The “rainbow nation” has many cultures. The unique and dramatic history of South Africa – from the colonialist battles to the anti-apartheid struggles – has defined the character of this nation. A visitor to this, the richest country on the African continent, should prepare for contrasts and contradictions. This country is both industrialised and agrarian, affluent and impoverished – and all this within a few kilometers of each other.
There are 11 official languages spoken: listed here in order of the percentages of the population that has the language as a mother tongue: IsiZulu, IsiXhosa, Afrikaans, Sepedi, English, Setswana, Sesotho, Xitsonga, isiNdebele, Tshivenda, and siSwati. Thus with so many cultures in South Africa, ethnic tensions do exist within all sectors of the community.
The question business people should ask before entering this country is: “who am I going to be dealing with?” Once this question is answered, one can prepare well and understand what is required for effective communication in this environment. Doing business in South Africa means expecting high levels of bureaucracy and a slow rate of progress but this fast developing, beautiful country offers great opportunities for all.