Cultural Sensitivities and differences in Africa

Here are some of the most important cultural sensitivities and differences in Africa to consider whilst travelling on business.

According to An “Most people are aware of some cultural differences and sensitivities when doing business globally, but not of how widespread they are. For example, when doing business in the Middle East, one should never show the bottom of one’s foot. In Japan, be sure to accept a business card with both hands and understand that the word “no” is rarely ever heard in a business meeting.”

When conducting a business it is important to consider the medium in which you conduct your business, such as communication done via the internet, as it is advised that you communicate verbally effective with your international counterparts. It is also advised that you refrain from using slang and idiomatic phrases in order to ensure that there is clear understanding between you and your counterparts.

Cultural sensitivities vary in the African continent, however, they remain crucial and necessary to implement and understand.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe:
President Robert Mugabe has been the nation of Zimbabwe’s president for more than 24 years and is widely known for his extreme governance of his country. When South African renowned music band Freshly Ground was banned from performing in Zimbabwe, it rang alarms in the cultural sensitivities of Zimbabwe’s Authorities. The band which is formed by South Africans, Zimbabweans and Mozambicans and has a huge pan-African fan-base was banned following a video they released that allegedly portrays a “spitting image-style of the ageing president Robert Mugabe as a chicken afraid to relinquish power.” Zimbabwe reportedly has a law that forbids people to make anecdotes about the president.

Anti-gay laws in Africa:
Although not all African countries have officially passed the anti-gay law, the majority of the African nation is extremely sensitive when it comes to homosexuality. In recent news, Uganda has been in hot water and overly criticized worldwide for passing the anti-gay law act. The anti-homosexuality law act was officially passed by the parliament of Uganda on 20 December 2013 with a life in prison sentence to those found guilty of the “crime’. According to The Guardian, “Uganda has suffered an alarming rise in attacks on gay and lesbian people since it passed an anti-homosexuality law late last year, research has found”. Persons found guilty of violating the act are subjected to mob violence, homes burned down, blackmail, lost jobs, arrests, and evictions and suicide.

The Guardian recorded that a report compiled by Sexual Minorities Uganda, detailed a number of recorded incidents had increased tenfold. At least 25 people were reported to have fled Uganda, seeking asylum in neighbouring Kenya and Rwanda. The report also recorded violent 162 incidents since the legislation was passed by parliament.  However, Uganda is not the only African country practising this harsh punishment. Leading Nigerian authors’ including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Jackie Kay have voiced their opinion and condemn the draconian new anti-gay law in Nigeria.

Other countries that have been reported as being anti-gay but have not officially passed a punishable law or have a less severe punishment, include Zambia, Cameroon, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Ghana, Morocco, Liberia, Malawi, Libya, Kenya, Algeria. Ethiopia is expected to pass a severe anti-gay bill, while the Zimbabwean government has carried out anti-homosexuality campaigns since 1995. In other cases, countries such as South Africa are liberal when it comes to homosexuality and sexual orientation and have even legalised gay marriage across the nation.

How do you protect your homosexual key personnel working in Africa?
Islamic Laws in Africa:
The Islam religion is spread wide across African countries and has been so since the early 7th Century, making Africa the largest Islam continent outside of Arabia. Islam in Africa has been forced to be reshaped by the ever changing social, economic and political conditions in Africa, however, it remains resilient in many African countries.

In Egypt, Islam is predominantly practised across the whole nation, specifically in the major city of Cairo. With a population of approximately 81.7 million people, with 94% of the population being Muslim and the 6% Coptic Christian. With the Egyptian state pressing its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, it is important to be aware of the rules that govern the Islam beliefs when traveling to Egypt, such as covering your full body as a woman walking the streets of Cairo.

In Nigeria, the nation is plagued by a great deal of different religious group with 50% being Islam, 40% Christian and 10% has indigenous beliefs. In recent news, the Nigerian insurgency, Boko Haram (which means Western education is forbidden), has shattered news all across the world after abducting more than 200 girls for over a month. Although a great number of Islamists groups have come out in protests denouncing Boko Haram as Islam, Boko Haram revealed in their recent video that they have now converted all the abducted girls into Muslim.

In very recent news, a Sudanese woman has been sentenced to death for renouncing Islam and marrying a Christian man. Meriam Yehya Ibrahim was charged for allegedly committing apostasy for leaving Islam and becoming a Christian by a court in Khartoum. The heavily 8 months pregnant woman was also sentenced to a 100 lashes for marrying a non-Muslim man. The woman was given 3 days to recant but after refusing to return to Islam, she was sentenced to be hanged to death.

How do you train and protect your key personnel working in Africa on cultural sensitivities?

DOWNLOAD our H.E.A.T manual and learn more about the different cultural sensitivities in Africa.


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