medicine-man-e1413332310688For many multi-national corporations, integrating cultural understanding into business operations has become an important part of modern corporate philosophy. Companies make significant contributions to social development funds, environmental protection initiatives, and corporate social responsibility programs to mitigate their risk and protect their reputations. They publicize their efforts on websites and in annual reports to demonstrate how they are attuned to the cultures, customs, and traditions of the societies where they operate. Although some companies have an altruistic objective, most efforts are driven by profit and fail to truly understand the societies where they operate.

Belief in witchcraft and the occult are prevalent in many parts of Tanzania and across the African continent. The influence of witch doctors, medicine men, or shamans over societies is tremendous and often times not understood or realized by westerners. In Tanzania, a human rights group estimates that 500 suspected witches are killed annually and between 2005 and 2011, around 3,000 people in Tanzania were killed after being accused of being witches. Recently, Tanzanian police charged 23 people, including a local leader, with murder after seven villagers were burned alive on suspicion of witchcraft.

Issues regarding witchcraft, land rights, resettlement, and even slavery are not realized by companies, but can have significant negative consequences on business operations. These issues are not found on the surface in societies and require in-depth analysis to uncover them. However, once exposed, they can be integrated into engagement strategies to mitigate risks to production and safeguard reputations more effectively than existing efforts. A thorough understanding of a societies core beliefs can protect companies from becoming unsuspecting victims to complex social dynamics.