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.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in South Africa

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in South Africa. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.

With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in South Africa and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.

Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips