltdown as many predicted. South Africa survives and South Africa grows. Its future will be fascinating to watch and its future could, to a large measure, determine the future of Africa.
If you are considering doing business in Africa (and more and more companies are moving into Africa), then it is probably a good idea to do business in South Africa first as a stepping stone to the rest of the continent.
However, South Africa is complex. It is a complex mix of cultures, races, languages and differing approaches to business. You need to be flexible in South Africa and you need to be observant. You need to know that there is no ‘one size fits all’ process that will work in such a complicated environment. Learn about the country before you go on a business trip to – it makes commercial sense to do so (and its fascinating at the same time.)
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of South African business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on: