Those who know me in a personal capacity know that the travel bug bit me at a young age. I love to explore new places, learn about different cultures and expand my horizons. I recently had the opportunity to work on a project in Botswana. Not only did this provide me with a chance to collaborate with a new client and see how the CX profession is progressing in other African markets, but it also created an opportunity for me to visit a new country.
CX in Botswana
From a customer experience (CX) perspective, Botswana was an interesting place. It shares close economic and cultural ties with parts of South Africa, so it should come as no surprise that the business (and CX) communities are connected. Botswana is a smaller country in terms of size, population and economy. As such, the local businesses – and even corporates – are smaller and more agile than the businesses in South Africa.
In Botswana, I witnessed the same can-do thinking that I noted when I first moved to South Africa, but as I engaged with various stakeholders while onsite with my client, I noticed an authentic openness to new ideas that I haven’t experienced with South African businesses. Perhaps it was the corporate culture of this particular business, or perhaps it was their size and agility, but in any case, it seemed like an environment that would be primed for customer-centric thinking and change.
This is a good thing, since I’d also say that CX probably isn’t as widely known in Botswana it would be in a developed economy such as the US, or in a larger developing market like South Africa where CX has had more time to germinate. My sense is that the broader business community in Botswana still has a way to go before CX is fully understood and adopted, but that the environment is probably more primed for change once the concepts do become part of mainstream business thinking.
Exploring a new country
As mentioned, I love travel. On my first foray into Botswana I mostly stayed in the capital, Gaborone, but I still got to know a little bit more about Botswana. Some things I learned during my time working in “Gabs”, as it’s known.
- Botswana gets HOT! Mid-August is still the depths of winter in Cape Town, but in Botswana, spring arrives early. My second day onsite in August was a toasty 32 degrees C (90 F). When I returned in September, it was a sweltering 37 degrees C (104 F). My colleagues didn’t seem fazed. As someone told me, the Batswana people manage to find life beyond the heat.
- Botswana is a pretty stable and peaceful place. The country never experienced a violent or contentious struggle for independence. The economy is fueled by the stable and highly regulated diamond mining and tourism industries. It has one of the strongest currencies and lowest levels of corruption in Africa. Compared to some of the other places I’ve traveled on the continent, you could really feel this difference.
- The country invests in its future through investing in its people. Botswana has excellent free education and for those high performing students who wish to study something that’s not offered by the local university, the government will sponsor your studies abroad. The flight from Gaborone to Jo’burg was too short to switch on my laptop, so I checked out Air Botwana’s in-flight magazine. Studying overseas is such a feature of the Batswana education system that there was an entire feature about Batswana expats returning home after studying abroad. It’s commendable that the country has invested so much in its human capital. These programs were historically even more widely available than they are today, meaning that the current generation of corporate leaders is highly educated and many have diverse international exposure.
- Hospitality forms an important part of Tswana culture. I felt so welcomed in Botswana. Greeting people is an important part of social etiquette and I believe this is symbolic of a deeper cultural emphasis on hospitality and inclusion.
When I’m collaborating with clients, my primary focus is on the work, but the explorer in me always has one eye on the horizon. I really enjoyed my taste of Botswana and hope to return in the future to explore more of the country and see how CX has taken root.
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