The important role of local knowledge when travelling in Africa and the Middle East
Understanding regional differences
When discussing the challenges that apply to operating a business within Africa or the Middle East, both locations are often referred to as one location. However, the reality is that each country within Africa and the Middle East 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 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 abd the Middle East, 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 and the Middle East 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 and the Middle East, 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 and the Middle East, 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 and the Middle East?
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 and the Middle East, 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.