Ethiopian Culture

Business Culture

Meetings

  • People might meet at a coffee shop initially to introduce themselves to another, make acquaintance and assess whether a business relationship is worth pursuing. If a partnership appears to be in both parties’ interest, a meeting at an office will then be organised.
  • Make sure to spend a fair amount of time at the start of a meeting simply socialising and getting to know everyone. Personal relationships are very important to success in business.
  • Stand to greet everyone and address them by their formal title.
  • Coffee may be served at the beginning of a meeting.
  • Present your business card with the right hand or both hands together, not the left hand alone. Do not fold someone’s business card if they give it to you.
  • There may not be a set time when the meeting is expected to end. Therefore, it is best not to make plans immediately afterwards in case the engagement goes for longer than you expected.
  • Meetings generally end once everyone feels that they have exhausted everything they had to say, or when the most senior or eldest person decides there is nothing left to discuss.

 

Considerations

  • Be wary of hasty verbal contracts. Agreements should normally be carefully thought through and officiated in writing.
  • Foreign connections are generally viewed positively within Ethiopia, as they are often associated with aid and continued investment.
  • Ethiopians may struggle to decline requests and may avoid giving a flat refusal to those that they consider friends. If you receive a non-committal answer, it is best to interpret it as a negative response (see Communication).
  • Ethiopians often resist giving open criticism or negative opinions on something. For example, instead of directly notifying their supervisor that they are having a problem with a colleague, they may tell other people so it becomes known indirectly. Generally, people feel more comfortable expressing opinions about technical matters rather than personal sentiments.
  • Consider that Ethiopians may feel obliged to perform favours for friends due to their close relationship.
  • Due to the strong capacity of the government and cultural traditions, corruption is somewhat less of a problem for Ethiopia than many of its African neighbouring countries.
  • Small-scale businesses often comprise a number of friends and family members.
  • On the Corruption Perception Index (2017), Ethiopia is ranked 107th out of 180 countries, receiving a score of 35 (on a scale from 0 to 100). This perception suggests that the country’s public sector is somewhat corrupt.
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