Doing business in Angola

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Angola is one of Africa’s major oil producers. It’s located in south-west Africa on the South Atlantic coast. The capital and commercial centre is Luanda, a large port city on the northern coast that blends Portuguese-style colonial landmarks with traditional African housing styles and modern industrial complexes.

The population is diverse and multicultural, composed of various ethnic groups, including the Ovimbundu, Ambundu, Bakongo, and Chokwe, among others.

The official language, Portuguese, reflects Angola's colonial past and is widely spoken, particularly in urban centres and formal settings. Regional languages, such as Umbundu, Kimbundu, Kikongo and Nyemba are also spoken by different ethnic groups.

Angola’s population is overwhelmingly Christian. About two-fifths of the population is Roman Catholic, about two-fifths is Protestant, and some one-tenth adheres to traditional beliefs or other religions.

Angolan society is characterised by a strong sense of community and an emphasis on family bonds. Extended families often cohabit, and kinship networks have significant influence in social interactions. Respect for elders and authority figures is highly valued in both social and professional contexts.

Nurturing strong relationships and trust is important in Angolan work culture. It is common for people to spend time getting to know counterparts on a personal level before engaging in business matters. Take time to build connections, engage in light conversation, and display a genuine interest in other’s lives.

The workplace tends to have hierarchical structures, where titles and positions are significant and individuals in higher positions are often shown deference. While hierarchies exist, collaboration and teamwork are valued in Angolan work culture. Collective effort and cooperation are essential for achieving goals. Team members contribute expertise and opinions, but final decisions often rest with higher management. Fostering a harmonious work environment and strong team bonds is key to success.

Attitudes to time in Angola may sway more fluidly than in most Western cultures. Punctuality holds value but isn’t strictly enforced. Show flexibility and understanding when meetings start late, or events extend beyond their schedule. Also, demonstrate your respect for others' time by notifying in advance if running late.

Meetings may have a more formal and hierarchical atmosphere, from seating plans to who speaks to whom. Socialising beforehand is common. Open discussions and active participation from attendees are required. It is essential to show respect for others' opinions and avoid interrupting speakers.

Communication in Angola might be more indirect than you are used to, particularly when discussing sensitive topics. It is important to pay attention to non-verbal cues, read between the lines, and listen for underlying messages. Subtle hints or suggestions may be used to convey information instead of direct statements.

Remote communication needs clarity and conciseness. Provide necessary details but avoid excessive jargon. Use straightforward language to convey your message effectively. Allow for pauses to ensure everyone has an opportunity to speak.

Social or casual situations might involve hugs or a kiss on the cheek among friends or acquaintances. It is common for people of the same gender to engage in these forms of greeting, but it is important to be attentive to the other person's lead.

When addressing individuals in Angola, it is customary to use the person's title (such as Mr., Ms Mrs., or Dr. etc) followed by their last name. Formality is generally maintained until a more personal relationship is established. However, if someone introduces themselves by their first name, it is acceptable to address them in the same manner.

Angola has a complex political and social history, and it is important to be aware of certain sensitive topics and taboos to avoid any unintended offence. Safe topics of conversation are the country’s cuisine, festivals and artistic traditions. Additionally, sport is largely dominated by football (soccer), which is a national passion and is played by people at every social level.

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Inspired? If you want to learn how you can work more effectively with your Angolan colleagues, clients or supplier, contact us for a 'Doing Business in...' sample course outline.  All training is tailored to meet your needs and delivered at a location of your choice.

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