African Power Lunches

African Power Lunches


Observations on the African business world

In the American corporate world we use corporate accounts to justify client lunches, dinners, and outings as relationship-building tactics to get more business or increase profits.

In Africa, things, as usual, work differently. Lunches, dinners, and outings on a corporate tab are usually conducted simply to make sure the job contracted gets done. Let me repeat that: extra money is spent wining and dining to make sure a job is done satisfactorily. That’s like a client throwing football tickets and expensive lunches and dinners to its ad agency to create an above average ad campaign (on top of paying them the project fee or retainer). There is a basic understanding between the parties that the business relationship will be strengthen during the contractual period so that the job gets done.

There is a reason for this.

Africa puts more importance on relationships than on the consumption of things. In other words, people are more important than things. Things, in African culture generally and in the village especially, are usually shared so there is less emphasis on the idea of ownership than in the west. That is not to say that there is no ownership; rather, there is more sharing so ownership is less obvious in the first place. Meaning, I don’t need to do something to borrow “that” because we all understand that we share the “that” that I initially wanted to borrow.

When citizens move to the cities, this philosophy is brought along. Thus, business partnerships, contracts, or services must be continually nurtured in the form of wining and dining them on the generous corporate accounts. If no effort is put into the relationship, you can’t expect to share as much.

So if you get money for a job, from traditional African culture, the idea of exchanging money is sharing not a one-for-one trade of service for money. The follow- through and completion of a job is necessarily tied by cultural belief to a strong business relationship. Thus, the money is given to the paving company who can see it as a gift or sharing; the paving company is further taken care of by the client and for that reason the paving company gives the gift of completing the project well. No products of monies that are owned in totality exchange hands; only favors are exchanged or services or money shared.

Interesting huh?

For more in depth explanation on this phenomenon, checkout Kate’s Journal and read, “And the answer is…” concerning heritage and economy. It’ll give you a different perspective on how an economy functions. It’s about social economy, what I define as an economy based on people and relationships, not the circulation and consumption of things.

Read and enjoy.

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