Culture can be defined as a system of values and norms that are shared among a group of people and that when together taken constitute a design for living or doing things for that matter. From this definition we can see that every group of people has a way of going about their daily life.
Business is one of those activities that people are involved in on a daily basis. Starting with an individual to larger groups of people bound together by geographical boundaries will approach business differently. This is mainly a result of cultural influence. Culture influences all aspects of a person’s life. And that includes doing business.
East Africa or Eastern Africa is the easternmost region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda constitute members of the East African Community (EAC), Burundi and Rwanda are members of the EAC as of 18 June 2007. The other three countries have been in the community since independence.
Communication is very important in business. For people to communicate successfully they need to use language that is understandable to all. In East Africa the two commonly used languages are Swahili and English. This are however not the only languages spoken in this region. Hundreds of more other indigenous languages are spoken across E. Africa.
Swahili Language is the most commonly used language in East Africa; this language gives the East Africans a sense of belonging. Kiswahili is the language spoken by most people in East Africa. Originally developed on the Coast from a mixture of the African Bantu languages and Arabic, this ancient trading language has become the common language for all the tribes in the area. Learning a few words of Swahili allows better communication and helps build a rapport with the people around the place. It would therefore be preferable for foreigners to learn a few basic Swahili words as this would make them appreciated by the local people.
English is commonly used as the official language in any business transaction involving multinational organizations. Good understanding of the English language will be an advantage since there will be no need to have a translator who might be misleading when negotiating important business dealings.
Religion impact on all aspects of life. It defines what is wrong and right it basically shape our life. This is then extended to the business environment which is shaped depending on the dominant religion. In East Africa majority of inhabitants are Christians, some are Muslims and a few Hindus. Before these religion came to E. Africa, the communities had their African traditional religions which some groups of people still follow.
Religion impact on business by limiting working days. Those who are Christians not work on Sunday because they worship on this day. Seventh Day Adventist's are not supposed to carry out any kind of activities on Saturday apart from worshiping. Any kind of business transaction is deemed sinful and a disrespect to the holyday. This a time makes certain organization to lock out potential work force because they cannot make it to work on certain days.
In Islamic faith it is not right to pay interest or receive interest. When doing a business deals they will not ask for interest form whoever is transacting with. They to will not pay interest. For this reasons financial institutions have come up with specially designed service package that are in conformity with the Islamic faith. In Kenya both Kenya Commercial Bank and Barclays Bank offer such products.
Many people tend to judge you by the first impression you give. That’s why is important to give a strong impression when you meet new people for the first time. For a business meeting its even more important has it might be the determinant has to whether you seal the deal or not. East Africa does not have any specific dress...