Knowledge Transfer for the African market

Updated: Nov 11

The China-Africa context has some distinctive traits that offer new insights to advance our understanding of knowledge transfer in international JVs. The context is especially interesting for the insights it gives us into how knowledge is acquired in multicultural settings.

African companies are increasingly forming cooperation agreements with international companies. These cooperation agreements regularly turn into new joint ventures (JVs) between foreign and African partners. As well as seeking enhanced profits, partners enter into JVs to learn, develop new expertise, and leverage potential synergies. The objective for each partner, especially those from emerging countries, includes knowledge gain in the shape of individual and organisational learning.

Therefore, JVs in emerging countries are utilised for the essential purpose of reciprocal learning and the process of learning along with its outcomes is the priority. Consequently, a JV is often a channel for opportunities to benefit from further knowledge. Additionally, JVs facilitate the internalisation of skills that are not readily accessible. However, to achieve the mutual learning objectives of partners, a collaborative approach is required within the JV.

The China-Africa context has some distinctive traits that offer new insights to advance our understanding of knowledge transfer in international JVs. The context is especially interesting for the insights it gives us into how knowledge is acquired in multicultural settings.

The first place to start is by looking at the national cultural differences between China and Africa. The go-to tool for me when I am trying to understand the differences in the cultural environment of countries is Hofstede's Insights


Hofstede examines six cultural dimensions (power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, long-term orientation, indulgence). Across all six dimensions, China shows a markedly different national culture compared with those in African countries. For example, the research reveals that long-term orientation plays a key role in establishing a lasting and beneficial relationship. In Chinese culture, this cultural dimension is valued extremely highly and is deemed a critical factor for gaining new knowledge from partners. However, African countries tend to have a low score on the long-term orientation dimension, yet Africans seek knowledge from individuals who do not share their perspective or mindset.

So how do Africans cope with such a cultural challenge and navigate those cultural dimensions in a JV setting? What strategies could Africa employ more broadly to learn and transfer knowledge from their international counterparts through JVs established in Africa?

The answer lies in the approach that is taken. The key is the proactive promotion of customised knowledge sharing in-country instead of attempts to export learning formulas from other countries. This inevitably leads to successful local skills development.

Infact, the localised content needs are designed in such a way it guarantees that the bulk of goods and services required at each stage of the lifecycle of the project are locally sourced. There is more to this than just increasing the percentage of local employees; active engagement of the local workforce is mandatory as part of the process for this to work. The need to pull on expertise from the global talent pool is evident and the desire to substitute that global support with a locally based, home-grown workforce is equally as clear.

When the opportunity for new training is presented in a country, there is usually a tendency for training providers to take their existing off-the-shelf resources and merely insert them into the new environment. This is in spite of the fact that the content will have been developed elsewhere, for a different culture and possibly for a totally different purpose.

There are numerous approaches to knowledge transfer: taught classes, links with higher education institutions, secondment opportunities and drawing from specialist consultancies for expert knowledge. Recognising the various approaches to knowledge transfer is a vital step in order to select options – but these are just the tools, not the solution itself.

The key lesson here is that skills requirements for an industry in any given country are not generic. Every new context and every new project has specific needs which are a culmination of the human resource capabilities, the technical needs and the scope of the project.

So, for in-country skills development, one size certainly does not fit all. Prospective JV partners must focus on the in-country requirements, co-create a tailored approach to skills development with the other side, all of this whilst planning for the long term. Ultimately, the key is the promotion of a knowledge-sharing culture; one in which the instinct of all parties involved is to share for the benefit of others.

Gen A Academy brings training, mentoring and coaching experience gathered across almost 20 years of designing and delivering courses and programmes for a variety of businesses – from Higher Education, Oil and Gas, Logistics & Supply Chain industries and many more.

We are passionate about knowledge transfer for the African market, therefore if you are a subject-matter expert and you are interested in exploring collaboration opportunities specific to knowledge transfer for the Africa market, we would love to hear from you! Equally, if you have a project you would like to bring into the African space and you need an implementation partner, then we would be happy to be of service via our Gen A Consultancy services.

The likelihood is that you will need to consider the knowledge transfer aspect alongside the core project!

Visit us at or contact us via email at We look forward to hearing from you.

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