Afrikaans – Emigrant or Ambassador? by Charl Oberholzer
The difference between an emigrant and an ambassador is that an emigrant is assimilated into the local population, often adapts his values to the status quo and tries to obtain permanent citizenship by adopting a new identity. An ambassador is someone who retains his identity and his own values, exposes others to his culture and builds relationships through diplomacy. Afrikaners in South Africa should be ambassadors, because even though South Africa is the only place where we really belong, every cultural group should appreciate itself – only in this way we can truly respect one another. We should have recognisable values, retain our language and even boast about it, and exhibit our culture through deliberate diplomacy rather than being assimilated into a faceless, one-dimensional South Africa.
So, why am I doing business in Afrikaans? There are still 7 million speakers of Afrikaans in South Africa, a third of all South Africans in the LSM group 9–10 speak Afrikaans and the Afrikaans market is responsible for one fifth (R376 billion per annum) of the total spending of South African consumers. Do you sell cars? Well, a third of car sales in 2015 was to Afrikaans speakers. Do you sell annuities? Afrikaans speakers are five times more likely than anyone else to invest in the future. Not only does Afrikaans make sense economically, it is also part of my being, part of my DNA. The culture of my business is Afrikaans. This does not mean that we do not do business with English speakers; it simply means that everybody knows that we have Afrikaans work ethics, our Afrikaans customers are attended to in Afrikaans and we produce better quality products because people associate us with a language and cultural group.
So what does it look like if someone does business in Afrikaans? At De Afrikander Handelshuis we are Afrikaans not simply because of the associated benefits (loyal clients, a sound culture and natural relationships with many other Afrikaans businesses), but also because we do not want to be emigrants in our own country. We would rather be ambassadors. Because of Afrikaans we stand out; because of Afrikaans we receive job applications even though we do not advertise, and it makes it easy for people to do business with us. Because a Zulu or a Greek will find it easier to be themselves if I am Afrikaans. We want to boast about our language, our German quality, our French hospitality and our Dutch character. Toyota is Japanese, Singer is American and Volkswagen is German. The character of global companies cannot be separated from their culture. Likewise, Afrikaans also has a history of excellence, whether it is Pieter de Villiers or Roelof Botha who keeps San Francisco talking or the fact that the second MBA degree in the world (after Harvard University) was in Afrikaans – we are in good company. By being Afrikaans we will make Afrikaners feel at home, and for the rest – we will overwhelm them with excellence, so that everybody would want to do business with Afrikaans businesses.
* About the author
Charl Oberholzer has a Master’s degree in Communications Management, is a certified neurolinguistic programming (NLP) practitioner, a certified business consultant and co-owner of De Afrikander Handelshuis. He has served on the Council of the University of Pretoria (UP), is a former chairman of the Student Representative Council (SRC) and received colours for leadership three times. Charl is one of 10 South Africans who represented South Africa in China at the China-Africa Youth Delegation. He also was one of the organisers of the first MIT Global Entrepreneurship Start-up Workshop on the continent of Africa. Furthermore, De Afrikander Handelshuis was a finalist in the Akademia Business Plan competition, received two Tinteltong awards and was nominated as one of the Top 10 Afrikaans businesses in South Africa.