Sample Communication Paper on The Culture of Kenya

Introduction

I chose to write about a non-native English speaking country in Africa; Kenya. Many U.S. nationals are not aware about other people’s cultures: away from their own continent. They need to be aware of this culture if they are to conduct business successfully in Kenya. The American business plans on expanding different constituents of its office, sales and manufacturing departments. It is important for the American business that plans to expand its operations in Kenya to learn about the culture of this African country. This knowledge will assist the business in good relations with the human personnel in the country and know how to handle the different individuals that they have to deal with. Good relationships are very important in business, and they promote respect and appreciation of each other’s efforts. Kenyans are likely to be more cooperative when they feel that the Americans who will expand business in the country have taken the time to learn about, and appreciate about their culture. Therefore, they will be more receptive to the American company leading to better business outcomes. This paper will explore different aspects of the Kenyan people such as social customs, political patterns and economic institutions; all of which can have an impact on the performance of the American business that plans to expand its operations in the company.

Research Methodology

The information on the Kenyan people would be acquired from books, periodicals and interviewing of international students or professionals from the country. The research would also involve a careful examination of media content from the country so as to get information on how both domestic and foreign businesses in the country perform and run their operations.

 

Social Customs

Kenyans have been praised for being among the friendliest people in the world to strangers. They are keen on assisting strangers and have no problem greeting individuals they do not know. The people in this country have also been cited as being positive about different outcomes that they might be going through whether individually, or as a country. This is evident from the various calamities, both manmade and natural, that different people in the society have risen from with the help of others that came to their help either from the same society, or from different societies within the country. The American business that will expand its operations in the country will be friendly to the locals where it will expand its operations which will most likely be reciprocated by the locals.

The nationally accepted and expected form of greeting is through a firm handshake, especially for “kinsmen” who belong to similar tribes, such as traditional leaders from the village.[1] Many villages are located in the rural areas where majority of the total population resides. When one enters a room, the expected appropriate manners include nodding or shaking hands with everyone. If there were many people in the room where one has entered, it would be impossible to greet all of them. Therefore, the expected and respectful action to take would be to nod or greet them using the national language: either English or Swahili. Names and titles are used for introductions, such as Mister, Doctor and Miss. Occupations are usually included as part of an introduction, especially for careers that are highly  respected, such as medical doctors, professors, permanent secretaries at government organizations and bank managers. Such titles are linked to money and influence in the society. Knowing an individual who holds a high position in a government or private institution can accord a person favors due to the influence that he/she is likely to receive. In most communities, an individual expresses the gratitude of being invited into another person’s home through bringing a gift. Most individuals usually bring food items as gifts, such as bread, sugar, and milk. A person might also take souvenirs, such as wall hangings. There are no specific customs as to where a person should sit, but the most important person usually dictates where others sit, depending on where an individual chooses to sit. [2]Those that are senior in rank or seniority usually sit close to the leader, while juniors sit furthest from the leader. People stand close to one another when they are talking, and they may lean close to each other to be audible. A high standard is expected in meetings in relation to punctuality since most meetings have agendas that all members are involved beforehand. In most informal meeting, members are “fined” for being late for meetings. Eye contact is expected to show that individuals are paying attention, most of the time nodding in agreement. Individuals usually shake their heads in disagreement when they disapprove of comments being made.

Nuclear families form the basic unit of the society, with a recent bill being passed into law allowing men to marry other wives as long as their first wives agree. In rural areas, most men do not consult their wives when they want to marry a second wife, and instead marry and bring the second wife into their homesteads. The extended family is very important with most elder siblings assisting their parents to educate their younger siblings. Kenya has one of the highest percentages of educated women in the continent with no barrier in the careers that women can pursue.[3] In most modern households, both the man and the woman work and contribute to the payment of the expenses that have been incurred by the family. However, the man is accepted as the individual to contribute to a higher percentage in the payment of the bills. There are also a number of households where the man gets to work while the woman is expected to stay at home and take care of their children and household.

Housing

There are different types of households, which are determined by the income that is earned by the different individuals. The people that earn more money live in better neighborhoods in comparison to those that earn lower incomes. The majority of the population in urban areas lives in slums, which have poor housing and social amenities, such as sewerage and water access. The rich in the community live in well-built houses that have faculties, such as street lighting, street cleaning services, and well-maintained sewerage and water services. [4]There are no occasions that require special clothing except the Muslim members of the society that dress differently on their religious day, which is Friday. Religious backgrounds do not have an effect on economic status, with majority of the population being Christians. A small percentage is composed of Hindus and Muslims. Hindus can be considered as the minority groups with most of them running successful businesses in major towns in the country. The American company can use this information in planning for the human resources personnel that will work in their organization.

Political Patterns

Most political patterns are based on tribal groups from different regions of the country. The Kikuyu and Kalenjin tribes form a large percentage of the population that gives them an advantage when it comes to voting for national leaders. The existing political threat to the country is based on the current International Criminal Court proceedings that involve the President and his deputy on charges of having been involved in the tribal clashes that results in the death of thousands of innocent Kenyans. Political power in the country is manifested through the number of individuals that can rally behind a political leader. [5]Most political leaders get other leaders from their tribes and regions of origin to back them in their political parties; which influences the people to vote for the proposed political leaders. Television, newspapers, and audio media outlets are the key platforms through which people access information. These are the same channels that are used by political leaders to voice their opinions and popularize their agendas and interests. It is a widely accepted practice for political leaders to voice their opinions on politics in social gatherings, such as national day commemoration meetings, weddings, and funerals. Although it is condemned in the country, most political leaders usually “answer” back to their political opponents at publicized social events that they attend.

Religious and Folk Beliefs

A majority of the population in Kenya is composed of Christians from different denominations, such as Catholics and Protestants. There are many protestant churches, such as Anglicans, Methodists, and Baptist churches. Religious beliefs influence daily activities with religious leaders from different denominations holding prayers that are meant to bring individuals in the country together. The religious leaders in the country are respected, and they are involved in condemning illegal and corrupt practices that are carried out in the country. Churches, temples, and mosques are considered sacred, and individuals from the different religious groups are expected to respect one another. Businesses are usually closed on national religious days, such as Easter, Christmas and Ramadan.[6]

Economic Institutions

The main products that Kenya exports include cash related plants, such as coffee and tea. These crops have been exported to European and American nations for a long period of time with the products being considered high grade in destination countries. Most workers in factories are organized into unions that seek the best interest of the members in terms of conditions that are offered, such as pay, working conditions, and leave days. Most public provision services are owned by the government, such as water and sewerage, electricity, and major hospitals. There are many privately owned organizations as well that contribute to a large percentage of the GDP that is earned by the country.

Technology has contributed to more efficient business practices, such as speed in the manner that services are delivered to clients. The adoption of fiber optic cable by major technology services provision in the country has increased competition among major phone services providers, which has lowered the cost of availability of data. Data provision has in turn contributed to the increased availability of information to the people in both urban and rural areas.

Business people usually have a meal as part of their meeting depending on the time that is being held. Status is owned through the allocation of a private office and secretary that screens calls before they reach the “boss”.

Different communities have different types of foods which they identify with. One of the communities with the highest population has a mixture of boiled maize and beans as their traditional food.[7] Another community with an equally large population has fish as their traditional meal. Food is considered as one of the most unifying elements of the nationals of Kenya with many individuals praising what they consider as good traditional food at their local restaurants. [8]

Value Systems

The need to get ahead of other companies leads to high expectations of cooperation from other team players in departments and organizations. Politeness is also highly expected in organizations, with rudeness attracting public outcry. Education is highly valued in the society with many institutions of higher learning and different branches in different locations being opened up to increase convenience to the learners. A higher number of working individuals attend weekend or evening classes to increase their chances of getting better jobs or better position is their organizations. A higher position in ranking results in better pay and social status in the society. Women are given equal opportunities as men, and they prove that they can perform just as well or even better. An appointment of women into both public and privately held companies has been a big boost to achieve gender balance in the country. Many women run their own businesses with support from their family and friends.

Business expansion

The British American Tobacco Company will look at the possibility of expansion of its plant in another city in Kenya: in addition to its already existing plant in the capital city; where the cost of operations would be cheaper with all the necessary facilities. The government is cooperative in providing social amenities in areas where big companies have chosen to relocate services. The country’s exports totaled USD 4.945 in 2010; an improvement from USD 4.15 in 2009. The country is strategically located in the continent, and has diverse talent in the human resources, which makes it a good location for multinationals in the continent. [9]

Conclusion

The paper has successfully looked at Kenya’s culture, value systems and beliefs. The nationals of the country are very friendly and they are not afraid of challenges which are seen through the manner that they come out in large numbers to assist their colleagues when they are in trouble. The country also has a strategic location in the continent which makes it suitable for expanding the British American Tobacco plant in the continent. The company will be able to take advantage of cheaper costs of operations and hiring multi-talented human perso

References

Albala, Ken. Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia. California: ABC CLIO, 2011.

Barsby, Jane. Kenya Culture Smart. New York: Kuperad. 2010.

Embassy of the United States Kenya. Doing Business in Kenya.

  1. http://nairobi.usembassy.gov/doing-business-local.html

Njogu, Kimani & Garnette Oluoch-Olunya Cultural Production & Social Change In Kenya.

Nairobi: Twaweza. 2007.

Sang, John & Sang, Joe. Kenyan Running: Movement Culture, Geography & Global Change.

2013.

 

 

[1] Barsby, Jane. Kenya Culture Smart. (New York: Kuperad, 2010),67.

 

[2] Ibid., 89.

 

[3] Njogu, Kimani & Garnette Oluoch-Olunya. Cultural Production & Social Change In Kenya. (Nairobi: Twaweza. 2007), 26.

 

[4] Barsby, Jane. Kenya Culture Smart. (New York: Kuperad, 2010),67.

 

[5] Sang, John & Sang, Joe. Kenyan Running: Movement Culture, Geography & Global Change. (Nairobi: Twaweza. 2013), 89.

 

[6] Njogu, Kimani & Garnette Oluoch-Olunya. Cultural Production & Social Change In Kenya. (Nairobi: Twaweza. 2007), 59.

 

[7] Albala, Ken. Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia. California: (ABC CLIO, 2011), 81.

 

[8] Njogu, Kimani & Garnette Oluoch-Olunya. Cultural Production & Social Change In Kenya. (Nairobi: Twaweza. 2007), 73.

[9] Embassy of the United States Kenya. Doing Business in Kenya. (Nairobi, 2014), 1.