This week we shall be looking at how cultural literacy, cultural savvy and cultural sensitivity can mitigate xenophobia in light of the Nigerian situation in South Africa.

If you read our first piece on this subject, you will recall that the blacks in South Africa are the poorest in the society. These group of people are just coming out of apartheid and are disillusioned by a system that has not compensated for the disadvantaged position that it has placed them in. Coupled with this is the fact that the foreigners come into the country with a degree of ease that they do not appreciate. These foreigners easily take over their businesses thereby making their situation worse. So economically speaking, foreigners are a drain as far as this class of people are concerned. To the average South African, they are the reason why things are not going well for them.

Let us narrow it down to our Nigerian brothers and sisters. Nobody likes awuf like us and nobody knows how to take advantage of a system like we do. So, there is this policy in South Africa that says something like this: if you marry a South African you become a South African, legally. You become a citizen. According to EXPATICA:

Unless you are born in South Africa or have South African parents, you can apply for South African citizenship after holding a permanent residence permit for five years, by marrying a South African citizen or by being a minor with a permanent residence visa. You can apply for permanent residence in South Africa if you or your spouse have been living and working in South Africa for a minimum of five years or if you fulfill certain other conditions.

 Mistake!. BOOOM!!!, Nigerian guys started trouping into South Africa. The target became South African women. Some of our local business men relocated to South Africa. Toasting South African women Nigerian style became the order of the day with all the show-off and oppression they could muster. South African women started swaying their taste in men towards Nigerian men. This men went to South Africa to do business. A fact that most South Africans are already uncomfortable with. To add salt to pepper, our Nigerian men started “collecting” women from South African men….I thought that we went there to do business? What happened to respecting our host?.

Some of these Nigerian men did not only marry these women. When they acquired their citizenship, they dumped these women. That became a trend and a problem for South Africans. If a provision is made for citizenship through marriage, why should we take advantage of that culture, why should we impregnate their girls and abandon them when we are done achieving our aim? Obviously, the South African society places a high premium on marriage and children. Why can’t we respect that? Simple: We are culturally illiterate and as a result, insensitive. The funny part is that we expect to settle down in South Africa and be accepted and accommodated. We expect to start and grow striving businesses in South Africa without a backlash. We forget that the Zulus are warriors by their culture…or do we even care to know?.

Let us look at Nigerians committing crime in South Africa. In Nigeria, we have come to accept it as a normal thing to commit crime and get away with it. We export this culture and mentality wherever we travel. Nigerians have acquired global notoriety for committing crime. We are seen as criminals worldwide.

In South Africa, Nigerians are known for engaging in drug trafficking. They run cartels in South Africa. They recruit other Nigerians and take them to South Africa to run this business as if it is a normal thing to do. This is not to say that South Africa does not have its fair share of criminals. Question is can we not restrict our own criminality to Nigeria? How many South Africans have been caught and incarcerated in Nigeria for committing crimes? Are they not also poor? Is their society giving them all they need? How many of them are in our jails in Nigeria?

The fact that it is “normal” to commit these crimes in Nigeria does  make it not normal for us to go to another country and commit crimes with the impunity and reckless abundance with which we do, ignoring our host and disrespecting their culture. How many countries will tolerate foreigners coming into their countries and turning their children into drug addicts? Luring their daughters into marriages for the purposes of becoming citizens just to dump them afterwards? Nigerians in South Africa who do this have resorted to excusing their behavior by saying that South African men are lazy and that is why their women prefer Nigerian men. If South African men are lazy, how does that give us the permission to desecrate their value system and their culture as far as their women are concerned?. Many Nigerians did this until a social problem was created for the South African society.Nigerian so-called business men that are culturally illiterate and insensitive became a problem for the South African society due to their inability to learn and respect the value system in South Africa.

Furthermore, Nigerian criminals go to South Africa to do drug business and give the impression that they are doing legit business in South Africa. The South African government spends tax payer’s money paid by South African citizens in keeping Nigerians in jail for various crimes. Already, South Africans feel that the social welfare system does not cater to their own needs and now their tax also has to go to keeping Nigerian criminals in jail. The same criminals who violate their children. The emotion can better be imagined than described.

How can cultural literacy, cultural savvy and cultural sensitivity mitigate xenophobia in light of the Nigerian situation in South Africa? Cultural literacy will first of all teach Nigerian business men what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior anywhere they go. This will determine their behavior and guide their choices. Nobody likes bad behaviour. Respect for other people’s culture will make others more accepting and accommodating towards the culturally educated business man. Xenophobia comes from rejection. Any man will reject any Nigerian if we go to his land and pretend that his own way of life and culture is secondary to what we want and how we make money. When the anger builds up, it will end up in xenophobia which can take up different expressions.

Nigerian business men who are/were doing business in South Africa should ask themselves a question: why did the South African government grant all Ghanaians visa-free entry into South Africa? What are the Ghanaian business men doing right to gain such acceptance? Nigerians can be a very domineering and arrogant lot in and outside our country. When we leave our country, we still carry our behavior with us.

It is time. We should start asking ourselves why countries around the world are singling Nigerians out for bad treatment. Until we learn other people’s culture and develop how to navigate in the international and global business arena, bearing in mind that we cannot impose our own way of life wherever we go to, Nigerian business men will continue to create a bad image and a bad name for the country and they will continue to attack xenophobia. So the first step for any business man going abroad for business is to take the time to gain education on the culture and Life-style of that country.

Secondly, government should take interest in this area and create avenues for teaching Intercultural management for international business men. The Institute of Business Development and Chambers of commerce can do this for the Government and individuals. This should also include anyone travelling abroad for other legitimate reasons.What Nigerian business men do abroad as legitimate business is important in growing the Nigerian economy, as such they are important and should be trained appropriately.  We cannot continue to assume that the world is a playground. A poorly raised child can only bring shame to his or her parents. If we respect a man and his ways, we will attract acceptability and not xenophobia and knowing a man’s  foreign culture can only be done through aculturalization.

Categories: Column

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