Communicating across cultures has its challenges, and this is especially true in the business world. Burkinabe business owners and professionals received training in navigating cultural cues when doing business with American companies at a January 30 event hosted by the embassy. The featured speaker was Desi Lopez Fafie, who besides being a former vice-president of a U.S. software company and a former board member of the U.S. Corporate Council on Africa, has worked in 34 African countries. He used examples like that of the German employee who, after receiving three points of praise and one point of criticism from her American boss, thought she was passing with flying colors. She didn’t realize that Americans like to soften criticism by using a “good news/bad news” approach, and she’d better straighten up or she’ll be fired! He also covered differences between U.S. and African notions of time, formal vs. informal ways of addressing colleagues, and comfort level with taking risks.
In addition to Mr. Lopez Fafie’s presentation, attendees heard a presentation on U.S. government entities that finance U.S. trade and investment with Africa like Ex-Im Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. The event was jointly organized with AmCham Burkina and Business and Professional Women (BPW) of Burkina Faso.