The Cultural Fragmentation In South Africa Commerce Essay

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To begin with, South Africa has eleven official languages whereas most of the most developed countries have only one. Language is an important feature of a nation's culture since it enables an exchange of ideas and information between individuals (Rugman and Collision, 2006). Communication is the most effective mean to prevent intolerance since it favors interaction and thus provides a better understanding of the values and beliefs that guide someone's behavior. As we can observe the considerable number of languages is a first argument to explain the disintegration of individuals in the South African society. A further cause of are the existence of diverse religions in South Africa. Although Christianity dominates in a significant way [2] , Islam, Judaism and more traditional African religions are also represented. According to Rugman and Collinson (2009, 142) religions influence individuals in their beliefs, lifestyles, attitudes towards work and can therefore significantly affect relations between members of a society. For instance Protestantism promotes values of self-accomplishment in which an individual has to work and avoid excessive pleasures [3] . Protestants favour entrepreneurship and tend to invest on the long term rather than spending or consuming all their earnings (Weber, 1930; Grier, 1997). Conversely, some African populations accept the way things are because it is the 'will of God' and would consequently be focus on the present time, not bothering about the future.

Furthermore, each ethnicity has specific cultural traits inherited from a long evolution. Hofstede's four dimensions of culture model (1983) seeks to stress these differences by analyzing cultural behaviors of a country. According to his study, the power distance index [4] in South Africa is fairly insignificant [5] (see Figure 2). So South Africans tend not to feel an important power discrepancy between the high level of hierachy and the bottom of it.

Figure 3

Figure 2hofstede_south_africa.gif


PDI=Power Distance Index IDV= Individualism MAS= Mascunality UAI= Uncertainty avoidance


Likewise, the individualism index is ranked average in South Africa. Following these findings, I think it is interesting to make a comparison with nations influenced by an Anglo-Saxon culture such as the USA, the UK, Canada and New Zealand. All the latter countries share a similar trait in Hofstede's research: they all record the six highest rate of individuality [6] . This indicates a society with a more individualistic attitude, caring more for their own self-interest than for the group. Conversely, traditional African cultures tend to be essentially built on communalism (Ghosn, 2001) as epitomized by the high rates of mobile phone penetration in African countries [7] . Looking at the data, South Africa has an IDV index which is greater than the world average [8] . Hence, according to the model we can conclude that the Anglo-Saxon culture is significantly influencing behaviors in the country. So values and behaviors of different communities are conflicting which then contributes to strengthen a cultural fragmentation.

However, Hofstede's model can be criticized for only looking at IBM, a US firm influenced by western values, so how can it be relevant to other countries? (MacSweeney, 2002) In this case we can argue that western values inherited from a past colonization are rooted in the South African society and the study therefore the study is pertinent to South Africa. A further critic is that Hosftede ignores the weight of communities (Dofman and Howell, 1988, 129; Smith, 1998, 62). Consequently the model assumes a 'cultural homogeneity' in the domestic population (Jones, 2007, 5). This issue is highlighted by different indexes of individualism between South Africa and the UK(Figure 2&3). This difference demonstrates that there is an influence of an Anglo Saxon culture which is balanced with influences of various other existing communities and their values. Otherwise we would have found the same result for both countries.

To conclude this first part, we can understand that the multiple dialects, religions and each community's behavior are a barrier to a mutual understanding as well as halting the construction of a national culture. As a result, South Africa is experiencing a 'culture clash'- "when two cultural groups meet, interact, or work together and differences in values, beliefs, rules of behavior, or styles of communication create misunderstanding, antagonism or other problems"( Rugman and Collinson, 2009, 145)- which deteriorates the living environment and lead to unpredictable consequences.

Impacts of culture clash

The main implications of this cultural fragmentation are on the macro environment and on the national competitiveness.In order to evaluate the effect of a cultural division on the environment, I will study the 'Social' component of the PESTLE framework [9] , analyzing the "attitudes to work", and the issue of violence.

Implications of cultural differences on the organization and the environment

Culture influences attitudes at work affects efficiency and by extension on organization competitiveness (Rugman, 2009). Some Scholars [10] have stated that a mix of cultures is a great advantage for businesses because it brings together complementary skills and experience. A mutual consideration of each member's culture is fundamental for success. This would enable teams to perform better and quickly overcome challenges arising (Kokt, 2003). However, a paper written by Recardo and Jolly (1997,4) argues that 'heterogeneous work team' must deal with cultural issues in the first place because it could harm efficiency. For instance the existence of language problems can alienate team members from each other. I believe that major dissimilarities in cultures are a barrier to efficiency.. Hence, firms willing to enter the South African market need sensitive adaptations of their management practices to match the cultural specificities. Failure to do so can lead to misinterpretation, "poor group relationship and higher costs"(Rugman, 2009).

Differences in culture have lead to racial segregation in South Africa during the Apartheid period. Post-apartheid (1995) measures were taken to reduce gaps between whites and blacks, for example the "Rainbow Program" [11] or the 'Black Economic Empowerment act' [12] (BEE) constraining companies to hire black workers. Despite such actions, inequality and poverty are still important components of the living environment.

Consequently violence is an important feature affecting South African cities. The country is one of the most criminally violent with "one of the world's highest murder rate; six times America's rate and nearly twenty times Britain's"(The Economist, 2009).


As seen in the group report, violence and corruption are important issues in South Africa especially for its global attractiveness because an adverse environment is a drawback to conduct business.

This insecure atmosphere pushes individuals who can afford it to leave the country. Well-educated, skilled and rich people representing the South African elites, go abroad to avoid a constraining environment [13] . "The primary driver for emigration among all groups, but especially whites […] is fear of crime" (Newsweek, 2009).

The main implication of this 'brain drain' concerns the country competitiveness. Competitiveness can be evaluated through Porter's diamond model (1990) [14] . According to this model, four conditions affect the competitive superiority of a nation. Considering the 'factor conditions' component of the model, and specifically 'Labour', a migration of elites cause problems at different levels. It is depleting the number of skilled and best-educated young citizens and therefore damaging the country global competitiveness and attractiveness. In addition, in the group report we have highlighted the mass departure of scientists in the technology sector. As more scientists leave the research and development (R&D) centers within the country are becoming less efficient, so the entire technological development is spoiled. Furthermore, Education would also significantly suffer from a shortage of competent teachers with higher education. The role of education is essential in the economic and industrial development of a country. Education enhances people's productivity and promotes entrepreneurship and technological advances. Likewise, it is crucial in protecting any economic and social progress as well as improving income distribution. (Ozturk,2008). [15] 

More significantly, the exodus of individuals at executive levels is weakening considerably companies established in the country and costs South Africa around "£159m a year" [16] . As a result according to the diamond model, South Africa is not seen as a competitive country on the international stage.

Nevertheless, according to Rugman and Collinson (2009, 222), Porter is eluding the role of government which plays a crucial role in shaping the competitiveness of a country. A Government decides the main policy strategies to be followed over the long term and by investing for instance in higher education it can increase competitiveness in high-skilled sectors like pharmacology.

Then the model is also limited by focusing too much attention on the domestic market. It is true that many South Africans choose to migrate to other countries but it does not mean that the country will suffer irreversible consequences. Multinationals like IBM are bringing knowledge, people and technology from abroad, therefore helping a technological and economic development of the country.


The Culture fragmentation has major impacts on the South African society. It is a divided nation where differences stressed during the apartheid period still remain today. Even though changes have occurred with the nomination of a black government and measures to remove discrimination such as the BEE act in 2003; extremism is prevalent and violence is characterizing the country. As a result elites are leaving, thus decreasing the country's appeal.

Can the issue of cultural fragmentation be solved in the future?

The revival of white extremism and the recent death of the leader of a white supremacist party has demonstrated that an ordered society is still at disgrace.

Critical review

The hardest part of this essay was to choose a topic. At first I was interested in studying the impact of violence in South Africa but the literature was really broad and missing implications on the international business perspective. In light of this, I preferred to narrow my research and focus on cultural differences and their implications on society and then business. My intention was to really go deep into a study that has often been cited but not in detail. It was very satisfying to deal with an issue that is rooted in the history of South Africa. If I now deal with my findings, I think most of my sources are from journals and academic databases and more or less up-to-date, which have helped me to better understand the current situation in the country. In addition interviewing a former employee of IBM South Africa has given me a complementary picture of the country. However, sources coming from official statistical bodies were difficult to find on the brain-drain because obviously the South African government does not wish to disclose information on such matter. I believe that the diverse religions and languages in the country are a barrier to the peaceful running of society in South Africa. Nevertheless, even though it is interesting to compare Hofstede's model between Anglo-Saxons countries and South Africa, it is probably missing the point that after two centuries the descendants of British colonists do not share the same traits as their British counterparts. So the conclusion stating that it makes adaptation tougher for Anglo-Saxons may not be totally true.

I think the major critic on this work concern a lack of evidence linking cultural differences to a significant opposition between individuals. A study [17] (Kort,2003) has tried to capture the existence of cultural issues within an organization in South Africa but results did not indicate that was a major issue for business efficiency, it rather stressed the important role of the team leader.


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