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The power of these questions cannot be underestimated, especially if you want to lead and not manage."
—John Cave
Westhaven Worldwide Logistics

Social, Cultural, Economic, Legal and Political Differences in Sierra Leone and how this affects International Business

© Ada C. Kanu  All rights reserved

Introduction

Sierra Leone is located in West Africa with a population of about 5 million (UN, 2003).  Although rich with diamonds, titanium ore, bauxite, iron ore, gold, and chromite (CIA, 2003), thanks to an 11-year war, and corrupt leaders it is now amongst the poorest country in the world. In the following topics, I will touch on how the differences shared by Sierra Leone and other countries affects international business.

Social and Cultural Differences

With 20 different languages, difference in language as well as cultural rules, values, attitudes and behavior makes it difficult to the potential entrepreneur.  Feelings of exasperation, aggravation, annoyance, uncertainty and anxiety remain.  In some cases, people are aware that they are experiencing feelings of alienation, while in other cases, the process occurs under the surface.

Language is an issue that plays a part of the adjustment process.  Although English speakers often assume that other cultures will automatically cater to their needs, learning at least Creole/Krio the language of the host culture can effectively combat cultural disorientation.  

Economics Differences

There is not a noticeable difference in economic differences as seen in the social and cultural differences.

Though rich in minerals, the majority of diamond and gold production has been smuggled abroad. The economic infrastructure nearly collapsed due to corruption, neglect, and war-related disruptions.

An estimated $103 million (2001 est.) in Economic Aid was given to help boost the economy.

Legal Differences

In the United States you have the right to sue, but it becomes a different story when you look further down South. You could win bout any case as long as the price is; just knowing the right people is the key.

For example you want to set up a mining and export business, but have enough money to make the Chairman of the Government Gold and Diamond Office (GGDSO) smug, though you don't either requirements of having a back account and office, he'll look the other way, and keep asking when he gets a little pressure.

Political Differences

The government controls everything, though they claim to have a democratically elected, no business will start before "visiting" the "elders".

Without greasing the palms of every top official involved, you will be up for delays in processing and have a real example myself with purchasing licenses for a mining and wholesale trade, it still isn't finalized.  The fees especially for foreigners who have no connections is discouraging as in addition to all the legal fees, still have to make a "gift" to those in charge so things will flow easily.

Conclusion

Coping techniques for cultural adaptation and adjustment include stress release and stress management.  If you consider doing business in Sierra Leone or any other country for that matter, just need to be aware of the culture of origin and find ways to deal with stress.  

Have the right connections especially for a business like precious stones and metals, to keep the people who matter content.

References:

Hirsch, J., (2001) Sierra Leone.  Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Incorporated.

Campbell, G., (2002).  Blood Diamonds.  Colorado: Westview Press

BBC News World Edition, (2004) Country profile: Sierra Leone

CIA, (2003). The World Fact Book: Sierra Leone


 
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