I must share with you that I put everything into music in my head and when I think of Africa, in the back of my mind I hear the group Toto, as they sang “I bless the rain down in Africa”… It’s a very old song, but a very nice one. If you have moment you should listen to it, it’s kind of catchy. Come to think about it, it was Africa who brought us the music better known today as the blues, jazz, R &B, rumba, reggae and hip hop! Nice!
Moran (p.500) says that one of Africa’s nicknames is “the continent of beginnings”. As it turns out, almost everyone comes from a lineage of ancient Africans, as many can trace their DNA heritage to Africa. I recently had my DNA tested and discovered that I am 2% Mali and 1% Congo, Cameroon & Southern Bantu. It is a small percentage, but meaningful to me. Take a look at the breakdown, isn’t that fascinating? 🙂
Reality is not many of us know much about Africa, I personally did not know much about Africa until I took this class. I was always intrigued about Africa, but unfortunately, was not exposed to much because in my day to day life, I was occupied with other sources and life experiences. It’s funny, but I find that when one does not know about a particular subject or place, we seek deep into the archived files of our minds in search for data stored from our experiences (like I immediately started to Sing, Africa by Toto ha ha). To some people what comes to mind are songs or movies like the Lion King and Madagascar (sorry, I am a kid at heart!) or the amazing beautiful animals in the jungle (see below an actual photo my daughter took last week in Africa).
As an aspiring global leader, I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to learn more through the course of OLEAD – Leadership in a Global Context and the reading of “Managing Cultural Differences” by Robert T. Moran, et al. (9th Edition). I submerged myself in the case studies of this immense continent of Africa along with its fascinating four geographic regions and the many states within in. There is so much we can do to contribute to the development this beautiful country.
What about Africa?
Culture in Africa is so rich, and tend to be more human-oriented. Value is placed on family, let’s take a quick look at the American culture vs. the African culture. Did you know that the United States is a low-context culture? Low-context puts the emphasis on individual achievement instead of group participation. When communicating low-context culture will concentrate more on the exam verbal description of an event and people will rely mainly on the spoken word. How interesting it is when we compare that to the Africa’s high context culture, where the meaning of the words do not come from the words, but from the environment and the relationships between ideas expressed in the communication process. In order words, high-context cultures are more human-oriented. The most important unit of African society is the family, the tribe is of the utmost importance. The family tribe establishes the guidelines for what is deemed acceptable behavior and the village elders are highly respected and often become judges, mediators and leaders. (Moran, 511). However, we must not make quick cultural generalizations because there is not just one culture in Africa. Africa cultures are diverse, and dynamic. In Northern Africa you will find the states of Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Libya and part of Sudan which tend to be closer to the Middle Eastern cultures. There is Central West Africa on the Atlantic side, which is in the midst of an oil boom. This section is comprised of 14 states known as republics, and to name a few Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Cote d’loire, Equatorial Guinea Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Togo. South Africa is comprised of 11 nations, some of them are Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique and Madagascar. (Moran, 520)
Doing business in Africa
Africa is a land of great potential and amazing natural beauty, however, it is still underdeveloped. Africa is classified as a third world country, the World Bank classified 39 countries worldwide as being deeply indebted and 33 of those 39 are in Africa! Africa only contributes 1% to the global economic output. It was shocking for me to learn that less than 10 % of the land is legally owned and that 1 in 10 Africans have deeds or titles to their properties. So how do how do we help make changes? How do we do business in Africa? We must first learn about the people and the beautiful country.
One of the most important aspects of doing business in Africa is building trust and developing friendships because in order to have a successful enterprise in Africa trust and confidence is absolutely necessary and crucial. One must take the opportunity to get to know their co-workers as individuals first before exchanging in any business activities. One important factor to remember when doing business in Africa is that friendship always comes before business. Africans want to sit and talk, they want to get to know the person before discussing any business matters. Time is often flexible, people will always come first, then time, anyone in a hurry will be considered a person who is untrustworthy and suspicious. Interestingly, this is common in the Hispanic culture as well. Similarly to Latin America, it is important for a global leader to learn about the cultural trends before learning about the of specific areas. Africans are very warm and friendly people, a smile means that you are welcomed and they trust you. I find that smiles are contagious. There is a unspoken comfort in a smile, an automatic welcome is speaks loudly and clear at the glance of that first smile.
A NEW AFRICA?
There is so much to learn and share about Africa, I would like to go on and on. Let’s focus on how to learn to appreciate the country and the people. Let’s learn what are the problems in Africa. There has to be a solution we can all work toward, the life expectancy of 47 million South Africans is only 48 years! Africa is already making changes and strides in technology by improving their communication throughout the continent with the use of television and cell phones. An article in the New York Times “A South African Take on the Vision Fund May be Small, but it carries No Saudi Baggage” highlights an internet and media group called Naspers that plans to invest $315 million into tech start0ups in South Africa, which is only one part of a larger $8.2 billion fund with plans of massive growth in e-commerce ventures. Changes do not happen overnight, however, I see a fruitful future, it may not happen tomorrow, but slowly together we can make a change. do not happen overnight, however, I see a fruitful future, it may not happen tomorrow, but slowly together we can make a change.
Cropley, Ed. (2018, November 5). A South African Take on the Vision Fund May be Small, But It Carries No Saudi Baggage. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.newyorktimes.com
Moran, R. A., Abramson, N. R., & Moran, S. V. (2014). Managing cultural differences (9th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.