However, in order to ensure a good business relationship between African and Emirati businesspeople, White suggested seven tips to keep in mind.
1. Educate yourself on Islamic culture
“It’s important to remember that the UAE is an Islamic country. They are very liberal compared to other countries in the area but they are still Islamic so it is a good idea to have a little bit of an understanding about the Islamic culture,” suggested White.
Business attire is typically formal, such as a suit and tie for men. While the UAE does host a high population of Western expats, it is respectful for women to dress conservatively, not showing much bare skin and not wearing short skirts and low cut tops.
2. Drinking alcohol is not a custom
Alcohol is not part of Islamic culture and it is therefore not custom to serve alcoholic beverages at business functions with local businesspeople. Alcohol is served at many international hotels but is not available everywhere.
“We always say get used to drinking coffee and tea. It’s very common when you have a business meeting that you are served Arabic coffee or a very nice tea and it’s very polite to accept it,” White said.
3. Take time to build a business relationship
“The Emirati people in particular work very well with you once they know you,” explained White. “It’s very much about getting to know you and very much about building a relationship before you start trying to do business.”
She added that it’s a good idea to take the time to visit and meet with Emirati businesspeople face-to-face to gain trust, prove sincerity and build up a relationship before asking them to sign contracts.
4. Make regular visits
White said Emirati people like to keep in regular contact with the people they work with and it is polite to keep them updated on business news and give them feedback following a meeting. She added that business updates should make use of tangible evidence or testimonials in an effort to strengthen a relationship based on trust.
5. Prioritise phoning to writing
“It’s always good to follow up with an email but people appreciate it if you speak to them on the telephone,” continued White. “If you can’t meet with them in person, speak to them on the telephone and don’t always communicate only in writing.”
6. Work on Sundays
As an Islamic country, Sunday is the first day of the week in the UAE. “So you have to be prepared to work and go to meetings on Sunday,” said White. “And then remember that Friday is the holy day, the day of prayer, the day that they don’t work.”
Foreign businesspeople should also be considerate of the fasting month of Ramadan.
7. Accept last minute invitations
“Those of us who have worked with people in the region know that it is not uncommon for us, in the same week, to be asked to go to Dubai for a business meeting. It is something that is acceptable in the region,” explained White. “So if you are asked to see them at short notice, please don’t see that as being rude. It is just something that happens… the advice is to try and make it because they will appreciate that.”