We recommend new arrivals working in Botswana learn about the typical local business culture to know what to expect in the workplace.
Business in Botswana has elements of a conservative society, mixed in with more liberal workplace practices. Expats will find that elders are treated with the most respect and the dress code is conservative. In contrast to this, things such as 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 2020, Botswana was ranked 87th out of 190 countries. The country scored high in dealing with construction permits (44th) and trading across borders (55th). However, starting a business poses many challenges, and for this, the World Bank's survey rated Botswana 159th.
8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
English is the language of business, while Setswana is also widely spoken.
A conservative dress code is common for businesspeople in Botswana.
Gifts are acceptable. Monetary gifts should always be avoided.
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
Business culture in Botswana is conservative and based firmly on mutual respect. Batswana (citizens of Botswana) can be reserved. So, 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.
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.
Colleagues and even supervisors are often addressed as Mr or Ms with the last name. Batswana can be reserved, but making small talk before getting down to business can help with this. Communication is based on a reciprocal relationship, so expats should ask questions while sharing information about themselves.
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 among 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
Do greet colleagues politely, for example with a friendly 'hello' or 'dumela'
►Our Visas in Botswana page provides expats with more information about the paperwork needed to live and work in the country
Are you an expat living in Botswana?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Botswana. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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