A glimpse on business dress code in Africa - let us take you to Zambia

29-10-2017

The mention of Zambia evokes within our imagination dramatic waterfalls, stunning nature, a laid back lifestyle and joyful enjoyment of the hot, African summer - painted in our minds full of rusty earth tones juxtaposed with vibrant patterns displayed on the human canvas: fashion. A trip to Zambia would see us fitting as many shorts and T-shirts as our baggage allowance would permit, our aim comfort under the hot African sun, unless of course we were to travel with business in mind. Not an unlikely scenario given the country's economic growth, but one that would have us wondering the eternal pre-departure question: what should I pack?

In this post we try to tap into Lusaka’s corporate culture and see how it coexists with colourful and flowery dress tradition - and of course, the heat. We do this based on the personal experience of Pafyako, a woman living and working in the city, who has done so for quite some time, grateful that she'll open the office door for us allowing us a glimpse into this culture.

AMSU | Victoria FallsVictoria Falls

 AMSU | Sidewalk in LusakaSidewalk in Lusaka

Zambia's nature is brimming with colours - and this is reflected in the country's fashion. Popular  outfits feature  patterns, geometrical shapes, flowery motives, as well as vibrantly coloured fabrics. At festivities we can observe a celebration of colour combinations and patterns and weddings often boast countless traditional pieces brought to life. But in Zambia, colourful dress is not reserved solely for special occasions: according to Pafyako, Lusaka people are quite open-minded and accept and cherish diversity, they tend not to judge though they pay a lot of attention to colours and shapes. 

AMSU | Class in the field Kids enjoying a class in the field

In a business environment people put a lot of effort into creating a professional image. In many guides on how to do business in Zambia, next to the importance of exchanging pleasantries and the use of polite forms of address, the importance of being “smartly dressed” is stressed in order to earn the respect of business partners; this is a place where perceptions matter. In this African country, however, style does not have to be dull to be professional - something we're all on board with! Shapes and colours play their role in the professional environment as well as in the personal lives of employees. Millennials, as in other countries, stand out with interesting outfits and combinations. Pafyako, for example, works in the telecommunications industry and at her place of work colours are acceptable. The hot and humid weather also plays a part in influencing wardrobe choices and leads people to stick to wearing light fabrics and sleeveless tops, however, short skirts are not customarily worn.
 
AMSU | Pafyako in crossover blouse

Pafyako wearing AMSU crossover blouse

Finally, the much anticipated Casual Fridays give an opportunity for self-expression. Just before the weekends, outfits rich with flowers and colours, as well as branded t-shirts with text indicative of the wearer's personality can be admired. Hair is the area in which women most personalize a look. There are many hairstyles in the office, some people go natural short, others change their wigs, which are quite popular, or switch up extensions on monthly basis.

AMSU | Sleeveless topPafyako wearing AMSU sleeveless top

Although we cannot generalize based only on a chat with Pafyako and our research, we can certainly believe that there is nothing dull or boring in corporate style of Zambia. People working here manage a combination of comfort, colour and professionalism in their personal style - and we so admire them for it!