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Business travellers must be well prepared for travel into Africa

Africa is emerging as a strong economic growth region. Business travel into Africa generates a lot of revenue for the travel industry, however many travellers are simply not prepared.
Business travellers must be well prepared for travel into Africa

Despite the fact that digital has taken over most of our business interactions, there are still instances where meeting people face-to-face is an essential part of running a business, especially where big investment deals are being made.

South Africa’s own domestic airline, kulula and British Airways, operated by Comair, were awarded Best African Low-Cost Airline (kulula) and Best African Regional Short-Haul Airline (British Airways) at the 6th annual Business Traveller Africa Awards, held in Sandton on Friday, 1 September 2017. flies to several destinations within the country, but also flies five international routes to Kenya, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mauritius and Zambia and is a popular choice for business travellers.

Most trips are without incident but some business travellers landing in African countries have also landed themselves in hot water for not being properly prepared for their visit.

Visa requirements

Most African countries require a visa for entry. South Africans hold the strongest passport on the African continent, but that certainly doesn’t mean we are free to roam as we please. While some African countries such as Mauritius, Uganda and Ethiopia issue visas on arrival, Congo, Angola and Egypt expect South Africans to have their visas organised before their trip.
If you’re unsure about what the visa requirements are for your destination, you should always check and then double-check with the relevant embassies to avoid lengthy interrogations and possible deportation on arrival.

Language and etiquette

Besides Arabic, French and English there are at least nine other languages that are most commonly spoken on the African continent and they are: Portuguese (Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Equatorial Guinea), isiZulu (South Africa), Shona (Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana), Oromo and Amharic (Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Egypt), Yoruba (West Africa – Nigeria, Benin and Togo), Hausa and Igbo (Nigeria, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea) and Swahili (Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda).

Cultures are diverse throughout the continent and knowing the right thing to say and do when meeting and greeting is all important, but it’s worth noting that African business people are generally more relaxed than their Asian counterparts. “African” time should always be taken into consideration and adequate research will at least show an understanding and observation of African customs.

Travel arrangements

One of the most common scams to catch a business traveller is from taxis. In some countries it is perfectly safe to walk out the airport or a hotel and hail one of the many taxis waiting for unsuspecting tourists. In other countries such as Morocco or Nairobi for example, visitors must arrange travel to their hotel before their trip. In this way they will avoid the chances of either being robbed of their belongings by criminals posing as taxi drivers or charged exorbitant amounts of money to drive a couple of kilometres down the road.

Read up on what other travellers have said or ask relevant travel authorities for advice. If you do flag down a waiting taxi don’t share it with someone you don’t know, ask for the driver’s credentials, be aware of your luggage and insist that they turn the meter on or give you a price upfront.

Cell phone communication

The introduction of cell phones to the African continent has revolutionised the economy. Almost everyone has one so there is little chance that you won’t be in a reception zone, unless your trip involves a safari excursion. You must arrange international roaming plans with your service provider before you go otherwise you will end up paying a fortune just to send a text message or make a single call. While most hotels and major cities have reliable Wi-Fi, in other areas cell phone signal is sometimes easier to come by than Wi-Fi in Africa, so a 3G connection might be the better option.

For good international travel and business relations, always do extensive research into your destination and take necessary precautionary safety measures to protect yourself and your employees.

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3 Oct 2017 11:38