Business Travel in Africa – Tips For First-Time Non-African Business Travelers

Traveling is not just a matter of getting from starting point A to destination B. It is certainly much more than that. You have to make decisions and considerations on many matters. And when the destination is Africa, more than a few things are very important remember. Here are tips to help you along the way:Learn Your Destination in Advance – Culture, Politics and Health issues
Buy a guidebook or better still, spend some time online studying your African destination. This will be time well invested. Be aware of any political or civil unrest – recent or just about to happen. Check the latest information about diseases or illness outbreaks and employ the appropriate precautionary measures. The earlier you take up to do this exercise, the better your trip is likely to be.Business travelers, particularly female business travelers should be aware of appropriate behavior and attire. In some parts of Africa, if you are not aware of the cultural differences with regard to gender, it can lead to increased difficulty in getting around, embarrassment and, in some rare cases, safety concerns.You need to be sensitive to the cultural sensibilities of the country that you are visiting. For instance, if you are visiting an African country that is predominantly Moslem, you will take note that men never shake hands with women, unless they are close relatives. And as much as things may be changing, this particular taboo is still observed and respected in many Moslem societies.Take note of legal requirements, particularly in terms of visa regulations and also what is allowed and what is not allowed into the country. For example, Rwanda banned the use of thin plastic bags way back in 2006 and the rule is in force. Luggage will be searched at the entry point and at police checkpoints throughout the country to ensure nobody is plastic bagInform Family Members and Office Colleagues before Leaving the Country
Once the travel plans have crystallized, inform friends and family members of the same. It is advisable to leave a copy of your itinerary and contact numbers. Leave these with someone at your office or at home or both.Confer Power of attorney to Family Members and Colleagues
This sounds extreme, but it is important all the same. Make sure that you have appointed someone at home who can make important decisions on your behalf. God forbid, but borders may close unexpectedly, regulations may change, or your return may just be impeded in some one way or another. At the work front, you may need someone to carry on making business decisions for you during such a delay.Photocopies of important personal documents
Needless to say, it is far easier to replace any lost documents if you have photocopies of the same. Before you leave home, make copies of your passport, airline tickets, credit cards, traveler’s checks, and any other documents that may be important. Leave a copy of each at home.Be vigilant on your Arrival and during your Stay
This applies to travel to any city in the world. It is only more emphasized for travel to Africa where, in some cases, the effectiveness and efficiency of the law-enforcing officers may be wanting. Recovery of stolen items is rare.Whether you are at the airport or in the streets or at your hotel, constantly remind yourself that as a business traveler, you may be carrying equipment that other people might want to steal. Your laptop and the information it contains, your wallet or purse, mobile phone and any other hi-tech gadgets are all potential targets. Be on the lookout for distractions. Do not leave your valuables unattended.In addition take care at airport security checkpoints: in the confusion of being searched and collected bags, your laptop or camera could easily be carried off by someone else.Ensure your personal safety in foreign city
Staying in any foreign city may have its problems. At all times during your stay, be aware of which part of the city you are in, or are traveling through.Also ask your local business contacts or your hotel reception for advice on which locations may or may not be safe when seeking evening dining or entertainment venues.Carry Identification Documents on You all the time
If you must keep your fitness regime while traveling, such as jogging or working out, be sure to carry identification with you. A photocopy of your passport or a simple tag listing your name and a local contact number – to your hotel or local business contact – will suffice.