Angolan businesses require the expertise and investment of Nordic companies and Nordic companies have all to benefit from gaining clarity and access to an exciting and wide range of opportunities in Angola.
My name is Inês Cerqueira and I was born in Angola in 1972.
3 years later in the independence war I left to Portugal to meet with my father after he had a stroke and my mother still stayed behind to hold on to our home, yet eventually in 1980 she came and join us. Hence I was brought up in Portugal.
I later in life in 2008, decided to return to Africa, and established in South Africa as a Senior Trade Commissioner Assistant of Canada to Angola. I have changed mandates and also sworn in as Commercial Counsellor and Political Advisor of Denmark to Angola before former President Dos Santos and later as Senior Advisor to Finnish Ministry of Economic Affairs Trade Agency.
Let us start.
It is no secret that Angola is experiencing some problems. There is a political (dormant but latent), economic crisis, constant problems in relation to security, a huge social inequality and now the oil paradigm has changed, this product will not be as expensive anymore, the countries that have it will not be richer .
Many Nordics and Europeans in general arrive in Angola as expats, what they can't foresee is that they will fall in love with this country and for its people. Most of the times, ending up marrying and having children, who became dual citizens.
As Angolan-Portuguese and having pushed for Nordic interest in Southern Africa and assisted the implementation of many developing impact projects in Angola, I am comfortable to discuss and address some ways of doing business in Angola, that might feel very foreigner to Nordic business people and not so much for Angolans, yet, flexibility and understanding of each ones backgrounds, hopefully shines some light, that not all is really bad, not all is easy and a lot preferably, would have to be changed and all to adapt.
At the end, Angolan businesses require the expertise and investment of Nordic companies and Nordic companies have all to benefit from gaining clarity and access to an exciting and wide range of opportunities in Angola.
In the past, I had many theories about the system of government, colonialism, economic policies, etc. But recently I came to a conclusion. A lot of people will probably find this conclusion of mine somewhat offensive, but after exchanging several ideas with my Angolan network they have encouraged me that in order to promote investment from Nordics in Angola, Angolans could only benefit to hear from an Angolan in a very Nordic assertive way, how can we make it happen, and perhaps where both need to meet.
So there you go: The problem it's you.
You are the problem. You both Angolans and Nordics. You are perpetuating the problem.
Angolans: It is not juat the fault of former President Dos Santos or the ruling party. It is not just the fault of the price of oil, the increase in the dollar or the devaluation of the Kwanza.
The problem is culture. It is the beliefs and mentality that are part of the foundation of the country and are responsible for the way in which some Angolans choose to live their lives and build a society.
In a very Nordic assertive way, how can we make it happen, and perhaps where both need to meet.
The problem is everything that you and everyone around you decided to accept as part of “being Angolan” even if that is not right.
Want an example?
Imagine you are riding in a friend's car at night. You pass a dark and totally empty street. The conversation is good and he is not paying much attention when, suddenly, he pulls out the mirror of a super expensive car. Before anyone sees, he speeds up and leaves.
The next day, you hear a co-worker you barely know saying he left the car parked on the street the night before and he woke up without a mirror. From the description, you discover that it is the same car that your brother crashed “without meaning to”. What do you do?
A) Be quiet and pretend you don't know anything to protect your friend? Or
B) Tell him you are sorry and force your friend to take responsibility for the mistake?
I believe that most Angolans would choose alternative A. I also believe that most Nordics would choose alternative B.
In more developed countries the sense of justice and responsibility is more important than any individual. There is a social conscience where the whole is more important than the welfare of one. And because it is one of the main pillars of a functioning society, ignoring it is a form of selfishness.
Nordic listeners: Angolans are supportive, sacrifice and do everything for their families and closest friends and, therefore, do not consider themselves selfish. I understand though, that for a Nordic, prioritizing family and close friends over other members of society is a form of selfishness.
Let us hold this thought? Let us think about all the news we hear about those corrupt politicians, businessmen, policemen and teachers? Have you ever stopped to think why they are corrupt? I guarantee that almost all of them justify their lies and hoaxes by saying, "I do this for my family". They want to give their relatives a better life, they want their children to study in better schools and they want to live more safely.
It is curious to see that when an Angolan harms another citizen to benefit his families, he finds himself altruistic and a Nordic finds the Angolan corrupt.
In a nutshell, Nordics and Angolans would be in agreement altruism is giving up one's interests to benefit a stranger if it is for the good of society as a whole.
So if an Angolan business person can assure that will have the sake of the business as a priority I can assure that the Nordic partner would make sure that itºs Angolan partner was happy, with a family well attend for and happy to invest.
Another misconception about the doing business scenario is that Nordics are too relaxed and Angolans are too up-tied.
Nordics: You cannot enter a Ministerial or Corporate meeting wearing open sandals or open shirts because its hot in Angola. Deal with it! Angola is Sovereign, and no one likes to be offended in their turf.
On the same hand: Angolans, you certainly do not need a 3 piece suit, upmarket world renowned tailor and a Gold Rolex, when you are welcoming a business partner which you desire to attract investment in technology and funding do you? As well, being someone is vain is considered an insult in the Nordic countries.
Remember a Nordic will not hire a helper to iron his shirt, he or she will do it herself and that is just fine.
Another cultural matter that is tremendously important to observe is time management and time keeping.
Angolans: do you want to frustrate your Nordic potential investor? If you do, continue not replying to emails, or confirming meetings last minute or even arriving late to meetings and making your investor wait…
On another hand, Nordics: do not expect a clear meeting plan 2 weeks in advance, with contact details, and clear agenda points or even if at the meeting you are faced with an entire administration board for that short 2 slide PowerPoint you had prepared…
And lastly… Angolans donºt expect you to speak Portuguese at their meetings and Nordics donºt expect Angolans to speak Finnish, or Danish, or Swedish, or Norwegian. What starts to be common in the world, is that everybody holds a decent level of conversation on the 21st century world commercial language, English.
A piece of advise for both is that, like anything in business, don’t Assume. Clear the need to have an interpreter present and if you are really eager to make business with each other, enroll, in that language course. After all, Apple and Android Apps and tutorials are available mainly in English and you do just fine with them don’t you?
Know, I would like to have your questions and also your recommendations, and suggestions?