Zambia Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022

Subchapters:

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

Introduction

Zambian society is still quite traditional in many ways. Central Europeans are often unpleasantly surprised especially by lateness, non-compliance with deadlines and promises in general or difficult dealings with the authorities. Widespread corruption is to be reckoned with. Visit Allunitconverters for more information about Zambia culture and traditions.

Addressing

The style of communication is somewhat more formal compared to Central European customs. There is more emphasis on politeness. When meeting in person, it is customary to say hello to everyone, or introduce yourself The standard way of greeting is a handshake, in a more traditional environment (especially in the countryside) it is often used as a more polite form of clapping your hands several times. He is usually addressed by his surname rather than his first name – “Mr./Mrs. X”, it is advisable to address them by any academic title or position held (e.g. director, deputy, etc.). A usual part of the greeting is a polite “How are you?” etc. with an appropriate response. It is also considered polite to ask about the health of your partner and his family. In general, small talk is a common part of conversation. It is customary to exchange classic paper business cards with your partner.

Business meeting

When planning a business meeting, the widespread tardiness must be taken into account. Negotiations are often postponed, even at the last minute. This applies doubly when dealing with representatives of state institutions. When planning the start time and length of the meeting, it is usually necessary to allow for a generous time reserve. In this regard, persons of European origin tend to be significantly more disciplined, with a strong Anglo-Saxon style of behavior. The surviving British influence is still felt in customs and manners in general.

Meetings often take place over lunch or dinner in a restaurant, but it is just as well possible to meet in the office. Inviting a business partner to your home is possible until establishing a more intimate personal relationship unusual. Giving gifts is not necessarily expected, but it is usually pleasing and can help establish a closer relationship. It is not usual to offer alcohol at the first meeting; Zambia is a relatively conservative Christian country, with members of some churches abstaining from alcohol consumption. People from Muslim countries (Pakistanis, Indians, Arabs) also have a relatively higher representation among traders. Proceedings attended by a large number of local residents are often opened with a prayer and, in the case of state institutions and more formal occasions, often with the playing or singing of the national anthem. In the countryside, the traditional division of social roles persists, i.e. significantly higher representation of men in business and official positions. In the cities, however, these traditional differences are already blurring. In general, respect is shown to older people. A specific feature is the existence of traditional local authorities (chiefs), who have a significant say in many matters, such as the allocation and leasing of land.

The relatively formal and conservative style is also applied in dressing. Gentlemen should come to the first meeting in a suit and tie (light materials are recommended due to the climate), appropriate formal attire is also recommended for women. However, the atmosphere during negotiations is often less formal than in many European countries. Closer physical contact (hugging, etc.) is not usual, the perceived extent of the personal zone is nevertheless smaller than what we are used to in the Czech Republic.

Communication

The official language of the country is English, with which you can communicate practically anywhere in the usual business environment. People with no or minimal knowledge of English are only found in more remote rural areas. However, approximately 70 other languages ​​are spoken in Zambia, most of which belong to the Bantu language group. Seven of them (bemba, lozi, lunda, kaonda, luvale, tonga and nyanja) are also used for educational and administrative purposes.

Establishing a deeper business relationship is usually a longer-term affair, with (usually repeated) face-to-face interaction almost necessary. It is possible to use all common means of communication for negotiations, but quite often it is possible to encounter the fact that the partner does not respond to emails. Telephone communication is usually more effective. A very popular one (and usually the most reliable in terms of a partner’s response) is WhatsApp.

Recommendation

It should be taken into account that corruption is widespread in the country. Between 2017 and 2019, Zambia fell seventeen places in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index and remains at its worst ever score (33 points out of a possible 100 and tied for 117th out of 183 countries ranked for 2021).

When dealing with the authorities, one must expect lengthy, confusing and often chaotic processes and absences, or by not following standardized procedures. In general, when dealing with local partners, it is better to refrain from criticizing the political system or the functioning of state institutions.

Politeness and trying not to disappoint the partner often leads to the fact that local partners do not say “no” outright, when it comes to their ability or possibility to get something, arrange it, etc. Promises should be taken with a considerable amount of caution and rather with lower expectations. Agreed time frames are very often not respected at all.

Public Holidays

  • January 1 – New Year’s Day
  • March 8 – International Women’s Day
  • March 12 – Youth Day
  • Good Friday, Easter Monday (moving)
  • May 1 – Labor Day
  • May 25 – Africa Day
  • first Monday in July – Heroes’ Day
  • first Tuesday in July – Unity Day
  • first Monday in August – Farmers’ Day
  • October 18 – National Day of Prayers, Fasting and Reconciliation
  • October 24 – Independence Day (Independence Day) – the main national holiday
  • December 25 – Christmas Day (1st Christmas Day)

If the holiday falls on a weekend, the day off is usually moved to the previous Friday or the following Monday. The president of the country has the authority to declare additional days off (used in case of elections, inauguration of the head of state, state funerals, etc.).

Zambia Culture of Business