Interview Sheriff Aligbeh, Founder, Clever Culture Communication, Amsterdam
Sheriff is a Nigerian/Dutch, who has dedicated himself to bridging the cultural gaps that stand in the way of doing business across Sub-Saharan Africa and the West.
His interview with Africa Business Communities:
Would you please introduce Clever Culture Communication?
Clever Culture Communication creates and delivers tailor-made cross-cultural (business) training and consulting to corporate and public sector organizations operating in the Sub-Saharan African region. Our training and consulting programs are designed to help our clients acquire a better understanding of the various Sub-Saharan African cultures and provide them with the necessary skills and flexibility they need to ensure success in that region.
In which industries does Clever Culture Communication operate and who are your clients?
Our clients come from a range of industries including Oil & Gas, Food & Beverages, Trading and Manufacturing, Security, Wholesale & Retail. Multinational firms as Heineken, Addax Petroleum, Vopak Oil, FrieslandCampina, G4S, BHP Billiton, Unilever, Owen Corning, Cargill, Continaf and Aker Solutions are some of the companies we do/have done business with.
What are the USP’s of your business?
There is something we say at Clever Culture Communication: Come and benefit from our intimate knowledge of African cultures. Let us open your eyes as to why we behave the way we do! We have a first-hand understanding of the intricacies of moving from one country to another. We do not only have an intimate knowledge of the histories, cultures (implicit & explicit) and behaviors across Sub-Sahara Africa, we also have the expertise and experience to translate and reconcile African and Western cultures.
Why did you start Clever Culture Communication?
I founded this company to help show Africa through African eyes and bridge communication gaps. I strongly believe that effective communication helps build bridges and enhances connections. The field of intercultural communication is still very much dominated by non-Africans training on African cultures. Yes, they know Africa, but I thought it was incomplete. I missed the African passion, I missed the African story. I thought it would be more complete if Africans were a part of the storytelling.
To avoid the danger of a one-sided voice and risk a critical misunderstanding of our cultures, I set up Clever Culture Communication.
The need to understand Sub-Saharan African cultures with its many differences and similarities has become even more important today. This region is home to some of the globe’s fastest-growing economies and continues to attract more and more international companies and organizations. Unfortunately, clashes as a result of cultural differences often frustrate communication, continuity, and trust.
What did you do before starting Clever Culture Communication?
I was a communications advisor for many years. Apart from being a board member in various organizations as Sietar Nederland and the Royal Dutch Tropical Institute, I participate in several platforms to create understanding for African cultures. In the past, I acted as a cross-cultural link in the Dutch local politics, in the areas of diversity and inclusion.
What’s the best sell about doing business in/with Africa?
From a cultural perspective, no one culture is better than the other. I do have to say that I have a natural preference for ‘Relationship’ cultures. The natural flow of things makes life sooooo much easier. Also, and I mentioned this before, this region is home to some of the globe’s fastest-growing economies and continues to attract more and more international companies and organizations.
What can you say about the targets, plans and ambitions of Clever Culture Communication for the rest of 2015?
Even though Clever Culture Communication is now a household name, in terms of Africa cultures trainings, we feel there is still a lot to do. Our goal is to reach that point where organizations make these trainings mandatory for all first time (and certainly all accompanied) assignments and then come to us! Our ambition is that organizations see us as their first point of call when they think about Africa and want to provide culture courses for their personnel.
What we’re seeing right now is that companies are realizing more and more that culture/ intercultural competence trainings are no longer a ‘nice to have’, but a ‘need to have’. In other words, companies are investing more in culture. In our view, still not enough! Statistics consistently show that an assignment is most likely to fail due to the inability of the accompanying family members to cope with the new culture and location. An assignment will almost definitely not meet the objectives if the assignee has been distracted and stressed by an unhappy home life.
Do you believe Social Media and the Internet to be a plus to the business environment, as it applies to your industry?
Cultures around the world value their individual traditions, beliefs, and norms that make them unique. Social media is breaking those boundaries and linking people around the world regardless of differences and geographical locations. This is not only helping people become more integrated into the host culture, but also providing an easy way to maintain connections to their home countries. Because of internet growth and accessibility, we do not only have to do face to face sessions, we’re also doing webinars, skype, facetime and so on. From a cultural perspective, we are having the time of our lives!!!