New Ways of Working Together: Technology, Innovation and Intercultural Collaboration for Africa


ngoFrThis is a guest blog post by Jolanda Tromp, co-author of Cultural Detective Global Teamwork.

In February 2014, n’GO magazine published a review of the Cultural Detective Method. For readers of n’GO not familiar with Cultural Detective, the article provided a way for them to learn about this unique intercultural-competence tool, grounded in developmental theory, yet simple to use and very practical.

n’GO magazine is free, published online in French and Dutch, and offers insights, reflections, examples, and tools around behavioral and relational aspects of intercultural contact. Its goal is to search for the truth behind prejudices and blockages, and provide positive alternatives by interviewing experts and academics. n’GO is produced by the Belgium NGO Echos Communications, which runs a variety of projects aimed at helping to redefine the Euro-African dialogue by showing that Africa participating in the world community is value-added. They work to demonstrate their belief that the Internet is a communication tool that can help strengthen the relationships between the actors in the North and South. They believe the Internet may change the course of action in the field of international cooperation.

This vision and effort is clearly part of many African progressives’ point-of-view, as witnessed by the young social innovator and blogger, Mac-Jordan Degadjan, blogging about African and Ghanaian technology and innovation:

“The world’s impression of Africa is hopelessly outdated. Africa’s technology and innovation boom is rapidly expanding. The penetration of the internet and mobile technology is radical and unprecedented. Across African cities, technology innovation hubs are mushrooming and playing a central role in the fledgling technological and entrepreneurial innovation scenes, all over the African continent.”

For the computer-savvy, Generation-Y Africans, Cultural Detective Online (CDO) can be a great resource, because it is accessible from anywhere as long as you can get onto the Internet. CDO combines 60 of the series’ culture-specific and topic-specific packages into one integrated and easy-to-use system, including access to over 400 critical incidents involving people from 90 cultures and spanning multiple industries and professional functions. Subscribers receive a personal virtual intercultural coach that is available anytime, anywhere, online.

Currently, the Cultural Detective series includes culture-specific packages on Cameroon (by Emmanuel Ngomsi), West Africa (by Emmanuel Ngomsi and Seidu Sofo), and South Africa (by Kathi Lyn Tarantal and Denise Hill).

Cultural Detective: West Africa looks at core values of the 14 countries and 250 million people of the region, ethnically heterogeneous and mixed with two other non-indigenous cultures, the French and the British. The critical incidents describe individuals from several different backgrounds including a Nigerian, a Senegalese, and a Ghanaian.

Cultural Detective: South Africa provides insight into this country that is both first world and third world. There are eleven official languages and a multi-coloured landscape of people. The values of these different groups are contrasting, and CD: South Africa explores both black and white cultural values. It contains critical incidents with individuals from several different cultural backgrounds, including an Afrikaner, a Northern Sotho, a Zulu South African, an Ndebele South African, and a Tsonga South African.

Clearly, the work of describing African cultural values has only just begun with the writing of these brave African pioneers. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda at the World Economic Forum, in Davos said: “The major problem I see is that Africa’s story is written from somewhere else and not by Africans themselves. That is why the rest of the world looks at Africa and Africans and wants to define us. They want to shape the perception about Africa. The best thing we can do for ourselves is own our problems, own our solutions and write our own story.”

The n’GO editor and journalist who authored the article about Cultural Detective, Sylvie Walraevens, is based in Waterloo, about 20 km south of Brussels, Belgium. She put out a call on the Internet for people to interview about the Cultural Detective Method in a LinkedIn forum. I replied, explaining that I am not an expert on African culture, but work as an online sparring partner and coach for Global Teamworkers and managers; I am in the Dutch section of the ISO Norm Committee for assessing the usefulness of an International Norm for International Business Collaborations; and a certified Cultural Detective facilitator.

We discussed the options via email and arranged to meet in Amsterdam for the interview. The interview went very smoothly in my favorite flex-workplace—the lobby of a 5-star hotel with WiFi, directly opposite Amsterdam central station. After the interview, we talked about the African economy and the fact that it is actually growing fast despite the global economic downturn.

We agreed to end the article with a call for African authors to chart their culture’s values and write about them in order to facilitate successful intercultural collaborations. Emmanuel Ngomsi, Sylvie Walreavens, myself, and—we are sure—many others, offer our assistance. We are curious to find out which African experts will take on the challenge of writing Cultural Detective packages on all the African cultures that have not been charted yet!

You can register for the n’Go newsletter here: [FR ] – [NL ] and read the article about Cultural Detective (French and Dutch only) here: [FR ] – [NL ]. For additional information about Cultural Detective Online, register for a free webinar and receive a complimentary 3-day trail subscription. For information about authoring a package, contact Cultural Detective.

3 thoughts on “New Ways of Working Together: Technology, Innovation and Intercultural Collaboration for Africa

  1. The Harvard Business Review newsletter of 4/28/14 reviews a new book by Erin Meyer, a teacher and executive coach at INSEAD/France, re: ‘The Culture Map: Breaking the intercultural Boundaries of Business”. The article features a tool that maps out cultural differences. Erin is an American and may be a good contact for you in future collaboration.
    info: blog.hbr.org

    Liked by 1 person

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