Africa Gateway: Overcoming the unique challenges that face energy business that operate in Africa
Africa’s vast natural resources have made it an attractive prospect for energy organisations. However, poor infrastructure, changing policies and...
The Africa Gateway
Unlocking travel solutions for energy businesses operating in Africa
There is nothing that realigns, refocuses or reinforces a business' priorities like the prospect of conducting business in Africa...
What really matters to your organisation when travelling throughout the rest of the world can quickly pale in comparison to the challenges presented by moving crew and personnel across the world’s second-largest continent.
Africa’s vast natural resources have made it an attractive prospect for energy organisations. However, poor infrastructure, changing policies and precarious political contexts all conspire to place many African countries at the bottom of international ‘ease of doing business’ lists, as well as having a significant effect on the ease of moving crew and onshore personnel.
Adding further complexities to travel logistics are Africa’s various localisation policies.
New legislation in countries such as Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, Nigeria, Congo and South Africa mean that the repatriation of funds can be difficult, and at times impossible, making paying for travel services much less straight-forward than in other parts of the world.
If not understood thoroughly Africa’s unique business landscape can have a huge impact on the efficiency that is so important to a recovering energy sector, which if not resolved has a further effect on compliance, safety and traveller wellbeing.
This is why we created the Africa Gateway
Designed to provide consistently excellent service across all African regions, the Africa Gateway combines energy sector-specific experience with on-the-ground knowledge to allow energy organisations to benefit from:
In this short guide you can find further detail on the unique challenges faced by energy organisations who frequently travel around the African continent, as well as what you can do to ensure that your travel programme stays successful.
The important role of local knowledge when travelling in Africa
Understanding regional differences
When discussing the challenges that apply to operating a business within Africa, the continent is often referred to as one location. However, the reality is that each country within Africa is surrounded by its own unique context due to its geography, history, politics, policies and regulations and cultural nuances.
It takes time to build a true understanding and appreciation of the unique circumstances of each country – much more than is readily available to crew managers, travel coordinators or HR departments.
As energy organisations expand into new locations in order to capitalise on Africa’s rich natural resources, their travel requirements become more complex –
which is when it becomes essential to work with a TMC who knows what it takes to travel safely and successfully in each country.
Using a TMC that has a stable legacy within Africa, with its own developed knowledge and extensive experience, means that your organisation will be able to avoid the pitfalls that so many businesses fall victim to when operating within the continent.
A true understanding of the individuality of the countries that make up Africa means that your TMC can advise on issues such as:
Managing safe and secure travel within Nigeria, where violent crime and kidnapping is common
Advising on the repatriation of funds during the frequent black-out periods and currency volatility in Mozambique
Facilitating travel to and from Congo Republic, where there are currently no non-EU-banned airlines operating
Fulfilling transactions and compliance regulations regarding Africa’s localisation policy in countries such as Namibia
The growing adoption of localisation policies across Africa creates complex and challenging circumstances for energy organisations operating within the continent. Although policies vary from country to country, it is generally the case that exotic currencies and limitations on the repatriation of funds from Central and Western African countries are enforced, prescribing in-country trading in an effort to stimulate the economy.
It is expected that African governments will continue to intensify the enforcement of localisation policies, particularly in resource-rich countries. Therefore, it is in the best interest of energy organisations operating in, or wishing to expand to, these locations to develop robust processes and partnerships in order to ensure they remain compliant.
Travelling safely and securely
When considering safe travel for crew and onshore personnel in other areas of the world the journey is often compartmentalised, with the compliance of flights or hotels assessed in isolation. However, when moving crew and personnel across Africa, security challenges begin as soon as travellers start their journey.
Elements of crew and staff travel that are usually straight-forward in other areas of the world become complicated in Africa, with facilities such as ground transport, carrying cash for crew expenses and finding sufficient medical care in the event of an emergency all presenting a challenge.
Volatile political climates and new threats have the potential to escalate incredibly quickly and so it is key to be able to receive reports from a local travel team who can monitor situations as they develop, as well as offering support and consultancy to develop a successful duty of care programme.
What level of local knowledge does your organisation need access to when arranging travel in Africa?
Whether you’re going out to tender or are just reviewing your current travel management solution, here are 3 key questions you can use to guide the process:
1. Are we looking to expand?
Considering where your organisation is likely to be in five years’ time is a really useful way of stimulating discussion regarding whether your current travel solution is likely to be the right fit for you in the future. Assessing plans for growth and development and then considering how this would effect your travel programme is a more strategic way of evaluating travel solutions.
2. How confident are we in our duty of care processes?
If your organisation currently travels around Africa, or is planning to in the future, then you need to know that your duty of care programme is as strong as it can be. How do your emergency response processes or trip reporting capabilities hold up in the face of limited connectivity and power outages?
3. Could our travel billing and finance procedures be more efficient?
Successful travel management doesn’t end when the journey does. Post-trip reporting and payment processes should be seen as part of a travel management programme and handled as efficiently as possible. If you find that this is an area in which your programme becomes bogged down in admin and bureaucracy then this could be exacerbated by Africa’s localisation policies.
Can your communication practices hold their own in Africa?
It's estimated that there are 960 million mobile subscriptions in Africa, accounting for 80% of the entire African population. Internet subscriptions, however, are less common, with only 31% of the African population.
Obstacles to the accessibility of Internet services in Africa include generally low levels of computer literacy in the population, poor infrastructures, and high costs of Internet services. Power availability is also scarce, with vast rural areas that are not connected to power grids, as well as frequent black-outs in major urban areas.
Although Internet access is steadily becoming more common throughout the continent, coverage is inconsistent at best, presenting a challenge to global energy organisations who wish to operate in and travel through Africa. Whereas in most other parts of the world there is a reliance on the Internet to facilitate booking and managing travel arrangements, as well as communicating in an emergency.
In order to avoid delays in communication and limitations when moving crew and personnel across Africa, energy organisations must take two steps; examine their own communication practices and work with a TMC that can adapt its communication methods to overcome the telecommunication challenges presented by many countries within Africa.
Language barriers when managing travel in Africa
Technology aside, a very obvious communication barrier that energy organisations face when trying to manage travel throughout Africa is the variety of languages that are spoken around the continent.
Enquiring into your TMC’s ability to speak the many languages of Africa before you begin to travel to the country is essential pre-travel planning.
Map showing the most dominant languages in each African country
Examining your own communication practices
When considering your organisation’s communication practices, it is worthwhile asking key stakeholders their opinion on the following questions:
- When crew and personnel are travelling, how is the majority of their communication carried out?
- If travellers could not access the internet when travelling, how would they communicate?
- How well are telephone numbers for key travel suppliers communicated around your organisation?
- How does lack of internet connectivity affect duty of care protocols?
What can a TMC do to help?
It’s essential that a TMC adapts their systems and communication methods to avoid over-reliance on permanent internet access and become more suited to mobile devices. For example, at ATPI we have provided each of our team in Africa with mobile devices that enable WhatsApp and messaging apps, all of which work without needing access to email or a broadband connection.
Predicting the unpredictable:
Providing safety and security for energy travellers in Africa
A robust duty of care programme is mission critical to those operating in the energy sectors.
For organisations whose business requires travel through and around Africa, ensuring the safety and security of travellers goes far beyond mitigating against delayed flights or extreme weather.
“When people think of duty of care in relation to crew travel, they think about flights or hotels in isolation, but operations begin as soon as travellers step outside of their door to embark on their journey,”
explains Pam Kitching, Managing Director of ATPI in Africa.
Given the remote and varying locations that crew are required to travel to in the marine and energy industry, ensuring their safety is complex and can never be taken for granted; “Everything must be monitored and planned for ahead of time. In some locations around Africa leaving crew to their own devices just isn’t an option.”
What are the main challenges involved in transporting crew safely from rig to door?
“Safety and security issues are quite difficult to predict ahead of time,” shares Pam. “Political climates and volatile situations can change in second and new threats can escalate very quickly, so remaining vigilant and informed is a real priority.”
“Carrying cash presents a challenge when moving crew on the ground, as this can obviously make them a target for gang crime,” says Pam. “Transferring cash electronically also isn’t as straight forward as it sounds, as reliable connectivity can be a problem in Africa and 90% of transactions and communications are made via cellphones.”
Pam acknowledges that security threats vary depending on location, as most are influenced by the political climate of a country. “In Nigeria, for example, there is a national problem with gang culture and so travellers sometimes require a police escort. In the event of an accident, finding adequate medical care can be difficult in some areas of Africa, so this also needs to be taken into account when planning travel,” Pam explains.
“Within Africa there are limited airlines servicing certain countries, many of which are actually banned by the EU,” Pam tells. “This is often at odds with an organisation’s travel policy and so this also needs to be considered and provided for by travel policies – if not, travellers can wait two or three days for an approved flight, wasting valuable time and resource.”
“The world feels as though it has gotten smaller in the last decade or so, and there are very few places that we can’t get to, but it’s easy to forget about the security problems that are specific to certain countries if you’re not experienced in booking and managing travel for energy organisations,” Pam warns. “As a TMC, our goal is to get everyone where they need to be, and back again, safely.”
“We provide our clients with advice regarding their approach to duty of care, which has become somewhat of a hot topic within the energy sector in recent years, and offer them access to technology such as traveller tracking services to give them peace of mind.”
“Our complete crew travel service, Door to Deck, was actually tested in Africa, where it
came up against some incredibly challenging security issues,” Pam reveals. “We work closely with ISOS and Control Risk in order to provide clients with the most up-to-date and comprehensive security information.”
To energy organisations looking to enhance their approach to safety and security for their crew, Pam recommends paying attention to pre-trip reporting; “Pre-trip reporting is one of the most important things to do when trying to ensure safe travel for crew. It ensures that everyone is aware of any security risks or updates to volatile situations, meaning this can be mitigated and planned for accordingly. Situations develop and incidents happen, but being as prepared for them as possible is the best way to mitigate their effects.”
Put your duty of care programme to the test by:
- Reviewing your duty of care practices regularly to ensure that they are in line with the latest legislation, as well as being conducive to how your organisation actually travels
- Building pre-trip reporting into your travel management programme in order to stay fully informed before a crew rotation begins
- Assessing any technology you use to monitor travellers throughout their journey. Does this provide you with live updates? Does this allow those onshore to communicate with staff as they travel?
- Ensuring that any emergency response plans have been thoroughly tested, reviewed and updated
ATPI’s duty of care solutions
ATPI Traveller Tracking System™ - ATPI Traveller Tracking System™ keeps both on and off shore personnel informed before, during and after every trip, by providing a real-time view of travel risks, traveller whereabouts and emergency incidents.
ATPI Alerts™- ATPI Alerts™ gives your organisation all of the information you need in order to be proactive in your travel management, enabling you to react quickly to unexpected travel crises for optimal efficiency.
ATPI On The Go™ - Mobile itineraries, passport and visa details, emergency contact numbers for services across the globe and real-time travel status updates, ATPI On The Go™ equips your personnel with everything they need to get to where they’re needed, ready to focus on what they need to do.
24/7 support- Around the clock and around the world, our energy travel specialists are always available to provide support and advice. Managed in-house to ensure consistency across the globe, ATPI Marine & Energy’s support team are dedicated to finding a travel solution that works for your organisation.
Understanding the financial challenges of paying for travel in Africa
Africa’s reputation as one of the most challenging places to do business often precedes it, with bureaucracy, corruption and a plethora of ever-changing regulations coming to mind.
Although the infrastructure that is necessary to successfully conduct business has improved significantly in some African countries in recent times, there are still some complex and restrictive rules to navigate when operating in certain parts of the continent.
As a result, energy organisations can find that efficiency and reporting is compromised.
For any organisation, finding a travel management service that will deliver value can seem like a tough task – when you add the requirement that a TMC must be experienced in the energy sector, that task becomes even more challenging. So imagine the difficulties that some organisations within the energy sector discover when trying to procure travel management across the continent of Africa.
When procuring travel services in certain African countries, energy organisations may be required to commit to spending a specified amount with local suppliers due to strict localisation policies. In turn, this can limit the choice and flexibility that is so valuable to the energy sector, where agile travel itineraries can be the difference between a successful crew change and costly project extension.
Moving money out of, or around, Africa has long been challenging but has become even more so due to localisation legislation. For example:
- South Africa operates a system of exchange control over the flow of money into and out of the country
- Mozambique and Angola implement frequent black-out periods during which no money can leave the country
- Namibia, Nigeria and Angola all operate compliance regulations regarding the use of and spend with specified suppliers
Which rules apply can vary due to your residency, location and history – the only practical way to navigate this is to seek expert advice.
Energy organisations operating in Africa need to consider the potential tax treatment of their transactions upfront. Planning for a withholding tax liability allows for certainty regarding the tax liability associated with any commercial transaction.
Withholding tax is applied to any service fee for services rendered in a specific African country. The current trend seems to be to introduce or increase these taxes. Failure to withhold or pay these taxes to could result in the person that is required to withhold the tax being personally liable for the tax. In addition, penalties may be levied
in certain instances for the failure to withhold or to correctly withhold.
In order to benefit from withholding tax, energy organisations should seek out TMCs that allow the client to pay in local currency – a service that is not always easy to find.
The key to finding solutions
Although the financial challenges of operating an energy organisation in Africa seem complex, the solution seems relatively simple in comparison. Everything rests on the location and geographical spread of your chosen TMC.
The more African countries that your TMC has a presence in, the better they will be able to fulfil your billing requirements while remaining compliant and up-to-date with differing localisation policies. An established presence in as many African countries as possible will enable your organisation to:
- uphold any promised procurement value in specific regions
- save on charges such as withholding tax
- benefit from local and multiple currency billing to overcome limits on the repatriation of funds
- report on all spend in real time, irrespective of currency
What to look for in a TMC if you are an energy business operating in Africa and why
Whether you currently travel around Africa frequently or are planning to expand to the continent in the future, you need to ensure that your travel programme can meet the demand of this unique landscape – which means working with a TMC that you can consult with regarding how best to develop this.
But how do you know whether your chosen TMC has the knowledge and facilities in place to ensure safe, efficient and compliant travel throughout Africa?
We’ve asked the experts at the Africa Gateway for their advice as to what energy organisations should expect from a travel partner:
Provide a centralised and dedicated service centre for energy organisations operating in Africa
What this means for your organisation:
- reassurance that your travel programme is tailored to meet the requirements of travel through Africa
- consistent service and knowledge of your business due to one central point of contact
- access to up-to-date knowledge any potential security threats as they develop
- mature relationships with trusted and compliant travel suppliers
Ensure compliance with Africa’s localisation policies
What this means for your organisation:
- avoid the penalties levied against organisations that don’t comply with localisation laws
- avert the reputational risk of non-compliance
- ability to consult with experts in Africa’s localisation policies
Offer time zone neutral operating hours and 24/7 support
What this means for your organisation:
- bookings are fulfilled and managed regardless of where in Africa the request originates
- peace of mind in the event that changing security threats or power outages impact travel itineraries
- confidence that your organisation is fulfilling its duty of care obligations
Bring a vast amount of local knowledge and experience to your travel programme
What this means for your organisation:
- prevents an over-reliance on surveillance technology and second-hand reporting, which can be delayed
- enables a more efficient response in the event of an emergency or travel delays
- total coordination of passport and visa paperwork, translation services and armed security
- accurate reporting and updates before, during and after a trip
Overcome the complex and evolving security threats present across Africa by creating comprehensive duty of care programmes
What this means for your organisation:
- confidence that your organisation is fulfilling its duty of care obligation to crew and travellers
- providing the safest and most efficient travel processes to protect the wellbeing of travellers
- pre-trip reports to stay ahead of travel delays or complications
- traveller tracking technology and travel risk maps to stay informed of security threats
Bill in local or multiple currencies in order to overcome financial challenges of operating in some African countries
What this means for your organisation:
- ability to move money out of or around Africa while remaining in compliance with localisation policies
- enables a ‘business as usual’ approach during repatriation black-out periods
The evolution of the Africa Gateway
Despite its reputation as an arduous place in which to operate and grow a business, Africa remains an attractive prospect to those within the oil and gas sector due to its rich resources and tremendous potential.
The last decade has seen an increasing number of energy organisations wish to travel around Africa on a more frequent basis. However, the unique conditions of Africa can compromise even the most robust travel programmes, leaving energy organisations and their travellers exposed to increased risk and inefficient travel.
Why is it so difficult for energy organisations to travel within Africa?
Africa’s vast oil and gas reserves, particularly in its northern region, mean that avoiding travel within the continent is near impossible for many organisations operating within the energy sector. In turn, this means facing the challenges presented by Africa’s unique culture head on.
Although each of the 54 countries that make up Africa have their own particular customs, policies and threats, there are some common themes.
Safety and security
As expected, Africa’s fragmented and discontented history creates inherent safety and health risks in certain parts of the continent. In Nigeria, for example, there is a significant threat of gang crime and kidnap, whereas in less developed countries finding adequate medical care in the event of an
emergency can prove difficult. Poor road infrastructure in countries such as Madagascar also complicated ground transport and airport transfers, making finding trusted and compliant suppliers imperative if travellers and organisations are to be protected.
The growing adoption of localisation policies across Africa means that paying for travel services, moving money across borders and procuring new travel suppliers can render standard payment and invoicing processes redundant. With the development of these policies expected to continue for the foreseeable future, energy organisations within Africa must consider payment and invoicing processes as an important part of their travel programme.
Communications & IT
Obstacles to the accessibility of Internet services in Africa include generally low levels of computer literacy in the population, poor infrastructures, and high costs of Internet services. Frequent blackouts also contribute to communication challenges, making Westernised travellers’ over-reliance on internet based technology problematic.
Service delivery in some parts of Africa can be more cumbersome and slow compared to service in other areas of the world, largely due to under-developed infrastructure, bureaucratic delays and out of date technology. As a result, manually fulfilling travel bookings, confirming itineraries and generally providing the level of service that most organisations are used to can prove difficult.
The original concept for what would be known as ATPI’s Africa Gateway was born out of increasing frustration with business infrastructure in Angola – both from ATPI and our energy clients.
Angola is ranked 173 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings, making the management of travel in this country particularly challenging.
ATPI’s on-the-ground energy sector specialists felt that there must be a way to provide a more efficient, secure and successful alternative to the extremely high overheads, constant power failures and Internet interruptions that were the normal
way of operating in Angola. The decision was made to move the travel agency service (providing ticketing and bookings) to ATPI’s Africa Gateway central location in Durban, South Africa, with a local office remaining in Angola to provide financial and consultancy services.
Splitting operations between two offices created a fully-integrated solution that offered consistent service to energy organisations around the world, while retaining the local knowledge that is crucial to successful travel in Africa.
With the success of our first fully integrated solution in Africa so significant, ATPI’s Africa Gateway that we know today started to take shape.
The Africa Gateway expanded in 2017, with ATPI’s Network Partners providing travel management services and logistics to clients in Nigeria and Kenya.
Located in Durban, South Africa, the Africa Gateway’s main office is home to a dedicated team of consultants all allocated to specific regions, with local Network Partners providing on-the-ground teams and travel logistics in some of the most challenging African countries.
ATPI’s integrated technology allows consultants based in South Africa to orchestrate travel services and crew rotations for clients in whichever African country they require travel to and from, whereas expertise and legacy ensure that each local office has the same financial and reporting capabilities as any other ATPI office around the world.
About ATPI's Africa Gateway
- Centralised service centre located in South Africa
- Extended hours to cover Africa time zones
- Full 24/7 Service
- Invoicing and payment in local currency
- BSP airlines
- Low cost airlines
- Financial tracking and reporting
- Transfers/chauffeur drive
- Ground handling
- Car rental
- Full Door to Deck services
- Online booking tool supported in BSP countries
- ATPI Crewlink workflow management system in non-BSP countries
- Competitive fare pricing
- Duty of care and travel-risk
- VIP Services
ATPI Marine & Energy’s Africa Gateway can provide travel management and logistics in the following locations:
(Mozambique, Mauritius & Ghana coming soon)
Central service centre
ATPI Suite 22 Rydall Vale Park
La Lucia Ridge Office Estates
Phone: 0027 31 566 8350