Sunday, January 29, 2012

Last May I wrote a post “Africa:  Land of Opportunities”  highlighting the growing awareness that the countries of Africa (a total of 51 big and small) represent significant business opportunities in the years to come.  To see why many share that view take a look at the article “The Globe: Cracking the Next Growth Market: Africa that appeared in the May issue of Harvard Business Review (

We know that understanding where there’s potential, being familiar with statistics, market projections and legal issues isn’t enough to build the foundation of a successful expansion.  Rather one needs to know how to operate in an environment, build relationships, understand the future customer. 

To develop a better understanding of Africa, I decided to conduct an informal survey of protocol officers from across sub Saharan Africa.  We were all attending the second Annual Protocol Conference for Africa. (   These conference participants are people who regularly engage with diplomats and business leaders from around the world.  They know their countries, their history as well as current practices and attitudes. 

As part of my presentation “Working with Americans” I asked the attendees to list three things that people needed to know to be successful working in their country.  Of more than 100 individual responses,  the eight noted below are the ones most often cited:

•    Respect opinions, the diversity and history of the country
•    Learn the culture and traditions
•    Be friendly, courteous
•    Mean what you say
•    Greetings are important, acknowledge people, use appropriate titles
•    Be on time
•    Be collaborative, cooperative
•    Respect the views of others, don’t impose your own

As I read through the list  I realize these statements can be our guides not only for working in Africa.  They make sense as a framework for working anywhere in the world.  Most simply stated the they are:  Respect others.  Know something of the culture, the place.  Be authentic and open.  At home or away, good advice.  Our thanks to the contributors who shared their thoughts.

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