Africa is such a huge continent with a great cultural mix that Africa
generalisations would be too sweeping to be of any value.  However, be aware that a colonial past has influenced many countries in the way they conduct business and make decisions, and form attitudes. The main colonists were the British, Dutch, French, and Portuguese. Resurgent African traditions, old world ways, and newly found independence are creating new and exciting business cultures. The overriding criterion for successful business transactions is a well-founded relationship. Commissions, tipping and ‘oiling the wheels’ (bribes) are common practices in most parts.

So far in this section you’ll find the  Top Ten Tips for doing business, along with opening times, holiday dates and festivities for the following countries: Egypt, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, Senegal, and Nigeria.


  1. Payment is expected for everything; even when someone wishes you a “Good Day”.
  2. Remember any favours that you have received, and always be ready to repay in kind or deed.
  3. They are a very loving and caring people; but they expect something for that.
  4. There is never a direct route for anything in Egypt; everything will go through lots of pairs of hands.  Bureaucracy and networks gone mad!
  5. Language is very indirect; be wary of the real meaning of their “Yes”.
  6. Showing anger and frustration won’t get you anywhere.
  7. Punctuality is not part of the culture
  8. Don’t expect reliability or dependability.
  9. Don’t be taken in when someone says, “Trust me” or “Believe me”. Language and emotions are tools to persuade and influence people; to win the argument. (Said by an Egyptian lawyer!)
  10. Don’t trust anyone unless it is written down and been signed. Any document, business or official, must bear the rubber stamp of a falcon upon it to be valid.

Public Holidays 

February 11     Waqf el Arafat
February          Eid Al Adha
March 5           Islamic New Year
March/April    Easter Monday
April 25           Sinai Liberation Day
May 1              Labour Day
June 18                        Evacuation Day
July 23             Revolution Day
Sept/Oct         Ramadan
October 6        Armed Forces Day
October 24      Suez Victory Day
November       Eve of Eid Al Fitr
November       Eid Al Fitr
December 23   Victory Day

Weekend Thursday/Friday or Friday/Saturday

Business Hours 8.00-2.00 (Summer); 9.00-1.00 and then 5.00-7.00 (Winter)


  1. Negotiations take a long time; decision-making is by consensus
  2. Meetings are for the satisfaction of taking part and saying your piece
  3. Take time to build relationships on all levels; you never know who influences the final outcome of a deal
  4. Socialising is an important part of doing business; people like to be seen as good hosts
  5. Know everyone’s status
  6. Power is the name of the game
  7. Don’t try and do things your way; they’ll make you do it theirs and you will have wasted time
  8. Don’t get frustrated with the bureaucracy
  9. Don’t get short tempered with any government officials; they might try and block you, as they wield the power.
  10. Don’t pass by strangers without a nod or greeting.  It’s considered bad manners.

Public Holidays:

January 1         New Year’s Day  
March/April Good Friday to Easter Monday date changes every year
April 18           Independence Day
May 1 Workers’ Day
May 25            Africa Day
August 11        Heroes’ Day
August 12        Armed Forces Day
December 22   Unity Day
December 25   Christmas Day  
December 26   Boxing Day

Weekend Saturday, Sunday

Business Hours 8.00-4.30

South Africa

  1. Be prepared for bureaucratic delays and red tape.
  2. Social status and qualifications are admired, but at work merit matters more than who you know.
  3. Use both English and Afrikaans for promotional materials. Use English for transactions.
  4. The importance, size, and stage of your business dealings, dictate what level of seniority attends the meetings
  5. Present the benefits of any deal for both sides before you start the negotiations
  6. Take the time to make friends with your counterparts.  Socialising before and after meetings is an important part of the business mix.
  7. Mixed race/gender teams are good for negotiating. White and Black South Africans behave very differently
  8. Don’t use lawyers at your meetings; people do business based on trust established during negotiations to ensure that all details agreed upon are adhered to. (Generally, contracts aren’t very detailed)
  9. Don’t be surprised or fooled by the “take it or leave it” attitude; this is their bargaining tactic
  10. Don’t pressurize with deadlines; this may result in more delays than you anticipated!

Public Holidays:

January 1         New Year’s Day
March 21         Human Rights Day
March/April    Good Friday date changes every year
March/April    Easter  
April 1                         Family Day
April 27           Freedom Day
May 1              Workers Day
June 16            Youth Day
August 9          National Women’s Day
September 24 Heritage Day
December 16   Day of Reconciliation
December 25   Christmas Day
December 26   Goodwill Day

Weekend Saturday, Sunday

Business Hours 8.00-5.00 (1 hour for lunch)


  1. Official procedures and business practices are still very Portuguese
  2. Formality and respect for elders is important. Ensure sensitivity and respect for status (at all levels)
  3. Relaxed business atmosphere, where time is a plentiful commodity
  4. Very hierarchical structures. You need to determine who is the key decision-maker
  5. Everything needs a ‘stamp of approval’
  6. Decision-making process takes a very long time
  7. Translate all documents into Portuguese
  8. Don’t get frustrated by all the bureaucracy – that’s their way
  9. Don’t try and hurry things along, you will damage your deal and the relationship
  10. Don’t use first names unless invited to do so.

Public Holidays:

January 1         New Year’s Day  
February 3       Heroes’ Day
February 3       Women’s Day
May 1              Labour Day
June 25            Independence Day
September 7    Victory Day
September 25 Armed Forces Day
November 10 Maputo City Day (Maputo only)
December 25   Family Day 

Weekend Sunday

Business Hours 8.00-4.30


  1. There is a strong British influence on formality and manners, though Kenyans are humourous, casual, and seemingly carefree.
  2. Contacts are all important here.  Build a network of references and personal relationships through organisations like the Rotary Club, Lions Club, and Chambers of Commerce.
  3. Your Kenyan colleague will want to get to know you.  The first meeting will be nearly all small talk and little business.  Take your cues from your counterpart. 
  4. Be patient.  Everything happens in its own time.
  5. Know people’s rank and title. The Boss is the boss here and decision-making is largely carried out by a few top executives.
  6. Personal calls and visits are expected in carrying out negotiations
  7. Eloquent correspondence and flowery phrases are the essence of the game. Being succinct can be seen as curt. Documentation is hugely important.
  8. Don’t expect people to act on their own initiative; they’ll be waiting for an OK from the boss.
  9. Don’t think everyone is always arguing; loud, open and direct communication is accepted if it is good-hearted.
  10. Don’t expect things to be right first time.

Public Holidays:

January 1         New Year’s Day  

March/April    Good Friday date changes every year

March/April    Easter Monday

May 1              Labour Day

June 1              Madaraka Day

Sept/Oct         Ramadan

October 10      Moi Day

October 20      Kenyatta Forces Day

Nov/December           Eid Al Fitr

December 12   Jamhuri/Independence Day

December 25   Christmas Day

December 26   Public Holiday

Weekend Saturday, Sunday

Business Hours 8.00-5.00


  1. Establish personal relationships with business colleagues. Trust and contacts are the keys to doing business here. Personal visits are warmly welcomed and the most efficient way to do business.
  2. Know people’s status and title.
  3. Meetings are formal.  Business is often conducted in either French or English. Muslims pray five times a day, so your meeting might have to be halted.
  4. Communication is very indirect; don’t be confrontational.  Don’t ask questions that require a “Yes” or “No” answer. They will tell you what they think you want to hear.
  5. Be patient. Time has no price tag over here. However, punctuality is respected by people who are used to doing business internationally.
  6. Business cards are both presented and received with right hand.  Avoid use of left hand.
  7. Women do hold important positions in organisations, so a foreign women doing business is acceptable.
  8. Don’t expect things to be right first time
  9. Don’t display irritation, anger or aggression. Maintain your composure at all times
  10. Don’t put anyone in a position where they lose may face. Politeness is essential in greetings. Physical contact is importan

Public Holidays:

January 1         New Year’s Day

April 4                         Independence Day (parades and canoe races)

February 23     Tabaski (Eid Al Adha)

March 15         Tamxarit (Islamic New Year)

March/April Easter Sunday/ Easter Monday date changes every year

May 1              Labour Day (parades)

Ascension Day:  the 6th Thursday after Easter

Pentecost or Whit Sunday: 7th Sunday after Easter

Pentecost or Whit Monday: 7th Monday after Easter

May 25            Prophet’s Birthday

August 15        Assumption Day

Sept/Oct         Start of Ramadan (not a holiday)  

November 1    All Souls’ Day  

Nov/Dec         Korité (Eid Al Fitr)

December 25   Christmas Day  

Other observances:

February 11     Carnival in Dakar

December 4     Carnival in St Louis (Floats, paper and wooden lanterns)

Weekend Sunday

Business Hours 9.00-1.00 and then 4.00-7.00


  1. Two distinctive ethnic groups mean you have to deal very differently with each culture. Christian Ibos in the south (risk takers/entrepreneurs) and Muslim Hausas in the North (formal, traditional, conservative, uncomfortable with risk-taking)
  2. Middlemen are the key to successful business dealing
  3. Experience, educational credentials and age are important in establishing credibility. Take care – inspect qualifications and backgrounds of prospective partners carefully!
  4. Trust is important. Rapport is valued over price, quality or other issues
  5. Verbal agreements are preferred. Follow up in writing, but remember that you will be expected to be flexible in all things.
  6. Small talk is considered part of the greeting process
  7. Dash, a ‘lubrication’ fee, is commonplace, although officially discouraged.
  8. Don’t send young people to do business; age is highly respected (and associated with wisdom). You will send out a signal that the business deal isn’t important enough for the elders to join in. Males are generally preferred.
  9. Don’t attempt to conduct business by telephone or by mail; significant business transactions are always conducted in person, otherwise you may be signalling that the business is not very important. 
  10. Don’t be put off by seemingly heated negotiations; open and direct communication encourages hard bargaining in this part of the world

Public Holidays:

January 1         New Year’s Day  

February          Eid Al Adha

March/April    Good Friday / Sunday/ Easter Monday date changes every year

May 1              Labour Day

May                 Prophet’s Birthday (date changes every year)

April 24           National Day

Sept-November           Start of Ramadan (not a holiday) date changes every year

Nov/December           Eid Al Fitr  

December 25   Christmas Day  

December 26   Boxing Day

Weekend Saturday afternoon, Sunday

Business Hours 8.00-12.30 and then 2.00-4.30

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