Cross-cultural management in south Africa

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Cuprins proiect:

a) The specifics of South African Business Environment 4
b) Cultural diversity and management challenges in South African organizations 5
a) The Eurocentric approach 6
b) The Afrocentric approach 6
c) The synergistic inspirational approach 7
a) Problems and obstacles faced by South African organizations 8
b) Problems and obstacles faced by the individuals 9
c) Agenda for managing cultural diversity in South African organizations 10
IV. Conclusions 11

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Within the context of opening of South African economy, the purpose of this paper is to explore cross cultural management issues in South African multicultural organizations. We put the following questions:

(1) What are the major problems and obstacles to be faced by South African firms to create a non racial integrative corporate culture?

(2) What agenda could be agreed upon by corporate management to efficiently manage cultural diversity in a transitional environment?

Within the context of opening of South African economy, the purpose of this paper is to explore the problems and obstacles to efficient cross-cultural management as well as what could be the agenda for building a corporate non racial integrative culture in South African multicultural organizations. Since the first all-race elections in 1994 when apartheid was abolished, South Africa has been facing the challenge to manage the tremendous cultural diversity of its people, while confronted with the context of economic transition towards global economy. For the first time in South African history, the choice was democratically made to look at future prospects within a co-development approach, rather than a separate development (apartheid) that used to prevail.


a) The specifics of South African Business Environment

South African economy is characterized by a transition period with increasing competitiveness requirements, the disappearance of trade protection and rapid technological changes (Mills 1995). Like many other transitional economies, South Africa has been launched into the highly competitive global market place. As in the People's Republic of China or in the former Soviet countries and other former communist countries, South African organizations are facing the problem of change through appropriate management and development of people within an economy of transition. Still SA presents a set of features which altogether tend to make SA a special place and the African exception (Richmond and Gestrin 1998) that does not fit well into any one IMF economic development characterization (Hofmeyr et al., 1994). In some urban sectors, urban life is almost like in the USA with first-class communication, medicine, transportation, shopping malls, in some others, basically the townships and the rural areas, there is a very significant poor and underdeveloped economic sector. This economic dualism has tended to cleave along racial lines. One must also note that the very historical development of the country is not typical of past African colonial patterns (Dagut, 1977). European settlement, initially Dutch and later English, dates from 1652 and was the earliest in Africa. Whites have created the richest and most industrialized country in Africa and maintained for themselves a standard of living as high as anywhere in the First World. In the main, South African settlers preserved their literary and cultural identity and technological inheritance.

Also, amongst the transitional countries, the way SA is coping with the past and the future of recent History is remarquably unique. Recent history of apartheid (1948-1994) has led to years of international embargo. The termination of apartheid was grounded on a negotiated revolution between the National Party and its first enemy, Nelson Mandela. He gave the initial vision for the new SA (<< the Rainbow Nation >>) while the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created to take care of the national pain. Finally in spite of the racial tensions, there is a lack of bitterness on the part of most Blacks, and a strong spirit of reconciliation and patience. Due to these specific conditions, SA is considered a place where it is particularly important to look at the issue of universality of Western-Anglo-Saxon management practices in a global marketplace. Many have noted the failures of << true sophisticated >> Western management practices in Southern African organizations (e.g. Mbigi, 1994). Like other transitional economies, an << indigenous management >> is struggling for development admits influences from Western and non-Western cultures (Jackson, 1999). But unlike most other countries, the Southern African business sphere is ontologically characterized by the interpenetration of different cultural influences that call for an integration at the time of globalization (Lessem, 1996).

b) Cultural diversity and management challenges in South African organizations

Western and non-Western people and cultures have for a long time lived in South Africa, but seperated ethnic development has led to a cultural patchwork rather than melting pot (Maylan, 1986). With a population exceeding 41.2 millions of people (Richmond and Gestrin, 1998, 1995 estimates), more than 75% are Blacks, about 12% are Whites, 9% Coloreds and 3% Indians. The diversity goes further on when one recalls that Blacks are divided into nine major different ethnies with distinct communities, often cultural practices and of course languages : the Zulu (majority), the Xhosa, the South Sotho and North Sotho, the Twana, the Venda, the Ndebele, the Swazi and the Tsonga. Amongst the Whites' group are Afrikaans people (descendants of the original settlers, the Dutch Calvinist Boers - or farmers), British origin people, and lots of other European origin people (Italians, Portuguese, Germans, French ).


1. Adler, N. (1991),Cultural Dimensions of Organizational Behavior, Thomson Publishing company.

2. Beinart W. (1990), Twentieth-century SA, Opus general Editors, Oxford University Press.

3. Blunt, P ; and Jones, M.L (1992), Managing Organizations in South Africa, Berlin : Walter de Gruyter.

4. Collier, M.J. & Bornman, E. (1999), Core Symbols in South African Intercultural Friendship, International Journal of Intercultural Relations, vol. 23 (1), pp. 133-156.

5. Dagut, M.B. (1977), South-Africa: an appraisal, Johannesburg : Nedbank Group Economic Unit.

6. Fitzgerald, P., McLennan A., and Munslow, B. (1997), Managing Sustainable Development in South Africa, Cape Town : Oxford University Press.

7. Hofmeyr, K., Templer, A. & Beaty D. (1994), South Africa, Researching Contrasts and Contradictions in a Context of Change, International Studies of Management and Organization, vol.24, N?1-2, pp. 190-208.

8. Horwitz, F.M., Bowmaker-Falconer A. and searll P. (1996), Human Resource Development and Managing Diversity in South Africa, International Journal of Manpower, 17 (4/5), pp. 134-151.

9. Human, L. (1991), Black advancement, affirmative action and managing diversity, IPM Journal, vol.3 (2), pp. 10-12.

10. Jackson, T. (1999), Managing people in South Africa: Developing People and Organizations, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, vol. 10, n?2 (april), pp. 306-326.

11. Khoza, R. (1994), The Need for an Afrocenttic management Approach - A South African-based management Approach, in P. Christie, R. Lessem & L.

12. Mbigi (eds), African Management, Knowledge Resources, pp. 117-124.

13. Koopman, A. (1991), Transcultural Management, Oxford : Blackwell.

14. Koopman, A. (1994), Transcultural Management, a Search for Pragmatic Humanism, in P. Christie, R. Lessem & L. Mbigi (eds), African Management, Knowledge Resources, pp. 41-76.

15. Lessem, R. (1994), Four worlds - The Southern African Business Sphere, in P. Christie, R. lessem & L. Mbigi (eds), African Management, Knowledge Resources, pp. 17-40.

16. Lessem, R. (1996), From the Hunter to Rainmaker, the Southern African Businessphere, Knowledge Resources.

17. Maylan, P. (1986), A history of the African people of South African people of South Africa : from the early Iron Age to the 1970s, Creda press, South Africa.

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