The Importance of Cultural Training for Expats in Africa


Why move to Africa?

It is key for Mobility and HR departments to include Cross Cultural Training for expats in Africa in relocation policies.

Africa, the second largest continent in the world, offers an abundance of opportunities for those fortunate enough to set foot on its sandy shores. The majestic pyramids of Egypt, the swathes of Moroccan desert and the varied wildlife of Kenya are just some of the features. Home to six of the world’s 12 fastest growing countries, Africa is the most profitable region in the world. Increasingly, investors are keen to tap into its lucrative markets.

What are the main industries in Africa?

Africa’s reflects the diversity of biological resources in its enormous quantity of mineral resources. Boasting some of the world’s largest reserves of precious metals, gems, fossil fuels and metallic ores, Africa is home to 438 businesses with $1 billion of annual sales. The African economy is predominantly agricultural, with a youthful population constituting an eager labour force. Oil and gas, telecommunications and banking represent some of the continent’s fastest growing industries.

What languages should I learn when relocating to Africa?

There may be over 3,000 languages spoken in Africa. Those looking to acquire a second or third language typically begin with popular languages. This includes European languages, such as French, Spanish, Italian and German. Those opting for an East Asian language course often choose Chinese, Japanese or Korean.

Learning a language is an essential part of the business relocation process. It will prove highly useful when navigating some of the challenging aspects of moving, such as forming new relationships at work. Acquiring a new language is understandably daunting. BiCortex, which offers language and culture lessons makes language training fun and easy. With online lessons conducted via a bespoke virtual classroom, you can learn from anywhere in the world.

When working in an international environment, many choose to begin with English lessons. However, below are some of the useful languages to learn or translate when relocating to Africa:

  1. Arabic

Arabic, which is spoken by 280 million speakers worldwide, is an official language in several African countries, including Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Libya and Eritrea. Given how widely spoken the language is, regional dialects abound. However, you can begin by focusing on modern standard Arabic, the language used in newspapers, novels and TV shows.

  1. Swahili

Swahili is a Bantu language, widely spoken in Central, Southern and East Africa, across the African Great Lakes Region. It is an official language in Kenya and Tanzania.

  1. French

With many countries in North, West and Central Africa being former French colonies, French is a useful language to know when traveling through Africa. 

  1. Amharic

Amharic is the second most spoken Semitic language in the world after Arabic. It is one of the main languages in Ethiopia, spoken by over 20 million speakers.

  1. Yoruba

Spoken in Nigeria, Benin and Togo, Yoruba is one of West Africa’s most spoken languages.

Is cultural training for expats important?

For anyone looking to work in a new country, learning about culture is a must. Companies with a diverse workforce or an international presence prioritise cultural training for expats. Cross-cultural training is particularly important for managers. Those in leadership positions must understand how to handle the cultural sensitivities of an international team.

What the main cultural mistakes to avoid in Africa?

African culture follows formal business etiquette and strict hierarchy. Take the time to enquire about the welfare of your colleagues or clients. Note that a gift should be offered with either the right hand, or both, and that the recipient may not open it in public. At dinner, do not begin eating until the eldest male has begun to do so and refrain from discussing business, unless the dinner has been organised for that purpose.

It is hardly surprising that a continent as rich as Africa should have such cultural diversity. Taking the time to learn the languages and cultural must and must-nots will guarantee a great start to your time in the region.

Africa has diverse cultures and various ethical beliefs. It is a continent with a wide mixture of languages and etiquettes. A successful market entry in Africa will be facilitated well if one is aware of their cultural nuances and traditional practices.

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