Merel Roos van Zelderen, MA


Merel Roos van Zelderen, born in the Netherlands, Bachelor in Liberal Arts and Sciences at University of Utrecht (major Philosophy and minor in Journalism). Master in African Studies at University of Basel. Interested in Knowledge Production and Transfer, Challenging Perspectives. Now intern at EDACY.

MA Thesis

Notions of culture and its significance in doing business with and in Africa

The acquaintance of cultural differences is an important matter for businesses that extend their activities abroad; it has gained much more attention in the last years due to the growing globalized activities of businesses. However, to what extent this attention to culture should be given is controversial and the debate contentious. The focus of this research is to understand the different notions of culture and the various arguments put forward that are whether against or for the appreciation of cultural impact on business relations. Through this a critical analysis is provided that will support the purpose of the research which is to comprehend what can affect business relations between Europa and Africa.

The rich theoretical framework that sought out various perspectives in the debate, and also their strengths and weaknesses have proved that the present approach towards culture may be perceived problematic. Culture, as in cross-cultural studies, has been made a construct, meaning that cultural differences can be measured by means of measurements. The notion of culture became a statistical one, resulting in the acceptance that others’ can now simply claim to know another culture. The approach is for many reasons dubious, in particular because there is not enough or no space created for those who are in fact in that culture. Cultural bias, ethnocentricity stances, the need to apply universalized models and theories elsewhere in an insensitive manner are highly criticized flaws.

Responding to the needs of culture and its numerous approaches, which is to unite theory with practice, ten face-to-face interviews are conducted with people who support and connect business relations between Europe and Africa. Through a qualitative data analysis of those transcripts, codes were created that provided insights in the ‘real-world’ side. As a result that similarities and inconsistencies with the theoretical side can be found.

The main conclusions drawn here is that the meanings attached to others’ behaviour and customs, whether that is called as culturally related or not, do matter in doing business with and in Africa. It is for this reason that more awareness should be raised and thus not for the sole understandings of cultural differences and its approaches. There is therefore an urge to create a floor for a pluralism of meanings towards the same phenomena.