Know Before You Go: Business Card Etiquette in Africa

Posted on Jul 12, 2016 | 0 comments

Know Before You Go: Business Card Etiquette in Africa

Business cards are a large part of doing business and presenting yourself professionally. All over the world people use them for introductions, exchanging contact information and maintaining networks and developing professional links. Although the business card content is similar everywhere in the world, there are regional differences in both the content details and—more importantly—with regard to the etiquette of their usage.


In most countries in Africa, business cards will typically display the company’s name, logo, webpage (if applicable), your name, position title, academic title, and contact details such as business address and telephone number, fax, and email address. The biggest difference in business card content in African countries has to do with the use of professional titles when not yet employed. Please make sure to check this detail for the country you are traveling to/living in. Also check the local custom for adding in or leaving out your home address and home phone number.


The following are a few examples of business cards in different African countries:



In South Africa, exchanging business cards is a usual practice, but little ceremony surrounds the exchange. Most cards are exchanged during introductions and initial conversation. Be sure to treat the card with respect and store it properly in a business briefcase, business card holder or other professional location, rather than in a pocket, for example. Making a short verbal comment on the card is also polite, such as a comment about its look, texture or design. Business cards in South Africa include a personal e-mail address, and cell phone or fax number. The business card should be written in English. Many print shops are available to design or print your business cards locally.



Business etiquette in regards to exchanging business cards in Kenya is somewhat flexible. Cards can be exchanged during 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. Be sure to offer and receive a business card with both hands or only with the right hand. Avoid accepting the card with only the left hand. In Kenya, avoid adding 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, it is believed that the more business cards you circulate to prospective employers, the higher your chances are 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 only and “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, so include it if you have one. It is fairly easy 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 them for you upon arrival in Angola, it is best to have cards made ahead of time as it can be difficult to find an appropriate place to print them in Angola. Ideally, the cards should be written in Portuguese and English, either with both languages on one side, or with one language on each side. Both methods are common.



Business cards in Zambia are extremely important. They often validate the person 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 are normally exchanged when people are meeting or parting. They are also commonly referred to as “call cards.” It is acceptable to give oneself a professional title before getting employed provided 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 if you wish to have dual-sided business cards, with the other side in English, it is acceptable. Quality business cards can be made 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 ritual or 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 other of the main language used in their job environment, or in a language understood by the majority of their business contacts and clients. The same information is on both sides. Translating cards into Amharic may not always be a necessity but it would certainly impress recipients.



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 seen to provide credibility to yourself and to the business that you are representing. Business cards in Egypt can be exchanged at any time. Often it is when the conversation turns to how to contact that individual, not necessarily upon first meeting. When you receive a business card, be sure to respectfully study it/view it carefully to demonstrate genuine interest and respect. Take the time to read the card, and do not immediately put it away in your business card holder. Ask a question clarifying when the individual is available at the listed phone number. When you are handing out business cards in Egypt, do so in a way that ensures it can be read as you are handing it over. Having your business card translated into Arabic conveys respect of the local culture and this gesture will be greatly appreciated by professionals in Egypt. Business cards should be printed in English on one side, and Arabic on the other. Printing can be done in Egypt, however, printing business cards prior to your arrival will ensure that you have a supply until you find a reliable print shop.


Lucia Kolaja Bordean, Corporate Relations Manager

Edited by: Anna Sparks, Expert Global Career Consultant



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