Doing Business in Zambia

Zambia is one of the most prosperous countries in Africa, because of its stable political structure and growth oriented government. The privatization of Zambian businesses, especially mining has been a major boost to the national economy. Zambia is also very sparsely populated with a large urban population. It is unusually urban for an African country and very much westernized.

The capital of Zambia, Lusaka is a beautiful city. The must visit tourist destination in Zambia is the city of Livingstone, which is a hub of tourist activity and all tourism related businesses. Zambia is rich in natural resources and has plentiful supply of copper, which is why all major metal companies in the world have offices here. Agriculture is very important to Zambia, there are several prosperous tobacco and food processing businesses here.

 If you are looking to expand your business to Zambia, it’s important to have a Zambian business partner who would be familiar with the country, the bureaucracy and have the right local business contacts for you to take advantage of. There are also a few things about Zambian business culture you should know about.

It is important to be very formal while negotiating with a Zambian business partner. It is considered impolite to address people in a business meeting by their first names, no matter how junior in the hierarchy they are or how young. Always address one with the honorific “Mr”.

Zambians are very professional when it comes to business so it’s important to wear sharp, conservative suits. Business cards are important, and it’s important to ensure that they are smartly printed. Hand over business cards to those highest in an executive hierarchy and when offered a business card in exchange, do make it a point to glace over politely.
Zambians are meticulous business negotiators, and never rush to a business decision. They always take their own sweet time. They will want to indulge in small talk at the beginning of a business meeting, chat about the weather, sports and politics. Indulge in them, and be equally polite and friendly in exchange. Irritation or impatience would be interpreted very badly in Zambia, so avoid showing your displeasure, even at the slightest, at all cost.

Networking and business relationships are very important in Zambia, so if you’re looking to expand business here, be sure to develop contacts in the local political, bureaucratic and business community.

English is the official language of business communication in Zambia, so getting your point across won’t be a problem. However, if you are working in rural areas in the country, you might want to take the help of an interpreter.

Officially, women have the same rights in Zambia as men, but there are a very few female business executives here, and fewer at higher positions. But this is changing fast, and we do expect this young generation of new female executives to rise to the highest positions in Zambian business in the near future. 

 One thing you should be very careful about is not to offer gifts to your contacts in Zambian political or bureaucratic circles, as this may be seen as being akin to a bribe, which could get your contact in deep trouble. So avoid offering gifts at all costs.

This article is a part of our ongoing series on “Doing Business in Africa”. Our goal is to inform people about the right way to form a business partnership with local business partners in the vast African continent, and to offer a better understanding of the business culture and etiquette followed in that part of the world. The intention is to ensure that you are comfortable and know what to expect during a business negotiation with a business partner in Africa. Please send us your suggestions on how we may help to serve you better. Ciao!

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