by Tumi Frazier, founder of Tumi Frazier International
It is evident that trade is a gateway to development as it contributes towards the industrialization and economic transformation of nations. So, boosting intra-African trade is critical to the development of the African continent. However, for the continent’s GDP to grow we need to collaborate in order to have significant production or purchasing power because alone we can only do so much.
While there are various factors that are barriers to effective intra-African trade which currently constitutes a mere 13% of the continent’s total trade, could stereotypes be one of the factors? Do we form unfair judgement about African cultures that are different from ours? Does this affect our ability to do business with one another across the continent?
I was recently invited to speak at the When Women Win Conference held in Nigeria, in commemoration of the International Women’s Day. I was taken aback by the warm reception I received, from the time I landed at the airport to the time I left the country. Essentially my experience of the Nigerian people was very positive. So, contrary to the popular beliefs and stereotypes, I found them to be incredibly wonderful and generous people.
This really got me wondering; how much do we lose out on as entrepreneurs due to our misinformed stereotypes? We tend to classify people into specific categories based on innuendos and what we perceive them to be, and then paint everyone in that culture with the same brush. While this classification may provide us with references about certain cultural idiosyncrasies that help us understand their attitudes in order to find common grounds when dealing with different cultures, stereotypical representations are often generalized and could lead to false assumptions.
Stereotypes about others’ habits and behaviors can affect our own attitudes, expectations and possibilities of doing business with them. So, it is crucial to keep questioning the relevance of some of these stereotypes. Meeting the right people, developing the right relationships, and cultivating connections is both critical and invaluable in business. By collaborating with others, we build teams of smart entrepreneurs with diverse expertise, working together to solve problems across the African continent. Bearing in mind that great ideas come from disruption of the existing status quo.
So, dealing with other cultures gives us different perspectives and spearheads innovation. Moreover, your clients and customers are diverse, so a better understanding of different backgrounds and cultures can enable your business to be more adaptable to Africa’s dynamic business environment.
Tumi Frazier is a South African entrepreneur, professional speaker, author, TV personality, consultant, and founder of Tumi Frazier International, Tumi Leadership Academy, and Tumi Foundation. Tumi is an internationally acclaimed Leadership and Change Management expert who has worked with high profile clients and organizations across Africa, United States and Europe. Tumi has authored 4 books: Courageous Stories of Inspiration; In the Midst of the Storm; Stepping Stones to Success; and Your Moment. Follow Tumi Twitter | LinkedIn
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