Business cards are a crucial part of doing business and presenting oneself professionally.
They are used internationally for exchanging contact information, developing networks, and maintaining professional relationships. When transitioning abroad, it is important to know that there are regional differences in both the content details and very importantly, in the etiquette of their usage.
In Africa in general, business cards typically display a company’s name, logo, and webpage (if applicable), in addition to the name, position title, academic title, and contact details (such as business address, telephone number, fax, and email address) of the holder. The biggest difference among business card content in the various African countries’ is the acceptance of the use of professional titles when a person is not yet employed. Please make sure to check on the individual specifications for business cards in the country you are traveling to or living in. Also, be sure to check the local custom for exchanging cards.
In South Africa, exchanging business cards is a common practice, but there is little ceremony involved. Most cards are exchanged during introductions and initial conversation. Be sure to treat the cards you receive with respect and to store them properly, in a case or folder rather than in a pocket. Commenting briefly on the card is also polite. Business cards in South Africa can include a personal e-mail address, and cell phone or fax number and should be written in English. Many print shops are available to design or print your business cards locally.
In Kenya, business culture is flexible when it comes to the exchange of business cards. Cards can be exchanged during initial greetings or when parting. However, it may be a good idea to offer one’s business card upon meeting, especially at larger functions where people may leave without notice. Remember to offer and receive a business card with both hands or with the right hand. Avoid accepting the card with only the left hand. In Kenya, it is customary to exclude the home telephone numbers and physical addresses on the card. It is acceptable to give yourself a professional title, even if you are not yet employed. The business card should be written in English only. It is easy to have business cards printed in Kenya.
In Nigeria, the more business cards you circulate to prospective employers, the higher your chances of being contacted about job vacancies. Business cards should generally be exchanged upon meeting, and should be accompanied by a handshake. Remember to offer and receive a business card with your right hand and to study it before putting it away. Business cards should be printed in the official language, which is English. Academic titles are very important in Nigeria, and should always be included if you have one. It is possible to have business cards printed in Nigeria.
Business cards in Angola are typically exchanged upon an initial introduction. They essentially contain the same information as Western-style cards but it is not acceptable to give yourself a professional title that reflects your career field if you are not yet employed. If you are not with a company that will provide you with business cards, it is best to have cards made ahead of time. Ideally, the cards should be written in Portuguese and English, either with both languages on one side, or with one language on either side. Both formats are common.
Business cards in Zambia are extremely important; they validate the holder as a serious professional. Cards are exchanged during meetings and other social functions. Business cards should always be in English and one-sided. It is acceptable to give yourself a professional title even if not yet employed. They are easily printed in Zambia.
Business cards in Ghana and are normally exchanged when people are meeting or parting. They are also commonly referred to as call cards. It is acceptable to give yourself a professional title before securing employment, as long as it relates to your skills and academic background. The business card should be written in English only. It is easy to have business cards printed in Ghana.
Business cards are important to have when working or looking for work in Côte d’Ivoire. It is generally unwise to list a professional title for yourself if you are currently unemployed. The official language of Côte d’Ivoire is French, but it is acceptable to have dual sided business cards in English and French. Quality business cards can be purchased in Côte d’Ivoire.
In Ethiopia, people exchange business cards after greetings or during meetings and professional encounters. Business cards are exchanged without any formal protocol. Make sure you present and receive business cards with the right hand only or with both hands. Some people working in international institutions or multinational companies have two-sided cards, one side in Amharic and the other in the main language used in his or her business endeavors. The same information is on both sides. Translating cards into Amharic may not always be necessary but would certainly impress recipients and show respect to those you wish to do business with.
Business cards in Egypt are very common. Business professionals, store owners, clerks, and taxi drivers often use them. As business in Egypt is primarily based on initial appearances, having a business card is a way to provide credibility to yourself and to the business that you are representing. Business cards in Egypt can be exchanged at any time. Often cards are exchanged when the conversation turns to how to contact that individual, not necessarily during initial introductions. When you receive a business card, be sure to study it carefully. Take the time to read the card, not just stick it into your business card holder. Ask questions such as the best time to call at the listed phone number. When you are handing out business cards, do so in a way that ensures it can be read as you are handing it over. Business cards in Egypt include the standard content found on western cards, however it is not uncommon to add more information. Having your business card translated into Arabic conveys a respect of the local culture and will be greatly appreciated by professionals in Egypt. Business cards should be printed in English on one side, and Arabic on the other. It is not difficult to print business cards in Egypt; however, printing out business cards prior to your arrival will ensure that you have a supply until you find a reliable print shop. Oftentimes your employer will take care of printing out business cards for you.
Compiled by Lucia Kolaja Bordean, Program Specialist, Passport Career
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