Afghanistan Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022

Subchapters:

  • Introduction
  • Addressing
  • Business Meeting
  • Communication
  • Recommendations
  • Public Holidays

Introduction

Considering the historical footprint of Czechoslovakia, the investment climate for Czech entities is generally favorable. The Afghan government has identified priority sectors in which it wants to support foreign investors. These are primarily the sectors of agriculture and its associated areas; construction (with an emphasis on building materials); telecommunication; transport and logistics; mining, energy and water management; hand made.

When considering initial investments, it is advisable to contact the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which is the most reliable intermediary for local companies, sales and distribution channels. More information can be found on the ACCI (Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries) website.

Addressing

It is advisable to reach out via the standard way of e-mail communication, either directly, i.e. to contact an Afghan business company or members of its management, or indirectly, for example, through an Afghan representative or an interpreter, ensuring communication, if the Afghan representatives do not know one of the internationally used languages.

It is most effective to conduct business communication as directly as possible, and remind yourself often, because if too many articles are involved, it can become “muddy” or information not shared in the necessary quality and form with all participants. It is advantageous to establish a contact person at the beginning, and direct all business communication through them, so that it is clear who is responsible, for what, and when.

Business meeting

It is best to arrange business negotiations well in advance and in a standard way, i.e. by e-mail. A suitable place is the company headquarters (office) or a public space (e.g. a restaurant). Afghans are not used to working early in the morning, the standard time for the earliest meeting is around 10 am. A suitable arrangement can be a joint lunch, for example in a restaurant matching the price and quality.

The meeting time depends on the program and volume of topics discussed, but it is ideal to keep the meeting to a total time of 60 to 90 minutes. An exchange of business cards is desirable at the beginning of the meeting. It is polite to grasp the business card with both hands, say thank you, read its contents, and make sure you pronounce the business partner’s name correctly. Only then store it properly (e.g. in a case). Gifts are common in Afghanistan, but it depends on what impression you want to make.

When invited to a lunch that you are paying for, the gift could seem rather ostentatious, or cause your partner to fear a certain pressure. It is therefore more appropriate to give a gift after some time and a successful negotiation, so that the business partner knows that you value the cooperation and attach adequate importance to it. Afghans do not show their emotions during negotiations, mirroring this tactic is recommended.

As a result of the covid-19 pandemic, video conference meetings have become widespread in Afghanistan, so it is not unusual for you to propose a virtual meeting to a business partner. It is recommended to check its availability well in advance, and above all the quality of the Internet connection (and the applications used), because in Afghanistan the Internet connection does not reach the level according to European standards. Afghans are generally skilled traders, and if they care about trade with the Czech side, they will find out all available information in advance.

They will be interested primarily in the final price, but they will not ask the question immediately, in the introductory part, but rather as if casually during a conversation about the details of the deal, but the final amount for the delivery usually plays a decisive role when deciding on its implementation. Afghanistan is a highly bureaucratized society, and therefore the president (his office) has the final say in public procurement.

It is not appropriate to offer alcohol under any circumstances. As Muslims, strictly observing religious principles, Afghans “officially” do not consume alcoholic beverages. Since a higher-ranking representative of the company (e.g. director) usually brings a younger colleague (assistant, interpreter) to the meeting, it is completely unacceptable for him to consume alcoholic beverages offered by the host in front of him. It is advisable to choose standard clothes, if possible as formal as possible.

Afghans dress similarly for official occasions, depending on whether the negotiation is conducted with an “urban” (Kabul) partner, who is most likely to choose a European style of formal dress. However, it may happen that the business partner will be from the province or honor the traditional way of dressing (head covering: turban, crocheted cap or woolen pakul, clothing: loose shirt reaching the knees, blending in with the figure, loose trousers of the same fabric, waistcoat, shoes: leather open or closed shoes). A combination of traditional clothing over which Afghans wear a western-style jacket is common.

Communication

During business negotiations, it is necessary to take into account that corruption and nepotism, a complex bureaucratic system and unclear regulations will cause frequent delays, changes made at the last minute without prior agreement, and delays in handling even very common matters. Time is of no particular importance to Afghans; exact adherence to deadlines, fulfillment of agreements or meeting times cannot be relied upon. Patience must be maintained during negotiations; do not be discouraged by partial failure, it is important to maintain constant contact with your partner. Visit Animalerts for more information about Afghanistan culture and traditions.

It must be borne in mind that Afghans prefer face-to-face communication over correspondence, often due to lower literacy rates. A local interpreter, if he is trustworthy, can make a positive impression on his partner. Although a number of high-ranking Afghans, e.g. in the private sector, have a certain level of command of English, for them it is somehow “demeaning” to speak to a partner directly, moreover, in a language that is not their mother tongue.

Initially, it is advisable to communicate mainly by e-mail, but Afghans are very tolerant of “informal” communication channels, e.g. the communication application WhatsApp is very widespread here, where after a certain time they may want to exchange messages also on topics not related to business (family, health, politeness), after you get to know each other and direct contact is established. Currently, the exchange of voice messages recorded and sent via communication applications (e.g. WhatsApp) is a very widespread trend, instead of a classic call.

Afghans place high demands on polite behavior. Compared to Western standards, social conversation is to a far greater extent interspersed with often highly exaggerated polite phrases containing praise and recognition of the partner. Disapproval or displeasure, on the other hand, is expressed only cautiously and often by mere silence. Public displays of emotion—getting upset or raising your voice—are viewed by Afghans as a lack of dignity and self-control. It is normal to first “modestly” refuse an offer of a service, a gift, or even ordinary hospitality, and only accept it at the offerer’s insistence; only a repeated refusal is usually taken as serious.

In Afghanistan, the principles of the traditional form of Islamic and customary law are observed in most areas (basically outside the capital Kabul and the largest cities of the provinces). The Embassy of the Czech Republic in Kabul therefore fundamentally warns against the importation of alcohol, cosmetics containing alcohol, drugs, publications (including newspapers and magazines) depicting non-Islamic religious and human body motifs, music and film carriers.

Afghans are sensitive about observing traditional dress in public, especially for women. For women, loose outerwear that covers the neck, hips and hands up to the wrist and a scarf is required, which applies without exception to all women (including foreign nationals). However, it is not strictly required to wear the traditional burqa or chador (a type of longer black cloak that covers the body), at least in areas under the control of government forces. Short skirts are not allowed, skirt length must be below the ankles. Men must have their upper body covered and are not allowed to wear shorts, short sleeves are also not recommended.

Recommendation

In Afghanistan, when it comes to expecting anything to go quickly or smoothly, a fair amount of tolerance and patience is necessary.

Public Holidays

Afghanistan uses a solar calendar in which the new year begins on March 21 of the Gregorian calendar. The time zone GMT +4:30 applies to the entire territory of Afghanistan. The time difference compared to the Czech Republic is thus +hours for winter time and +for summer time. The non-working day is Friday. On Thursday, state institutions and bodies either do not work or have Thursday as a “short” day with working hours up to 12 hours.

  • February 15 – Liberation Day
  • March 21 – New Year
  • April 28 – Victory Day
  • May 1 – Labor Day
  • August 19 – Independence Day
  • September 9 – Day of the national hero A. Š. Masúd
  • 1. Shawwal – Feast of breaking the fast (Id al-Fitr)
  • 9-10 Dhu’l-Hijja – Day of Arafah/Id al-Adha
  • 10th of Muharram – Ashura (the day of the death of Imam Husayn)
  • 12. rebí’u l-awwal – Birth of the Prophet Muhammad

Muslim holidays are movable, so they are celebrated on a slightly different date every year. In Afghanistan, of course, Ramadan is celebrated (approx. mid-April to mid-May), when believers fast every day until sunset for the whole month, so the working hours are adapted to this.

Afghanistan Culture of Business