South Africa’s self-style epithet of the Rainbow Nation is accurate and useful to bear in mind.
Although all South Africans share a love of their country, within the one country there are a number of diverse and distinct sub-cultures. All South Africans are acutely aware of the ethnic and racial divisions and these divisions can make it difficult to build teams which cross these boundaries.
People are not just white South African; they are English or Afrikaner. They are not just black South African; they are Zulu or Xhosa. These rivalries cut many ways and are centuries old. It will take a long time for these traditional thought processes to change and they can create serious and unforeseen tensions in the workplace.
Do not just assume that people will automatically work well together because it is in the company interest to do so. Putting teams together and making them work requires a great deal of sensitivity and local knowledge.
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: