Business in Africa

  • 03/08/2017
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Our sister company, Diversity Resource International recently co-hosted a networking event with the British African Business Alliance to encourage business leaders in Sussex to look at how they can work with their African counterparts or the continent itself; and with good reason, as Africa is seen as the ‘final frontier’ of emerging markets, and it has been growing in popularity over the past few decades. Africa is rife with opportunity and investment, featuring a huge and young population keen for work, expanding trade links and growing economies. However, the continent can be a daunting place to set up a business, and it seems for every opportunity there is a handful of risks or obstacles. So what are the pros and cons of setting up a business in Africa?

Africa offers the highest return on foreign direct investment in the world, according to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). The first benefit of investing in Africa is the huge amount of natural resources that the continent has to offer. From oil and uranium through to diamonds and gold, and many of these materials remain untapped due to a lack of infrastructure and finance. Perhaps the most important factor is the population of Africa; The continent makes up for just under 15% of the world population. This means there is a truly massive consumer base, ready to utilise the appropriate products.

However, as mentioned there are risks to working in Africa. Governments in Africa are known for their corruption, and this can translate to a lack of policy or obscure procedures. These factors can lead to further problems such as extortion and nationalization, as well as just making it difficult and long-winded to do business. Another issue is infrastructure – the electricity grid and roads of Africa are poor compared to other developing countries. Finally, conflict -while generally declining in Africa- is still a major issue, and a change in regime can seriously affect a business.

Some final things to consider are the vast amount of languages spoken in Africa, and similarly to China business is built on relationships rather than transactions – a good reason to get involved with business leaders at certain networking events! Ultimately, Africa is a smart place to get involved in and as conditions get better more and more people will get involved.

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Celebrating our Diverse Associates!

  • 06/07/2017
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We’re big fans of our interpreters here at Vandu; they are often the face of the company and we’re incredibly proud of the job they’re doing. We wanted to give a little back in celebrating some of the things they do outside of Vandu.

Many of our interpreters  carry out extra social work in their communities. One of our Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi interpreters Sabah Kaiser, volunteers at a charity for female survivors of sexual abuse, run by women called Survivors Network. The charity aims to reduce the impact that sexual violence has on a woman’s life, by providing counselling and hosting events for survivors. She’s also in the midst of setting up a multilingual service for the charity.

Amel Mikhail, an Arabic interpreter, is a bilingual caseworker for a charity called Voices in Exile, who provide support for asylum seekers and refugees in Sussex and Surrey. They do this in providing access to toiletries, food and financial support, as well as giving integration support, and free immigration and legal advice, such as applications for family reunions and work permits.

Finally, Spanish speaker Karin Brauner provides counselling for both young people and adults for an array of different subjects, such as anxiety and stress, academic concerns, abuse, grief loss and bereavement, shame, addictions and compulsions and many more. Karin also provides tutoring in academic subjects, and has qualifications in Adult and Child Residential Social Care, working part-time with people with learning and physical disabilities and Autism, and the elderly in respite and recovery services.

We’re so happy to have such hardworking interpreters as part of our Vandu team, and it reflects in their interpreting skills too. Please see below  the relevant websites for the interpreters mentioned above. Over the next few weeks we’ll do another post on our associates that are creatively inclined – stay tuned!


Sabah Kaiser and Survivors Network -

Amel Mikhail and V.I.E –

Karin Brauner -

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Refugee Week

  • 13/06/2017
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Here at Vandu a lot of our work comes through refugees, with many of our clients requiring interpreting or translation for languages such as Arabic, Tigrinya and Kurdish Sorani. On Monday the 19th of June, we’ll be celebrating refugee week along with the rest of the country here in England and around the world, but how much do you know about refugees?

Something that sometimes gets mixed up is the difference between immigrants and refugees. The definition of a refugee as we know it today came about following World War II due to the large number of people fleeing Eastern Europe, and the subsequent UN 1951 Refugee Convention, that gave this definition:

"[A refugee is someone whom] owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it."

 This definition was expanded in 1967 to include those fleeing from “external aggression, occupation…or events seriously disturbing public order”. When looking around at the current events around the world, you can see why these caveats have been added. In places like North Korea and to a lesser extent Eritrea, there are accusations of human rights violations and persecution, and in Somalia there is a famine which is spreading the population onto neighbouring countries. But war is the main culprit in the creation of refugees. The on-going European refugee crisis an example of this; as of 2016 nearly 2 million refugees and migrants had arrived in Europe due to the conflict in Syria and serious instability in Afghanistan, Somalia, Congo and Eritrea. 

We know the issues that refugees can bring with them upon arriving in a new country, such as the need for government money, housing and integration into a new society, but what problems do migrants face themselves? Generally, refugees tend to have poorer health, PTSD, depression and anxiety from the events they were leaving behind or encountered on their way (the route to Europe from African and middle-eastern countries is often fatal), problems with access to healthcare services in their new country, exploitation in various forms and finally, the risk of recruitment -forced or not- to terrorist or militant operations.

Becoming a refugee must be one of the hardest experiences to suffer – imagine losing your home to a problem you couldn’t affect, and coming to a new country where you are often demonised? Refugee week is a time to acknowledge these hardships and try to do something to help. There are fundraisers going on throughout England such as the ones in the link below.


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Eid al Fitr

  • 01/06/2017
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Eid al-Fitr, also known as the festival of breaking of the fast, is one of the more important holidays in the Muslim calendar. It marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting and can be celebrated for up to three days. But do you know what happens during this Islamic festival? Allow Vandu to enlighten you!

Typically, a practicing Muslim will wake up before sunrise and offer a ‘Salatul Fajr’ (the pre-sunrise prayer). Normally a Muslim will take a shower before prayers, wear their best clothes and generally try to look and smell their best. There is to be no fasting on the Day of Eid, and a small breakfast of sweet fruit is encouraged. Eid is also a time to forget any difficulties or animosities with people around you during the year, and acts of charity, particularly to the poor and needy, are seen as obligatory. When it comes to prayer, Eid al-Fitr has a specific ‘Salat’ (Islamic prayer) consisting of two sections and is normally offered in a field or large hall; it can only be performed in congregation and has six extra Takbirs (the action of raising your hands and saying, ‘Allahu Akbar’ - which means 'God is great'). Following this, a Muslim can stay for a sermon or gather with friends and family for the following celebrations.

The customs may vary slightly from country to country, but these general rituals remain. This year’s Eid al Fitr starts on Sunday the 25th of June, we hope our Muslim friends and colleagues enjoy it!  

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How do babies learn languages?

  • 26/05/2017
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Have a think about being a new born baby for a moment – the bright lights, loud noises, and blurry giants are all you know and see. A baby’s first job is to comprehend all of this, with its small, growing brain; and language is one of the first great hurdles. Communication is limited to crying to begin with, but by 1 year most babies can say singular words and by the age of 3 can express themselves in full sentences. But how can a baby learn a language so easily with a relative lack of brain power? A grown human can struggle with learning French for many years, yet a toddler can have a decent grasp of a complicated language system before they can tie their own shoes.

Children acquire language through interaction. Most parents don’t know how to formally teach a language, but a child will naturally pick up a language that is used the most when around them through their parents, other adults and children; the interaction is key though – a baby will not learn to talk just by listening to the TV or radio. “Baby talk” is another factor in how babies learn a language, as the short sentences/words, exaggerated intonations and repetition work to pull a child along. There’s an argument that a baby’s ability to learn language is genetic, like how a spider knows how to spin a web and that the ability to learn languages at speed quickly falls away once puberty arrives.

So, what about the babies growing up in bilingual households? You would think that maybe a baby would and be unable to differentiate, but recent studies have found this not to be the case. Whilst a baby learning two languages will know fewer words in each, by the age of 3 they are able to understand if someone is speaking a specific language to them. If you’ve been reading our previous blog posts on language, you’ll also know that knowing two languages increases cognitive function… the same rule applies for babies too! The old adage ‘get them while they’re young’ seems fitting.

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