Doing business in Botswana

Business in Botswana has elements of a conservative society, mixed in with more liberal workplace practises. Expats will find that elders are treated with the most respect and the dress code is conservative. In contrast to this, things like absenteeism and deadlines are viewed more flexibly.

Depending on the business, decision-making can be top to bottom type management. However, generally, there is a degree of consultation between employees and employers. 

In The World Bank Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2019, Botswana was ranked 86th out of 190 countries. The country scored highest for dealing with construction permits (31st) and paying taxes (51st) but fell short in enforcing contracts (134th) and starting a business (157th). 


Fast facts

Business hours 

8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. 

Business language

English is the official language of business, while Setswana is also spoken. 

Dress

A conservative dress code is common for businesspeople in Botswana. 

Gifts

Gifts are acceptable. Monetary gifts should always be avoided. 

Gender equality

In the modern economy, there is no formal division of labour by gender roles. Women make up a significant part of the workplace, but they are still outnumbered by men, and rarer to find in high up positions. 


Business culture in Botswana

The business culture in Botswana is conservative and based firmly on mutual respect. Batswana can be reserved, therefore it is best to be patient with colleagues and co-workers until they feel comfortable. Locals are friendly to foreigners, so expats should have no problem settling in. 

Greetings

In Batswana culture, it is common to shake hands with men and women. A local greeting phrase is also an easy way to make a good impression. It is polite to address senior men as Rra and women as Mma.

Communication

Colleagues and even supervisors are often addressed as Mr or Ms with the last name. Batswana can be reserved, therefore it is best to make small talk prior to discussing business. Communication is based on a reciprocal relationship so expats should ask questions whilst sharing information about themselves. 

Meetings

Expats should be aware that the time set for a meeting is often flexible. The same can be said for deadlines, though it is not uncommon to work overtime in order to meet a deadline. 

Attitude towards foreigners

In Botswana, foreigners are treated fairly. Batswana are impressed by education; however, a person’s ability to ‘go with the flow’ will be the most influential characteristic in the working world. Employees who feel comfortable and respect their boss are more likely to talk amongst themselves and maintain a relaxed attitude in the workplace.


Dos and don’ts of business in Botswana

  • Do be punctual but don't expect local colleagues to do the same

  • Don’t point with the index finger, as this is a sign of disrespect

  • Do make small talk and ask about a colleague's family

  • Don’t maintain constant eye contact

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