Getting it Right Spells Success – Local Business Customs in Uganda

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Getting it Right Spells Success – Local Business Customs in Uganda

Conducting business successfully overseas involves learning about local business customs so that you present a respectful and informed image whilst networking and dealing with prospective clients.  This is just as true in Uganda as it is in any other part of the world.

Failing to find out how to behave respectfully towards those you meet risks losing opportunities for your business and presents your company in a negative light.

If you’re planning a business trip to Uganda, we have the information you need about Ugandan business etiquette that will ensure your meetings go smoothly, putting you a step ahead of any competitors.

  • TITLES: or Mrs. are both acceptable and these are usually followed by a surname.  Last names usually include a traditional tribal name and a Christian name.
  • GREETINGS: A handshake is appropriate in a business environment.  Men should wait for women to extend their hand – if a woman does not offer her hand, then a small bow or nod of the head is the correct greeting.
  • LANGUAGE: Most business people in Uganda speak English competently.
  • CHAT: It’s customary to partake in some small talk before getting down to business – business relationships are built over time.  Prepare yourself for some introductory conversation asking about family and backgrounds.  Ugandans often communicate in an indirect manner, using stories or proverbs to express a point.  Although humour may be acceptable, avoid sarcasm as it is easily misunderstood and may cause offence.
  • DRESS CODE: Always dress conservatively (in business attire, which means a suit) when attending a business meeting, whether at a restaurant or in a home setting.
  • SPEECHES: Protocol is an important aspect of giving a speech.  Speeches are usually conservative and informal and are preceded by greetings and acknowledgements.
  • NEGOTIATING: Potential business partners will respond to your approach in an equal manner.  If you demonstrate flexibility and a commitment to do business, they will respond in the same manner.
  • TIMING: Punctuality is vital in a business setting, so make sure you’re always on time or early.
  • BUSINESS CARDS: While there are no specific rituals on the giving of business cards, make sure you treat any cards received with respect.