Africa, it is often said, is not for sissies. But with Africa being punted as the emerging market story of the next decade, investors are increasingly turning their eyes to the forgotten Continent.
With more and more South African companies seeking to exploit the opportunities available north of our borders, Flight Centre Business Travel has compiled a list of do’s and don’ts to help businesspeople do business in Africa:
1. Cash is king in Africa, and the US dollar rules.
While many countries accept credit cards, cash remains the most successful means of transacting. Don’t consider taking a cash passport or traveller’s cheques, as they are not effective means to pay for anything. Also, only change into local currency what you require for your day-to-day needs. You will not be able to change the local currency back into rands when you return to South Africa
2. Understand the cultural nuances of the country you are visiting.
For example, the business environment in Nigeria is relatively formal so it is appropriate to address Nigerians by their surnames, while a suit or jacket and tie are expected for business meetings. Ladies should avoid wearing trousers, and dress modestly.
3. It is highly advisable to use reputable, well-known local operators.
Your travel manager will advise you on the best operators who can be counted on to be reliable. You should also use airlines that have frequent flights in and out of your destination. This will avoid lengthy delays if there are changes to your flight.
4. Travel insurance is a must.
There are a variety of health risks to be aware of when travelling through Africa, and the health facilities are not generally of a high standard.
5. Planning is essential.
Make sure that you have the relevant visas, that your immunisations are up to date, that you have the necessary cell coverage and that you have adequate finances for business trip.
6. If hiring a vehicle, hire a local driver as well.
In certain countries, the driver is arrested if an accident occurs. If you are the driver, you could land in jail for the duration of the investigation – and that is not conducive to productivity.
7. Allow sufficient travel time.
In Lagos and Nairobi, it can take between three and four hours to travel the short distance to the airport. So it is imperative you allow enough time to travel to the airport and clear the security checkpoints to check in two hours before departure, as required by airlines for international flights.
8. Traffic can be a nightmare.
So rather try to conduct your business meetings at your hotel.
By acting on these tips, you will be able to avoid many of the pitfalls of travel in Africa, and focus on why you’re there in the first place: to do great business.