If you want to establish a long-term business relation in Kenya, you would be well advised to be aware of some of the most important cultural differences.
Basically, Kenyans are fond of many aspects of the German: German quality, German reliability, German technology, German efficiency etc.
Germans are considered friendly and generous and are also very appreciated for their eminence as employers making those who land a job with a German company proud, and for good reasons: the reliability, correctness, social attitude, and humanity of a German employer are still unparalleled in an environment like Kenya.
Nevertheless, caution is highly recommendable in business contacts – especially at the beginning – to avoid misunderstandings on both sides.
You have the clock, and we have the time.
Strict German time management is unperceived to Kenyans! Instead, they are known to take necessary time to execute things. German companies should take this into account when planning appointments on site and allow for a good time buffer. Good things take time! So, its highly recommendable to have in mind that understanding this mind frame will enhance chances of having a successful and sustainable business relationship.
Individuality/collective - my tribe, your tribe
For Kenyans, tribal annexing is an essential part of one’s identity. These ethnic affiliations are displayed all over the space, be in in politics the economic values of the people. It is therefore very wise to either be laid back with comments as far as this topic is concerned or just completely avoid it.
German uncertainty avoidance - African fatalism and improvisational talent
Whereas the German strives to mitigate uncertainties through some set of standards and norms, her Kenyan counterpart usually embraces these uncertainties with a healthy fatalism, accepts what one cannot change, or improvises. It’s no wonder that, “Necessity is the mother of innovation,” is the slogan for majority of the Kenyans and where Germans despair, Kenyans take a step back and find a solution that works, even if it’s not perfect.
Long-term orientation versus short-term profit skimming
Business negotiations with African decision-makers are more protracted than in Western cultures. Nevertheless, unlike the German culture that is very cautious on developing a long-term business relationship, in Kenya, it is the complete contrast. Although a good number of the Kenyan interlocutors are anxious to reach a quick goal and reap their benefit in a short-term relationship there are a few who will invest in patience and nature a long-term relationship. It is therefore very highly recommendable for German companies to be cautious when engaging and selecting their business partners.
Get to know whom you are talking to
Hierarchical etiquettes are recommended depending on the position of the interlocutor, this for instance entails the correct form of address, if necessary “Honorable…” in the case of members of parliament, “Your Excellency …” in the case of ambassadors or ministers. Kindly observe to mention, Professor, Engineer, so and so when addressing the persons. Respect and politeness always make a good impression in any case.
We suggest that you break the ice and create a rapport with small insensitive topics and uphold intellectual humor. This always goes down well. Engage to share your knowledge of local conditions, but with reservations.
African flexibility combined with the German agenda
The goal-oriented thematic and temporal structuring of negotiation talks rarely works with Africans. Those who believe they can shimmy through decision-making processes based on an agenda are often disappointed. The hard-won common position is often completely called into question again at the end, often tacitly, to avoid a confrontation. In factual disputes, the “saving face” factor for the negotiating partner must be considered.
Finally, maintaining relations with Kenyan business partners requires regular face-to-face meetings. Distance correspondence by e-mail or telephone is considered for the exchange of urgent messages between visits.
In a nutshell therefore, reliable, competent partners or your own local staff come in handy if you want to do business in Kenya in the long term.