Five cultural factors to consider when starting business in Sub-Saharan Africa today

My Best Wishes For 2018

0 commentaires

Executives Abroad: Five Signs that You Are Miscommunicating with Your Cross-Cultural Teams

Cross-Cultural Communication Checklist

1. Even though you have significant international experience, what actually happens in the new culture ends up being quite different than you expected.

2. It feels like your new team and local management do not trust you. You don't understand each other and communication is inefficient.

3. You find that your team is focusing on low-priority tasks which makes it difficult to reach your goals.

4. It feels like the relational conflicts you are facing hinder the progress of your projects.

5. You find that different cultural visions about leadership styles prevent you from managing flexibility and diversity efficiently in your team. 

In the call, you will

  • Get a clear third-party picture of how your multicultural team(s) work(s) together with your executive(s) abroad and where the breakdowns are occurring
  • Discover the highest-priority action items around your key issues
  • Learn how working with Emerg-Et-Sens can boost your bottom line while creating a stronger international company culture
0 commentaires

Five Reasons Why Cultural Adjustment is Not Just a Quick Fix for Executives Abroad

By Françoise Falisse

Cultural adjustment goes through different phases and is not a taken for granted reality.                                                                                                     External and internal reasons motivate the executives abroad to adapt to cultural change.

Narrowing Distances Do not Lessen Cultural Communication Challenges

 

Nowadays crossing a continent does not take you more than a half a day, which can give some executives false impressions that the world is becoming a big business market where you can easily reach people from another culture as long as you can communicate properly in English or in the language of the prospect.  

 

Using a common language does not reduce the cultural gap, on the contrary sometimes.  When the common business language used in business communication is a foreign language for one or for both business partners (and even if both partners speak their mother language), they need to make sure every partner has understood the same message. 

 

In other words both partners have to check that they both give the same meaning to the same words, which can be far from being obvious because the modes of communication largely differ from one culture to the other. 

 

Among other factors, some use a more direct style, as in Nigeria whereas their close neighbours, the Benin people, for instance, prefer a more indirect style, both however using high context communication style where their words refer to a cultural context often hard for foreigners to perceive at first glance. Formal-informal, factual-emotional, verbal and non verbal communication also largely impact the way we communicate.

The colour of your skin or your ethnic origin can also convey wrong information about your culture and assimilating all the people of the same continent is an easy amalgam often unwillingly made from people outside the continent. 
  

A young West-European executive from African origin I recently coached wanted to improve the poor quality of her working relationships with her local West-African boss and team. She had realized that misleading perceptions from both her European headquarters and local managers had led them to anticipate wrongly how she could adjust in an African living and working environment while she had perceived it as a totally foreign context.

 

She got professionally trained. My working and living experience of nine years in Africa helped her develop cultural consciousness about this country and create trust with her team. She then became much more comfortable with interacting with people of another culture. This resulted in her connecting faster the local issues with the targets and deadlines fixed by her European headquarter. This training also highlighted her challenges in a new foreign working environment.   

International Experience can be Misleading

I quite often notice that both HR managers and some senior executives with international exposure misconsider to get trained on cross-cultural communication for time and cost reasons and they claim that they already gained enough experience abroad taking for granted they should be able to adapt easily to a new culture.

 

However their ability to adjust to some countries on which they built up their international experience does not necessarily mean they could be agile everywhere. More senior staff could for instance work on more strategic issues such as how to help their company integrate change and deal with complexity. 

I have known a Finance Manager for some time and I know he has been widely exposed to working and living in Africa. A couple of years ago, his former company sent him to Morocco as a Resident Finance Manager without any cultural training beforehand because the HR manager was not aware of the need assuming he was already accustomed to working overseas.

 

Their mindset was to drop expats in unfamiliar environments and expect the bravest and the most inventive could be strong enough to get by and show the best adaptability.

He quickly realised that his former behavioral adjustment which he had acquired from his previous jobs in black Africa resulted in awkward interactions with his Moroccan staff. His unadjusted attitude quickly deteriated the working atmosphere which consequently hampered his objectives, cut the team’s motivation and delayed the delivery of results to headquarters.  

 

A good solution for him would have been a customized personal and cultural development program in the form of individual coaching sessions beforehand and even on the working place to help him better understand Moroccan culture, point major cultural differences with the black African countries he had worked in before and assist him in adapting his communication and management style to behave efficiently with his Morrocan staff.

 

Personality

Personal aspects also need to be included in the process of developing cross-cultural agility. Not everyone feels good in the same working environment and adapts the same way even more more so when executives have to work in a foreign country.

What are the executive’s preferences in terms of behavior and what is his/her system of values ?

 

More specifically for expatriates before or when starting a new assignement, the screening of external and internal factors can help determine the expatriate’s preferences for language of work, eating habits, climate where he/she feels comfortable, developed or developing countries, a taste for a particular continent or type of landscapes, personal needs for socialization, … and many other factors as well as his/her global open-mindedness for change and risk taking.

Adjustments Take Time

My own experience overseas convinced me that adaptation process to another cultural environment takes time because it is a trip with constant back and forth.

 

On the pile side of the part one can consider that the greater the cultural distance between the executive and his/her local team and management the more effort (and probably time) it will take to communicate effectively with them. The face side of the part shows the ability of some executives to harmoniously work with culturally distant teams proving that knowledgeable executives about cultural differences can adapt their own behaviours to communicate efficiently with their local teams and partners.   

Maintaining Confidence while Leaving your Comfort Zone

As we are working globally, the need for adjustment to another culture has become a necessity more than a choice.

Far from being easy, it requires an open mindset to change and a readiness to unfamiliar situations bringing its lot of discomfort specially when it comes to high-level negotiations.

 

A Managing Director of a new African branch that his company had recently opened confirmed how his cultural training had first helped him put his European vision of African culture into perspective but also how he could then adapt his speech and non verbal communication to increase his chance to enter the local business arena. Cultural coaching can also help decode local rituals, such as the way you shake hands can leave a first and sometimes final impression to your partner.

 

Respecting and being respected are certainly key values to most cultures as it is at the center of our human condition. Empowering executives to leverage their cultural skills does not aim to make them more powerful over others but can certainly contribute to develop their business in nuances and evolve in the complex working environment of our 21st century.         

Share this news

0 commentaires

Five cultural factors to consider when starting business in Sub-Saharan Africa today

By Françoise Falisse

Developing cultural awareness in Africa

Africa seldom leaves foreigners indifferent, either you love it or you hate it, it goes from apprehension to attractiveness, from refrain to call for action and investment, with sometimes mixed feelings of fear and fascination and trust taking a long time to build.

 

This huge continent with its high potential in natural resources and fast growing population is now facing important human, social, economic, political and structural challenges.


Potential investors targeting countries such as : Congo, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Angola or South-Africa may be refrained from investing due to social unrest, political or economic instability and the sharp slow down of the global economy (namely the drop of the oil price) also directly impacts these emerging economies (all of them not developing at the same pace).

 

Tanzania enjoying more local stability is becoming the third biggest economy of Africa and the most important economy in East Africa, namely thanks to its new logistical facilities and International Container Terminal Services (China funded) in Dar Es Salaam.

 

As the conduct of international business closely intermingles with cultural awareness, a lack of awareness of African cultural diversity and local identities will deteriorate the quality of the business relationships, making the negotiation processes still longer and more costly. Cultural clash can compromise future discussions or even lead to a failure if we, as foreign investors, are not acquainted with the African mentality and local customs.

Here are five global cultural aspects, commonly shared in all black Africa, which need to be considered before entering the business arena on the continent:

1. Desire to reclaim their resources

They strive for reclaiming their resources, empowering national companies and employing local staff to develop their economy

  • Massive numbers of diaspora Africans want to go back to work in Africa and employers are more looking within the region for home grown talents, partly explained by the improvement of tertiary education. Some countries also seek to reduce their trade balance and their energy dependence such as Nigeria, for instance, which is building a new crude oil refinery with the aim, in the medium term, to reduce its re-imports of its own oil production once refined. These elements are combined with more senior roles being replaced with locals in part because expats are a big cost for the companies. Some amazing business success stories as fast as dizzying can be observed throughout Africa. 

  • The desire to develop rapidly and grow more independent from external know-how influences their attitude towards foreigners, which is also still linked to the colonial history of each country. Today's African elite has either been highly educated in the best universities out of Africa or are tremendously rich and powerful, or both. The African economy is closely interconnected with foreign companies leveraging funds, bringing  their expertise and experience that these countries still lack in many sectors of the economy.

  • Unfortunately, rampant corruption, the absence of functioning public institutions, the need of more modern infrastructures, internal conflicts of all sorts and the still low enrollment rate of the lower social classes (and poverty) undermine if not compromise the efforts made to develop their country.

  • Different business routes are opening up in emerging economies in Africa which could redefine business maps on the continent. 

2. Time management: Time is plentiful, "time is money" in the African way

How their vision of time to the present conditions their relationships in business

  • The famous Anglo-Saxon slogan "time is money", synonym of need to be efficient and make the most of your time which is regarded as scarce. Losing time may let you lose money or miss a (business) opportunity and the focus is to reach your target in the most possible direct way by focusing on an action plan.

  • "Time is money" in the African way can be understood the other way round: time is plentiful and is part of the negotiation process, rushing through it is most probably a source of failure. They have time on their side, time to discuss and build relationship, they are most of the time less in a hurry to sign a contract than their foreign suppliers, their natural resources are not stored in a cost effective warehouse but can be extracted at any time from their soil, which they own. Tomorrow is another issue and they globally prefer stick to the present time which inevitably slows down the negotiation process.

  • Although African top executives are well aware of the needs and plan for the future, the urgent and the important are sometimes confused in our mutual calendars: urgent for whom and important for whom? Commissioned people who are expected to speed up the negotiation process through their entry to influential people often cost a lot and do not always speed up the process. Executives in charge of the operations may also lack, if not technical skills, management experience.

  • For some contractors, arriving very late, delaying negotiations in final phase or postponing the signature of the contract are common attitudes which can be regarded as a sign of power from the Chief Executive Officer.
    Time can be used as a strategy and priorities on the agenda are not the same on each side of the table.

3. Socialising to build trust

How mutual respect can help weave long lasting business relationships, fixing the right boundaries on the workplace

Negotiation is based on the quality of relationships, so take time to build a relationship before, during and after the meetings and create trust. Showing a sincere interest in the social and economic life of the African partner 's country as well as for one's traditions are appreciated and are not regarded as a waste of time.
They are just the first step to establishing a business relationship in respect for their business customs. Enquiring globally about the family is usually well received when discussing face to face. Some business meetings can take place late in the evening, making them more discrete.

4. The group culture and individualism versus collectivism in today's Africa

How the notion of tribes, the belonging to a clan and the extended family influence their relationships

  • Today the African territory is shared between hundreds of tribes, many live in peaceful agreement with other tribes, others are in constant rebellion or maintain fragile stability over the land. Some big tribes supersede the notion of nation because they settled much earlier on territories (over different countries) before the maps setting the current boundaries between countries were drawn. Nowadays, most tribes still share a common language, local customs and traditions which have been transmitted orally from one generation to another by families, but also through the arts or commerce.
    They globally concentrate in particular geographical areas and they also share common values but not obligatory a common religion. They offer as much diversity as contrasts.

  • The members of a same tribe share a strong sense of the community, they recognise each other and the belonging to a clan or a village affects their relationships with people from other clans. The advantage given to the members of the clan also influences their business relationships. Past events and the reputation that a particular tribe built over time are so deeply rooted in the common memory that it can still nowadays influence positively or negatively their relationships with members of other clans, often no matter their educational background.

  • Though the group culture remains predominant in the majority of the African population with the loss of face and shame as penalties, high ranked civil servants, members of the governments or successful business people, “the happy few”, are developing individualistic behaviours caring sometimes more for their immediate profit and close family circle than for their community of peers and the common good. 

5. The submission to the boss and the chief figure

Leadership in today's Africa

  • Inherited from the archetypal figure of the "chief", the clan leader, the boss traditionally represents power and authority, his appointment to this function usually implies respect and submission from his subordinates.
    As a matter of fact, he/she is the one referred to take a decision, to advise, to find a compromise or settle a dispute, a bit like a father, because he/she is supposed to know all about the business and the life in the office. Delegation is not common and relationships usually come before tasks.

  • Foreign executives may struggle when managing local staff usually which are not acquainted with delegation, talents acquisition, taking responsibilities, sharing of knowledge, expertise, collaboration and team building. Still too many local executives lead their teams deeply convinced that their authority holds in their unquestioned power and unchallenged knowledge by fear of losing face.
    Education remains one key factor for the evolution of mentalities and the development for their economy.

Starting business in Sub-Saharan Africa is complex, it requires an awareness of African cultures and preferably some understanding of the local customs of the target country. Adopting a more laid back, respectful, open but cautious attitude will be necessary to build in time a trustworthy business relationship. Don't miss out the opportunities!

Share this news

0 commentaires

Building relationships in West-Africa

By Françoise Falisse

Focus on Nigeria

Share this video

0 commentaires

Checklist when leaving the country - part 2

By Françoise Falisse

From moving to settling in the new country.

Expatriating means much more than taking one’s luggage, locking one’s door, taking a plane and landing in a new place to start a new function the next day. Though some managers actually start their career abroad almost as hastily as this, understanding and adjusting to the new environment will take place at another tempo. The acquisition, in rather short terms, of technical competences and the comprehension of new factual data are often slowed down by some change resistance or for the least by the need for some time to adjust to this new environment.

 

Change is an iterative process with its ups and downs, back and forth, from change resistance to acceptance of the new situation, time to integrate change is dependent on everyone’s experience and vision of life. Change process is globally characterized here by three main steps : pre-decision phase, preparation phase and moving-installation phase.

Experiencing change

1. Pre-decision phase

The first phase anticipates change, balancing between a rather stable life in a well known context (but sometimes unsatisfactory) and the perspective of a new and unknown situation which might be a source of evolution for the expatriate (and his/her family). You know what you have, you do not know what to expect in that country ; you have professional, personal and material expectations but you do not know if you could see them fulfilled in that country. Doubts, uncertainty and hopes overwhelm this period of analysis.

Tips for a considered decision

  • Get information from different sources about the job, the country, the living and working circumstances
  • Involve your wife/husband as well as your children according to their age) in the decision either considering expatriating on a bachelor or a family basis: explain, argue about the motivations but also listen to their opinions and feelings, allow them to express freely
  • Consider the opportunity objectively and emotionally
  • Trust your intuition, the job offer has not emerged by chance, an inner change process may have already started in your mind for some time, though you were not yet really aware of it

2. Preparation phase

If you have taken the decision to leave your country for a few years, the contract has been signed, a date of departure is fixed, you are a step further in change acceptance, a count down has now started. Balancing between relief, anxiety and enthusiasm, you are now getting prepared for the unknown and you are becoming more conscious a page is now being turned. Not everyone reacts the same way facing your leaving the country : as first actor(s) of the decision, you can accept and adhere to change more easily than children, parents or friends who can react very emotionally at different levels of understanding of your expatriation.

On the one hand, leaving one’s country can contribute to personal and professional development, a way to broaden your vision of life as well as your family’s and in the other, leaving one’s country may also be regarded as a very destabilizing situation.

Some people may be very supportive and their positive arguments make you more confident in the decision whereas arguments against your departure often express mistrust, sadness or fear. These are very discouraging signs at a moment you greatly need support to go through this period with serenity.

Change acceptance is also very much linked to your national culture, your education, your motivations and values, your life and professional experience. 

Tips for an efficient preparation

  • Get support from people with a positive state of mind but accept not every one adheres to your project. Leaving one’s country never leaves people indifferent moreover if your native country is very much attached to long term stability and is globally reluctant to change
  • Make a time planner and list different tasks in the different fields (e.g. school, job, moving, house,…) to avoid running out of time and being too much under pressure (which will anyway happen after your arrival …)
  • Make sure you do not run away from your country because this state of mind is negative and the boomerang effect way be more powerful after some time. Put your departure into perspective.
  • Take time with your beloved, listen to them. Express them your emotions, either positive or negative, it can in its turn help them accept better and more gradually your living at a distance. 

3. Moving - installation phase

During the first three months after arrival in the new country, a positive attitude must prevail as you need to survive and get your bearings during this exhausting period. Change then transforms itself into a creative process : your energy is fully devoted to learning, understanding and integrating the new environment. So many new faces, so many things to discover, getting your bearings in a new place is a very time and energy consuming activity. However, between three to six months after your arrival, the excitement of the moving and the settlement has fallen out and the discovery of all the aspects linked to your new life give way to a more depressive period. You may feel very tired, lacking energy and discouraged sometimes or even aggressive towards local people. Change process goes through a phase of regression and your lack of positive energy leaves the door open to question your choices again ; it is time to have a break and take fresh air away from daily life.

Acceptance and integration of change is never definitive and is often submitted to self-questioning.

Tips for sustaining creativity

  • Take time to rest and socialize because work pressure is usually very high for expatriates and they often work a lot. You will need to keep your head out of water for fresh air. Everyone in his/her own way : sport, gatherings with friends, discovering the country, … 
  • Do not obligatory urge for making new friends if it is to consider them as a way to help you survive in a new modern jungle. But more experienced expats in the country can be really helpful to guide you in everyday life thanks to their practical knowledge and their understanding of local mentalities, expatriate associations welcome newcomers.
  • Free your mind and accept cultural shock, give time to time, time to understand, time to adjust, time to communicate properly with local people and time to perform. Ask for appropriate training to your company as the more adapted to the environment and better trained you are, the more stable, motivated, effective you will be. 
  • Further the native country and the host country are culturally distant, the bigger the cultural shock will be !
  • Accept there will be ups and downs, this is part of the change process and get support from your family or from friends wherever they live. 

Adaptation

Your personal, professional experience and temperament will greatly influence your adaptability to new circumstances making it more or less easy, quick and smooth.

Here are a few guidelines :

Searching for accommodation

-        Some companies have already dealt with it before the expatriate’s arrival in the foreign country, others grant an annual budget for accommodation to their expatriates (renting, consumptions and furnishing included) and leave them search for the flat or house which best suits them. It depends on the company policy and on the real estate market of the country.

Position taking

Some According to corporate culture, many companies become more aware of the necessity to develop the consciousness of their expatriates to multicultural relationships and their competences in this field, who is who and how to do with whom. Efficient cultural integration is one of the key factors of success for expat management in their assignments abroad.

     However, it is still very current to notice that expat managers receive trainings mainly about the technical and factual aspects (hard skills) of the job which HR Management think expat managers need to know most to perform in their future project. They hence concentrate more on what, how to reach it, with which technical tools, how much and when (e.g. IT management system, project management,…). 

Coming into contact with local staff

Establishing positive relationships as from the first days is a very good starting point as people keep in mind the first impression you leave them. Building confidence will then set the foundations for efficient work with the local or multicultural team.

Never forget that an expatriate is a foreigner in the host country! You can bring specific competences to train local staff for instance and they can show you their « expertise » in being perfectly adapted to their environment. Both parts need to learn from each other and collaborate to create synergy. A change of attitude is at stake for the ones who care for building up good relationships. More distant the expatriate’s culture (and the company’s) is from the culture of the host country, the longer and harder bridging both communication channels may be. Of course, this is a very personal attitude depending on your state of mind.

 

Getting residence and work permit

-          Most multinational companies introduce the request for residence and work permit/visa at the Embassy of the foreign country before the expatriate’s departure ; it can take some time (minimum two weeks). It also happens that the expatriate needs to deal with it himself.

Integrating school

  • Though most international schools are used to hosting students from everywhere in the world and at any time in the school year, sociability and willingness to adapt remain key factors for children to integrate in their new school.
  • Another challenge they face is the teaching language. Children need their parents ' s support to catch up if teaching is not given in their mother tongue.
  • Moms abroad usually have more time to devote to their children than dads, one reason is that most expat women work less or do not work at all and another reason is that fewer female managers are sent for long term missions abroad than their male counterparts. This fact can be explained because women are usually less well accepted in managing positions by local staff in developing countries. 
  • Create adhesion among the family is not a matter of fact as children, more noticeable when they turn teenagers, feel they are in one way or another submitted to their parents’ s decision and will react more or less vividly. Parents have to remain open and listen to them at a turning point of their personal development. Many circumstances can influence their reactions and parents are challenged to make them integrate the project as their own, everyone can develop differently and at a different rythm.
    However, expatriating with young children is more often easier than with older ones with the condition of good medical care services.
  • Many parents living in developing countries decide to send their teenagers to a boarding school abroad or in their home country for a better academic preparation.  But their choice still depends on the schools available in the host country and on the type of education parents think best for their children.

Socializing

Expatriates often enjoy meeting compatriots in expats associations, but also expats from everywhere in the world. There are always good reasons to meet, sport, dinners, coffee mornings, volunteering groups involved in humanitarian projects, … and sharing living experiences.

Nationalities encountered depend on the economic interests of the companies in the country, on exploitable natural resources but also on the history of the country (e.g., former colony of,…).

As for children, sociability, curiosity and willingness to adapt are key factors to adapt in the new environment, as learning one of the national languages can help a great deal to interact with local people. Volunteering is also an excellent way to socialize with local and expat people sharing common values. In developing countries, some may sometimes feel quite hard to create true relationships with local people as cultural barries are often more important, preconceived ideas and mutual misunderstanding may also refrain both communities from getting into contact with each other. Expats feel the necessity to make their stay comfortable and need to feel reassured and you are more at your ease to share your feelings with your peers closer to your culture and who are likely to understand you better.

 

Living in the country

-          Expats with more experience of the country can give practical information about the best supermarkets, drugstores, clinics, general and specialized practitioners and a whole list of useful information to deal with everyday life in the country. 

     According to the level of social and economic development of the country, the company can provide information about medical care centers or private clinics to which they can also affiliate their expats.

     However, discover a country means much more than just dealing with everyday life : connect to local press and media, read newspapers, make touristic trips, visit local markets (which sometimes require being accompanied), museums, art centers,…

Feeling comfortable without being at home

-         Living abroad requires time and patience. Putting your view of life into perspective, you may do things you would never do in your own country, you may even behave differently as you need to adapt to a different context. Temperament, values, education and life experience influence our ability to integrate more easily to a country and less in another and as an expatriate, you are facing this reality much more harshly than in your home land.

     Under rather similar living and working circumstances, some expatriates will love a country and others will hate. Therefore, our preferences in the way we behave, think and act greatly condition our ability to accept some cultural differences and not others. In the same way, our values determine our motivations.

 

Would self-knowledge facilitate adaptation in a foreign country and soften our change resistance? 

Your opinion ?

Share this news

0 commentaires

Nigerian culture and management style

By Françoise Falisse

Out of Africa - fall 2015 newsletter

Interview with Eugene Ohu


I met Eugene Ohu last October in the Lagos Business School, Nigeria. He is a member of Faculty in the Lagos Business School, Nigeria where he teaches the full-time MBA, Executive MBA (EMBA), Modular Executive MBA (MEMBA), Management Communication and Organizational Behaviour. He also facilitates sessions in other executive programmes for CEOs and Senior Management on Digital/Mobile Marketing, Digital Human Resource Management, Corporate Communication, Media Relations and Strategic Customer Relationship Management.

As a specialist in cross-cultural management and communication, I asked him to explain how he perceived Nigerian culture and management culture in Nigeria.

Nigerian mentality

E-&-S: What characterizes, according to you, Nigerian mentality?

  • E. Ohu: The way one asks for permission can show up some differences between Europeans and Africans. Ok, I don’t like speaking of « African » as if Africa was a single country. One difference I see between some Europeans and some Nigerians is that the former are more refined, respectful and delicate about issues of privacy, they are more likely to ask you for permission before they do things. As a Nigerian however, once I perceive that you already show respect for my privacy, I am comfortable enough to tell you whatever you wish to know. If you explain briefly why you want to do something : ask me personal questions for example, that is OK, but if despite my assurances you continue to try to explain yourself, I might consider it a too exaggerated attempt to respect my privacy. That’s a paradox because the same Nigerians who might think you exaggerate will be offended if you don’t do it !
    I appreciate that I am being respected but after some time I may become embarrassed on your behalf if you make too much effort to explain, I begin to have pity on you.
  • Nigerians are a very welcoming people. You only notice that when you come to Nigeria. You get to know this only when you come close to them. They do their best to make you feel welcome if they realize that you look lost as a foreigner. They want to help you to settle down.
    For example, when Nigerians are driving along the road in Lagos, if they notice that a European or a non-Nigerian is stopped by the police who is attempting to extort money from the hapless driver, one would occasionally see a Nigerian stop and tell the policeman, « please let him go ». Why ? Because they want that person to feel welcome. And they know that this action from the policeman is not welcoming. I have done it too. I am very happy when I see a European driving himself or herself in Lagos. It consoles me that there is someone who is confortable enough, safe enough to do this. I feel a sense of protection towards that person. I know many people who share the same sentiment.

E-&-S: What do you enjoy or dislike when working with Nigerians?

E. Ohu: Aggression: I think some Nigerians may be too aggressive. Sometimes when they make requests, I get the impression there could be some psychological violence or « verbal aggression ». The same can be observed in interpersonal relationships where I think we could be more refined and delicate. I think we argue too much. One thing I find interesting in a country like Spain is that you can sit with people talking together and giving your opinions and everybody listens to the opinions of the others. They have different opinions but they don’t give the impression that they are fighting. On the contrary, in a setting where some Nigerians may be expressing different opinions,  they may not be fighting but if you listen in as an outsider you may think they are quarelling because they don’t give room for other possibilities. I believe we need to be more open.

 

E-&-S : You mean people want to say their word first and they don’t take time to listen to others ?

E.Ohu :Listening to others: Many Nigerians want to be the first to say something and the last to say something! They want theirs to be the dominant opinion and they don’t listen to the others because if they do, it may mean being open to other opinions. Why don’t they listen to the others ? I think it may be related to the fear of being vulnerable because by listening to you, especially if they are not so sure of their position, there is a threat you might change their position. I think that if people are more grounded in their points of view, they would not be afraid of (temporarily) yielding ground if only to listen better. For example, you ask me what I think about climate change, if it is real. If I don’t know much about it, I may say,

« I don’t believe in climate change ». And if you ask me, « why don’t you believe in climate change ? » I may answer : « I have nothing to say about it », I don’t want to be threatened. Keeping face is one reason why we don’t listen to the others.

 

E-&-S : are you very proud people ?

E.Ohu : A proud people: Yes, we are, it is a good quality but we are afraid of being vulnerable. That vulnerability may be linked to a lack of education, a lack of knowledge. For example in a public university, the typical Nigerian professor does not want to be challenged in class by fear that someone would reveal his ignorance. He is supposed to be the master so he cannot make a mistake ! If you challenge me with another point of view, and if I admit your point of view as a possibility, I might hence expose my ignorance, so I don’t listen to you and I tell you : « I am the master and you listen to me ! ».

The teacher is not supposed to be a learner as he is supposed to know everything. When this attitude is taken into the business environment you can imagine how damaging it can be. Pride can be a good thing but arrogance never.

 

No dichotomy between work and family: On the positive side, what I like when working with Nigerians, I think that the typical Nigerian wants the work environment to be like the family environment, they do not like the total separation between work and family. Nigerians are concerned about the family lives of their colleagues. They do not say leave your wife and children at home, leave your problems there, I think it is good because we play different roles as individuals, as an employee, as a father, as a mother... The life I have at home affects my performance at work and the other way round. If you tell me to establish a strict dichotomy between the two domains, I think you are doing something very artificial. Nigerians do not like this type of division because they want to be real and be the same person everywhere. As we are family oriented, we like that our bosses recognize the other roles we play. 

E-&-S: Could you name a few similarities shared between Nigerians and other African countries?

E.Ohu: I can compare with Kenya as I have been there a few times : as for similarities : they love family and extended family but also every African child is the child of every woman in the village. If my mother, for instance, sees your daughter outside doing something wrong, she will not ask your permission to correct her, she will correct her like her daughter. Children are very important, Africans love children, the more the better. Why is it so ? African families might be poor but they feel the need to share.

Differences : Kenyans sometimes describe Nigerians are being « too loud » (big laugh), a reference to their boisterousness. When I travelled to Tanzania, it was funny to hear Tanzanians describe Kenyans in much the same way – they think Kenyans are too aggressive. (By the way, Kenyans describe Tanzanians as being « too slow »). I do agree with the Kenyans that Nigerians are « too loud ».

You may be able to explain the timidity of Tanzanians. Their official language is Kiswahili and they barely speak English. Julius Nyerere, who ruled the country for many years and was their main champion for independence sort of « locked » the country up culturally in a bid to « protect » its traditions. One may perhaps trace the lack of exposure and education of Tanzanians to some of these actions. Kenyans also speak Kiswahili but English as well.

 

If Nigerians are more aggressive, they are also more daring, it is not surprising that the biggest economy in Africa is in Nigeria, they take more business risks. When you see issues of xenophobia of some South-Africans against Nigerians, one of the reasons may be because Nigerians are aggressive in seeing and pursuing business opportunities which takes into many African countries. The locals they meet there naturally feel threatened. This so-called « aggression » of Nigerians can actually be an expression of their entrepreneurial spirit but other African countries call it « aggression ». By the way, Nigerians think that Kenyans are too slow (laugh).

Time management

E-&-S: What seems, according to you, Nigerian relationship to time?

E.Ohu: With respect to past, present and future, I think we give importance to the past, especially because of the African’s recognition of tradition which influences what becomes our culture, the way you, the ancestors did it in the past. Africans have a sense of history, you learn from the past, you do not repeat your mistakes, you know how it was done, you know the values that are expected of you and you act accordingly. Nigerians have a natural tendency to prefer things in the traditional, keeping it stable rather than trying out too many uncertain innovations.

However, I also think we give importance to the present and to the future.


In terms of time management, priorities, we give more importance to the present because there are immediate needs to take care of, related to physiological needs which must be solved now, needs that may be related to the lack of resources or to poverty.

Where many Europeans have higher needs, more psychological needs, most Africans have physiological needs to be solved in the present. If I consider that I am an individual working as my own boss, I will be task and result oriented as these tasks will give me the immediate results I want. If I consider I am a member of a team, I am not interested in the results but well in the tasks I have been given because these tasks will give me an immediate reward. I have physiological needs to fulfill. I am not interested in the global view.

As a team member, I am more in the present than in the future because future is too far. Nigerians usually think more for themselves, they are more selfish, they try to solve their problems on their own. As a boss, I do not know how long I will stay in this position as I may be removed sooner or later, so I need to protect my position. We assume tasks and achieve results we have been taught to.

Are Nigerians selfish people and are we interested in the goods of our immediate environment or are we interested in the good of the country? 

E-&-S: What about individualism and collectivism?

E. Ohu: I would say we are more collectivists than individualists because we think more in terms of community as the family matters a lot and we act more as a group. But outside that group, people are more interested in solving their immediate needs. In contrast with Americans who put flags on their vehicles, I don’t think Nigerians would do so because most of them think « nobody is looking out for my immediate needs, I have to do it by myself ».

It may explain why we don’t have the sense of belonging to our country and why we are not that proud yet for our country. But globally, we remain collectivists because of the family, because every child is the child of every woman. If I am hungry, I will go to the neighbour and he will give me food. We look out for one another. We are collectivists because we are concerned with our family when we go to work.

Communication and social relationships

E-&-S: How do Nigerians communicate with others?

E.Ohu: If I take Hofstede's model, Nigeria is a more power-distance country but we are different from the way Chinese are power-distance as a way to save face. If the boss tells me : « feel free to correct me », I will do it. If the boss doesn’t tell me to feel free to correct him and if I feel that this boss can receive correction, I will tell him « sorry Sir, may I point to you something you did not do well ? ».

Nigerians will do that if they see by the boss’s body language that he is open to correction, communication is hence very direct even if power-distance remains high. In fact, direct communication may turn to aggression because we lack refinement.

We are direct communicators when our boss gives us permission to express freely but we may not be refined and lack respect to put it in a delicate way.

Nigerians will express directly if they see the speaker is fair and really interested.


Africans are more aware of the persons they are communicating with, not only the words, but we are aware of the whole person, his/her global individuality, with past, present, body language, worries... I am aware this person will choose a particular way of talking to me according to what he/she is. 

Leadership and team

If Nigerians are proud people, they may also be arrogant, the same way the Nigerian teacher does not want to be questioned, the same way some bosses in Nigerian business do not want to be seen as having to learn something.

We do not put people from different hierarchical positions together in the Nigerian setting as bosses are not supposed to learn. We put bosses with other bosses as a way to save face. 

E-&-S: Who do Nigerians consider as a good boss?

E.Ohu:The boss takes the decisions and he also takes the blames.The typical Nigerian boss is afraid of delegating authority because he does not want to lose power, he is vulnerable and he feels protected by his power which, he thinks, belongs to him as his property. The ego is very important. So, it is the boss’s fault if the team member does not take responsibility and comes to him to solve his/her problems. The Nigerian boss has never really delegated authority. As a European manager, it is good to express the team member that you need and recognize him/her as a valuable member in the team, he/she will hence respond positively. Tell this person that you respect him/her as a person, as a family. 

E-&-S: If, for instance, a West-European manager had to start working in Nigeria, which advice could you give him/her which would facilitate his/her integration with Nigerian teams or with multicultural teams in Nigeria?

E.Ohu: Nigeria is aware that there are different rates of development between Africa and Europe.

They may blame others for their inferior position or they may blame themselves. In any case, they don’t believe other people will solve their problems at their place. Therefore, there is a sense of suspicion.

  • They are welcoming people but they will be suspicious of your motives at first, you are to proof you are interested in them. They will wonder why you are here. As a European manager, you could tell Nigerians : « I respect your opinions, I am aware you have a power-distance culture but I will not make use of my power against you. » As a Nigerian, if I know my boss is not power-drunk, I would do anything for him. It does not remove the power-distance, he still remains my boss but he is humble, Nigerians appreciate that. The most loyal workers you will have are the ones you treat as equals, they will not take advantage. Intuitively, they will know there is a power-distance and they will be grateful to you for giving them a chance to level this unbalance not by promoting them, but by showing them respect.
  • Be concerned with them as people having other roles outside the work place ; for instance, the typical Nigerian would ask another Nigerian : how is your family ? The West-European manager should show real interest in the family of his/her team members. If they are sincere, they will win a team member who will become dedicated. 

E-&-S: Isn't there any risk of manipulation?

E.Ohu: They will know if you are pretending or not, if you are real or not. They are looking at your body language. For instance, you are asking about my child but you are looking at your phone. As a Nigerian, I will think, he is not really interested in my child because somebody told him it was good to ask about my child.

Rules

E-&-S: Do Nigerians easily accept rules and discipline or do they prefer to infringe them?

E.Ohu: In general, Nigerians do not like to obey rules, it is related to education, respect to others and civic responsibilities. As it is difficult to enforce rules, Nigerians tend to break them whenever they get a chance to do so. It is related to self-interest and to the State not taking care for our problems, so we have to solve them by ourselves.

However, Nigerians can accept rules as a way to achieve their objectives or if somebody enforces the rule, they will not break it by fear of the consequences. 

E-&-S: Could you compare with other African countries?

E.Ohu: When I travelled to Tanzania, I felt they were less educated than in Nigeria and in Kenya, but I think they obey rules much more.

As an example, they have very narrow roads and they drive on the left. It happened many times to me that a driver realized, looking into his mirror, that he was driving too slow for me and that I wanted to overtake his car. With his hand he indicated to me that he had no plan to disturb me and that I could go ahead on his right.

In that sense, Tanzanians have more civic sense than Nigerians but they are very slow: when Tanzanians say that you are most welcome in Tanzania and that they will arrange a meeting for you as soon as you arrive, make sure you have planned it before going there.

When I went there, I spent two days before I could get my first meeting! They are not in a hurry and wonder why Nigerians are rushing for. In Nigeria, we may be more aggressive because we want to have things done.  

Tips to adapt in a foreign country

E-&-S: Which advice could you give to a manager who will work in a foreign country he/she has not yet been to?

E.Ohu:

  • Learn the language of the country: : I love languages, I learned to speak Spanish and Italian before going to Spain and Italy. So I never felt like an outsider. I knew what they were saying and I wanted to be part of the conversation as from the beginning. So, I felt welcome.
  • I would also advice patience : do not interpret what you see or hear on the basis of your own culture, give room that there is something that you don’t know, ask them to explain why they are doing that way. I withdrew at a particular moment because I realized they had their own way of doing things and that my ability to tolerate was finished, I didn’t grow up in this culture and I felt tired. So I said to myself : « let’s stop for the night and I will get back tomorrow, fresh ! »  

Share this interview

2 commentaires

Checklist when leaving the country - part 1

By Françoise Falisse

Out of Africa - fall 2015 newsletter

 

 

 

 

 


Expatriating is a work and life project which requires

motivation, reflexion, preparation and involvement  

Motivations

  1. Many people are convinced that their country is the best place to live in, they would never think of living elsewhere because, except for holidays, their country is the only they know and they feel good in.
  2. Some people think that living in another country could be worth experiencing, at least once in their life. However, due to personal, family and professional circumstances they do not get the opportunity or this movement seems too hard to organize and would destabilize them and their family.
  3. Some more have experienced living abroad since their childhood and perceive moving to different places on earth as a natural mode of living. Others, on the contrary, decide to return home as they are convinced that their homeland is the best place to live in.
  4. Some others, due to various professional and personal reasons, freely or not, decide at one particular moment in their life to move in order to work and discover different working and living conditions out of their country.

Their motivations can be, for instance :

  • Few job opportunities in certain areas of expertise
  • Ambition to push up their career and to develop high potential management skills by means of international experience
  • Wish to take new challenges and assume quicker more responsibilities
  • Wish to change their mode of living and work for what makes more sense to them
  • Some ideal vision that life could be better elsewhere
  • Self-development in other life and work condition
  • Wish to pay fewer taxes to the State of their country and take the best of their money for them and their family

Decision taking

Whatever the motivations are, the decision to expatriate is not an easy one, leaving on a bachelor or a family basis.

Helpful guidelines to take into consideration before taking the decision:

Professional development

  • Working conditions
    Spreading between working term abroad and vacation, travel frequency, working hours and days (e.g. in some Muslin countries, local and expat staff work on Saturdays and Sundays, they are off duty on Fridays, starting their week-end on Thursday afternoon. In others, local staff take a break on Friday at noon while expat and non-Muslim staff go on working and they all have their week-end on Saturday and Sunday).
  • Management
  • The culture of local staff including the mode of communication, the working habits, the level of competences and training, the ability in assuming responsibilities, taking initiatives or decisions, global motivation. 
  • Relationships with the head office on the one hand and the expatriate or local management team on the other hand (close or remote control procedures, risk management, process standardization, channels of communication). 
  • Though many companies often export their own culture onto their overseas subsidiaries, management style will be coloured locally and has to integrate some local rules (legal, tax, staff management laws,…).
  • Scope of responsibilities and objectives
  • Terms and conditions
    Gross salary package including basis salary, local allowances (based on a day/person or on a month/person basis and what differs if the family comes), risk exposure of the country, social and medical care insurance. What are your expectations in short and medium term ?…

Personal project

If you are proposed a function abroad, the first person to be involved is you! Your previous professional experience, your personal experience, your personal life and your temperament will guide your self-questioning.
Key points to keep in mind: 

  • Who are you?
    What is your preferred mode of living? In terms of location, scenery, habitat, type of population, food, emotional closeness (family and friends), religious beliefs, … What are your preferences in terms of behavior and values?
    Knowing yourself better can develop your awareness about your ability to adapt and your preferences in this field. You may think you could adapt to a totally new environment, with different infrastructures, with people thinking, behaving, communicating, working or even relaxing very differently from what you have always been used to? Or would you better accommodate a rather similar environment to your usual one? Or not at all?
  • Discovery of the country
    Does this particular country you are offered a position in enough stimulates your curiosity to consider it as a plus point in your decisional process?
    At this stage, it is very important to get multiple information from various sources about the concerned country because they will help you acquire a more objective vision of the possible living and working conditions there. Some examples : Political stability and economical development, the cost of living (for you to be able to compare with the salary package you are offered), items to store in your container, purchases to plan before leaving, local custom taxes, security measures, health conditions, leisure and touristic opportunities, internet connections, social networking, making friends, … Do you know people there ?
    And above all, would you feel like taking up this challenge in this particular country?

Family adventure

If you are proposed a function abroad, the second person(s) to consider as a priority is (are) your family! This is often the most tricky part of your decisional process. Whatever on which basis you intend to expatriate, either as a bachelor (not necessarily meaning you do not have a companion or a family) or with your family, leaving one's country greatly influences people around you, with all possible emotional reactions. 

  • Children
    They are often part of the decision, mostly if they still depend on you. Listen to the way they feel about the possibility to move out or see you move out of the country and encourage them to express their fears and their dreams through this project. Some will draw, some will talk, some will spontaneously adhere and see a great opportunity to develop in this change while others will revolt more openly… you may be surprised at their abilities to perceive the situation in a very intuitive and pragmatic way.   

  • School 
    Moving to another country necessarily implies to change school and often to integrate a new educational system where courses may be given in a foreign language.
    • Identify the schools in the city of the target country and the teaching language
    • Check compatibility of educational systems and admission procedures
    • Visit the schools websites and complete with an email directly sent to the schools for additional information
      Most important capitals overseas have American, British and French schools. Other European schools can be found according to historical background and economical interests in the country. The younger children are, the easiest school integration should be.
  • Family relationships 
    These are real personal considerations because they all depend on the type of relationship every person entertains with his/her own family at second and third levels. To consider, for instance:
    • Health of close family members: what about your parents' health and their ability to take care of themselves?
    • The frequency of meetings : could you, for instance, consider to live a long period without seeing your parents, brothers and sisters, nephews, aunts and uncles,… ? 
    • Autonomy of decision: do you feel free in your decision in front of your eldest or other members?
  • Friends and leisure
    Long term membership in one’s favourite sport club makes it harder to decide to take distance from all the friends you have made there for a long time as it has become part of your life. Are you ready for it ? How to keep contact with your best friends at a distance ? What are the possibilities to play your favourite sport, music instruments, take part in cultural events,… in the target country if they are so important to you ?

  • House :To leave it without being occupied, to rent it or to sell it?

After so much thought and doubts which can be very disturbing and make you feel very uncomfortable for a more or less long period of time, the decision can surprisingly be taken in a very rapid way.The quickness of the decision mainly depends on your previous international experience, on business urgency, on personal and family aspects to consider.

Preparations

What to do, when to start and how to get prepared for departure 

From a few weeks to a few months, time to prepare departure depends on business and family aspects. 

Key points to put on your planning, presented in a chronological order.


  • The school : Registration procedure comprises administrative and time consuming tasks such as:
    • fill in application forms (including teaching and health forms) 
    • Check equivalence of levels with the target school 
    • Gather required documents (e.g. : birth certificate, photographs, copy of passport or identity card, family composition,…)
      The child’s school has to attest the child’s level of competences in main branches and the public services of your municipality have to provide official documents.
  • Administrative tasks
    Many companies (but not all, get informed about it) directly deal with the embassy of the target country in order to get the appropriate entry visa (tourist, business or working) for the expatriate and his/her own family. Examples of official documents the embassy will request : passport, pictures, proof you are no longer resident in your home country, certificate of good conduct, marriage certificate, … 
    Do you need an identity card or passport to enter the foreign country? Introduce a request for new passports to the concerned public services or check the expiry date of your passports. Pay attention you are not allowed to travel latest three months before the expiry date !

  • Moving and housing
  1. Most private companies and international organizations take moving expenses to their charge, but some do not, better get informed during the negotiation process.
  2. The expatriate's company choose their moving company and send one delegate to visit your house in order to evaluate its contents, determine the size of the container and agree upon an approximate date of removal. A quotation is usually sent to the expatriate's company which approve (or not) the moving expenses. As most multinationals make cost cuttings, they also tend to reduce their moving expenses by renting an apartment or a house which will be completely or half furnished when the expatriate arrives in the country. The solution standardizes moving process as furniture can hence be re-used by the next expatriate (family). It also reduces global moving and settling expenses as expatriates do not have to remove all their personal furniture, they "just" need to carry their personal belongings.
    Many private companies provide accommodation or allow a budget for their expats, which amount is naturally linked to their hierarchical position but some scientific experts "borrowed" for a couple of years by a research centre do not always benefit of the same material advantages as the ones offered in multinationals. Expatriate management policy tends nowadays to reduce expatriation costs and some companies even discourage family expatriations.
  3. But expatriates' policy can differ from one company to another and feeling good away from home remains of great importance. In this matter, this all depends on personal considerations and mentality of the expatriate.  
  4. When a date of delivery is scheduled, complete your selection and finalize your purchases. Import motorized vehicles can sometimes cost more than their actual reselling value, get informed about import customs taxes applied in the foreign country.
  5. Carry in your suitcases what is necessary to live when you arrive in the country as it may take from a few weeks till a few months before your container is cleared and delivered home. By useful things to carry understand enough clothes, shoes, daily care, bedsheets, … all depending on the level of economic development of the country and what seems a priority to you.
  • The house
    Leaving one’s country also means leaving one’s home or appartment, at least for a couple of years. It is the perfect moment to remove what has become absolete or what you do not need any more. It can be left unoccupied so you can live there during holidays. Another possibility is to rent it or even to sell it according to future plans. Consider various elements: 
    • Maintenance: regular cleaning, central heating at winter time, garden, alarm system to be installed or care for a regular surveillance by reliable persons, …
    • Inform your water, electricity, gas or fuel suppliers but also internet, TV, telephone providers that you are leaving.
  • The car
    Keep your motorcycled vehicle in the garage may seem the easiest solution though not always the less expansive one as your car still needs to be insured and circulation taxes are still due to the State until the car plate is registered at your name. However, in some countries, as it is the case in Belgium, the ownership of the car plate depends on you residency. In other words, four months after being declared as non-resident in Belgium, you are no longer the owner of your car plate which has then to be transferred to another person (usually a member of the family). What about in your country ?
    Import your motorcycled vehicle to the foreign country implies paying important import custom duties which sometimes exceed the actual value of your car; get informed about its value at the moment you intend to import it.
  • Family, friends and acquaintances
    Gather their personal details, inform them about your moving and forward them your future details so that they can also communicate with you after your moving.


From moving to settling in a foreign country

How to deal with change and how to adapt yourself efficiently in the new country?

In the winter newsletter Out of Africa, March 2016, you will discover how your ability to manage change and your adaptability may greatly influence your experience as an expat. Read more in part 2 of "checklist when leaving the country". 

Share this article

1 commentaires

Building business with Morocco

By Françoise Falisse

The culture factor

Morocco is famous for her people's hospitality and this cultural factor largely contributes to her touristic attractiveness abroad.

Could this cultural factor and others also influence the way they build business with their foreign partners? Is there a Moroccan style?


Interpersonal relationships

  • Moroccan hospitality
    The well-known ritual of mint tea and their delicious « cornes de gazelle », as examples, are important to welcome their guests and during discussions. Watching the needs for their hosts is part of their upbringing. They greatly value the image they give of themselves, especially to foreigners whom they avoid disappointing. Hospitality, deeply rooted in Moroccan culture for centuries, is also to be observed in their kindness and their soft way of talking with foreigners.
     Appreciate their warm welcome as a sign of respect and courtesy.  They value the quality of their relationship with you, building trust is essential to them and comes first before the products you intend to sell them.  
  • Moroccan friendly and easy-going attitude
    This attitude may leave the impression they are easy to deal with. Their enthusiasm provoked by their real interest to what is proposed to them (in terms of services, products, new technologies, projects, investment…) will not directly lead to the conclusion of a contract, at least not as quick as you expect. Give time to time and do not feel misleaded because many other factors, most of them unknown to the prospect (such as administrative, financial or power constraints, etc), are to be resolved before completing your negotiation.
             

Communication

  • French as a national and major business language
    French native speakers will first find it easy to come in contact with Moroccans as French is a national and major business language (dealing with France, Belgium, other North-African countries, Sub-Saharian countries, but also Quebec) together with Arabic (with Near and Middle-east), English and Spanish coming next.

  • Preference for an indirect, affective and rather formal mode of communication 
    Moroccans will hardly ever answer you with a negative answer even if they mean so or if they cannot answer your request. The direct « no » is often avoided when discussing or negotiating and they can also feel offended if you directly reject their proposal. You will have to find other « more diplomatic » ways of expressing your opinion, implying more creative and imaginative solutions. 

  • Expression of emotions
    Expressing one’s emotions is rather well admitted in the professional context, especially from women. 

  • Talking about the king, the royal family and religion is not recommended in public and in private circles.
  • Always give an object with your right hand.

Modes of thinking

Intuition et global view

Very intuitive, they quickly understand their prospect’s behaviours and expectations. They can easily adapt themselves to western way of thinking. Their global view allows them to anticipate future developments for their country, which they express in a very enthusiastic way sometimes shadowing analytical mind. They need new infrastructures and technologies, they admit the necessity of new mentalities (entrepreneurial spirit) to tackle the huge economical challenges and to become the entry door to Africa and to Europe (e.g. : logistics). 

Time management

Flexibility

Moroccan time management is flexible and depends largely on the context in which an event takes place : family, social, public or professional. As traffic jams are part of the daily urban life, mainly in Casablanca, some interviews (e.g.in the media) can take place by phone or by skype. It is important to get informed, in advance and undirectly, of the necessity to arrive on time at an appointment, it can differ from one company (corporate culture and individual values of the manager) to another. Confirm your appointment in a clear and tactful message (e.g. « as scheduled in our agendas, I will be in your office from 9 to 10 AM as I will attend another meeting afterwards »). Remain patient and flexible but firm and decided.

Negotiation

  • As Moroccans trust and refer to in-groups they belong to (e.g. families, family lineages, organisations, etc.), being introduced by local export agencies or commercial intermediaries come as a piece of evidence to penetrate Moroccan market. It could also take place in a more informal way, through a Moroccan you spent a good moment with during your holidays, asking him if he knows people from the sector you are interested in.
  • Networking is the way to build business in Morocco, for a win-win partnership, exchanging favors establishes the cement of trust between you and your partner. He can also challenge the value of your own network. The presentation of the offer and the negotiation of the prices often take place during the same meeting. It is very common for a Moroccan to get accompanied by a few members of his family or by members of his organisation who assist him during this decisive meeting. Make sure of the good faith of your partner as many people may interfer at the different levels of the business process. 
  • Ask for a local assistance to comply with your administrative formalities, e.g. your Moroccan counterpart’s driver or his office worker can fulfill these tasks for you.

Power relationships and masculinity

Hierarchy is very important, positions of high responsibility inspire respect and fear. These positions are mainly held by men. As public and private organisations are usually ruled in a pyramidal way, important decisions including signing up of contracts must be agreed upon by the top management. Therefore, it is not surprising to notice that long awaiting files are suddenly freed because instructions have been given from high ranking officials (e.g. a Minister, a CEO,…). What is urgent for you differ from their vision of urgency.

Sustainable and authentic business relationship

Creating a partnership in Morocco needs time as it implies getting involved in the relationship and showing interest in your future partner’s daily interests, motivations or cultural background. These signs of respect are highly appreciated to build a trustworthy business relationship. You can leverage your differences, bridging your personal, management, and cultural style with the specific style of your partner. You can make sure you know yourself enough to be able to adapt your own style to your future partner’s ; hence setting up the foundations of a sustainable and more authentic business relationship.

2 commentaires