Global Business Cultural Analysis: KENYA
GLOBAL BUSINESS CULTURAL ANALYSIS: KENYA
Tonja Arnold Brooks
Spring 2013 BUSI 604
March 13, 2013
Kenya lies to the east of the African continent and has a coast on the Indian Ocean. The country straddles two of the most famous lakes in Africa - Lake Turkana and Lake Victoria. At its heart is Mount Kenya from which the country takes its name. The Kenyan population is heterogeneous, comprising seven major ethnic groups as well as tens of smaller ones and non-Kenyan communities. There is a religious mix with a Christian majority and Muslim and indigenous religious minorities. Formerly a British colony, Kenya achieved independence in 1963. Understanding the various cultural norms and ethnic and religious groups is essential when doing business in Kenya. Kenyan Culture - Key Concepts and Values Group-relations – Kenyans have strong affiliations to their ethnic group or tribe and sometimes place them in front of the ‘nation’. The family is at the heart of Kenyan life and is given priority over everything else. Several generations will live together in one house with all family members taking care of one another. Absenteeism from work or delays in performing tasks due to family obligations is frequently experienced in Kenya and is viewed as perfectly acceptable. Religion – The majority of the population is Christian (Protestant and Catholic) but there is also a substantial Muslim (Sunni) minority. At the same time Animism and ancestor worship remain widespread. Both Christians and Muslims have managed to incorporate traditional practices into their respective religions creating unique blends to suit their particular needs. Time – In general, Kenyans have a more relaxed approach towards time and live at a slower pace. It is not unusual to wait half an hour for someone to arrive for an appointment and this is seen as perfectly acceptable. Taking care of personal affairs first is regarded as more important than arriving on time. This being said, today particularly in the private sector there is a growing trend of punctuality and observing deadlines. Doing Business in Kenya is the one of Africa’s more affluent nations and is seen a business hub for East Africa. The country’s economy has been hampered though by corruption and a reliance on certain goods whose prices have failed to rise sufficiently. Kenya has also been affected by the global economic downturn and in 2008 saw a 7% drop in its GDP growth from the previous year. Despite this, tourism, manufacturing and investment have predominated in the Kenyan economy over the last four decades giving Kenya a prized position within Africa. Understanding how Kenya’s economy and politics impact its business culture will help you when doing business in Kenya. Kenyan Business Part 1 - Working in Kenya o Working practices in Kenya • Business hours in Kenya are from 9:00am to 4:00pm, with a one hour break for lunch between 1:00pm and 2:00pm. Some businesses also operate on Saturday mornings. Kenyans have a flexible attitude towards time, so don’t be surprised if business meetings or social events begin late. Punctuality tends to be expected when dealing with foreigners though, so make sure to arrive on time. Kenyans do not tend to schedule a precise end to meetings. What matters is not adhering to a schedule but ensuring that everybody involved is satisfied with the outcome. Therefore make sure to leave enough time in your agenda when attending a meeting. English is widely spoken in Kenyan business environments and you can expect your counterparts to have good language skills so you can conduct your business in English. A little knowledge of basic Kiswahili phrases always leaves a good impression and can help to break the ice. Structure and hierarchy in Kenyan companies • Business hierarchies are generally clearly defined, especially in family owned companies. Although employees are welcome...
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