Top tips on how to do business in Africa

Doing business in Africa has been described by various companies as exciting, but complex. 

However, with huge growth potential in the region, finding a way to cope with that complexity is more important than ever. 

Crown World Mobility research on global mobility into and within Sub-Saharan Africa shows companies are increasingly investing across the region and moving employees and their families to support their business initiatives.

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In our survey, in which 20 organisations across a range of industries took part, the top destinations were revealed as Accra in Ghana, Lagos in Nigeria plus Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa.

With Africa’s middle class now reaching 315 million, a consumer boom is on the horizon that will only attract more business.

Here are five ways to increase the likelihood of successful assignments in the region:

  1. Be prepared: Ask yourself what the biggest challenge for your organisation is when moving employees into or within Africa, and what support can you provide or improve to address that challenge?
  1. Think Security: If “internal security briefing pre-departure” is your company’s primary approach to addressing security preparation for employees and their families, try and find one more way to improve this support. Reach out to current and past assignees and ask for input. Ask team members on the ground to brainstorm quick wins and next steps.
  1. Have tools to cope with bribery and corruption: Seventeen per cent in our survey said assignees had encountered a need for local ‘fixers’ to facilitate movement through bureaucratic situations in their host country. How will you prepare employees for issues like this? Begin a conversation between your risk and compliance specialists; perhaps include local HR and business leaders in key assignment locations or the assignees themselves. It is important to understand what the company’s position is. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is not a strong policy.
  1. Help with cultural adjustment: This was cited as a top challenge for assignments into Africa and assignments/transfers within Africa but is not uncommon for managers of assignees and employees to undervalue cross-cultural training support. Some companies are developing welcome packs, orientation support in the new location and formal on-boarding processes for assignees.
  1. Consider immigration: No company has found an easy route for the immigration challenges in many African locations. Improving communication, expectation-setting and accuracy of paperwork processes are good steps. But a long-term strategy for companies with long-term investments in Africa is to become known for local recruiting and development programmes. By focusing on training the next generation skills gaps can eventually be met. 


About the author 

Lisa Johnson is Global Practice Leader, Consulting Services, for Crown World Mobility, a global company which helps corporations manage talent across the world.


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