Are your employees prepared for their relocation to Africa?

Given the broad cultural, political, language, and religious diversity within Africa, proactively implementing mobility best practices can help mitigate potential issues and ultimately ensure assignment success for both the employee and the corporation.

Are your employees prepared for their relocation to Africa?
The African continent remains an emerging market for many industries and global organizations.  As the need grows for more companies to conduct business in Africa, so grows the need for them to have teams of employees working there on the ground.  Due to the nature of the skills required, rarely can the necessary talent can be locally sourced, so companies must rely instead on their ability to relocate members of their global workforce to Africa on both short-term and long-term assignments.This is not an easy task.  Regardless of location, an international relocation assignment can be complicated by any number of issues that may arise.  However, relocation within the various regions of Africa is acknowledged as the most challenging in the world.  Thus, it is critical that both the employer and the relocating employee are well-informed and well-prepared about the process prior to their deployment. Since the countries and regions within the continent are quite diverse, companies are urged to structure policies and decisions on the specific area where the employees will be located.  Although this article addresses Africa in general terms, it is important to note that as in all relocation situations, there is not a one size fits all solution to every issue.Let’s examine the fundamental policy components that are vital to ensuring your employees are prepared for an international assignment to Africa.

Immigration

The most obvious first component is immigration. The immigration processes throughout the world seems to be in a constant state of flux, with changes occurring sometimes overnight.  As this process is quite an arduous one, it is critical for companies to work with a reputable global immigration firm that will act as a trusted partner and will advocate on their behalf and guide them and their employees through the rigid, complicated process.  Global immigration firms are aware of the constant changes that affect the immigration process throughout the world, so their knowledge about the nuances involved can be invaluable.  Otherwise, if handled incorrectly, the immigration process can become an operational nightmare that is tied together with layer upon layer of red tape.Delays, while oftentimes unavoidable, still translate into additional costs for the company.  Projects can get sidelined as employees are unable to gain legal entry into the country, and are subsequently unable to successfully begin and complete the assignment.

Cultural Training

Without a doubt, one of the best reasons to accept an international assignment is the opportunity to explore a new culture.  Yet, cultural training is highly regarded as a necessary ingredient to best prepare the employee for a new work environment.  Statistics show that there is a direct correlation between the cultural training and assignment preparedness that the employee receives pre-departure, and the success or failure rate of that assignment. 
TheMIGroup
Not only does cultural training help employees understand the local culture where they will be living and working, but it can also prove to be an important tool for preparing employees to work on multi-cultural teams.  In many cases, the global team (in Africa or anywhere) will consist of employees of varying nationalities, languages, and cultures.  For team members to best work together and effectively communicate with one another, it is helpful to have training that addresses the multi-cultural work environment.The ideal cultural training should include the information and skills needed for living and working within a specific country or region, in combination with training that encompasses the ability to work on a multi-cultural team.

Language Training

Africa is a continent of high linguistic diversity, with an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 African languages spoken there. Apart from those languages, French is the predominant language that is spoken throughout many African countries. This can pose quite a challenge for English-speaking employees.Language barriers often come into play both in the employees’ ability to communicate with each other, and in their ability to communicate with locals in the region.  Implementing a language program that addresses informal and business requirements are vital to ensuring assignment success.

Safety and Security

Another key component when moving employees into Africa is identifying and implementing an emergency and evacuation plan.  While this policy component is a best practice to have in place with all international assignments, it is essential within Africa given the pockets of political, cultural, or religious unrest across the continent. While companies obviously can neither prevent nor predict emergency situations, they do have a duty of care when it comes to the safety and wellbeing of their employees who are traveling and working in foreign countries. As such, corporations are wise to take a proactive approach by educating employees of potential risks that they could encounter while living and working in a specific area or region.  Presenting a detailed emergency and/or evacuation plan can provide the employee with peace of mind, while ensuring they know the appropriate measures to take should the need arise.

Additional Considerations

  • Increasing complexities surrounding customs regulations have made the movement of household goods into Africa a significant challenge for mobility managers of late. “While in the past, expat deliveries were typically secured within two months after arrival at the port, there are now unpredictable extended wait times within many African locations. Nigeria can now take between 3-4 months to obtain a customs release, and Angola up to 6 months”, says Josie Longdon, Global Account Manager at TheMIGroup. Furthermore, adds Longdon, “Ongoing changes to allowances can cause complications. As an example, in the past Nigeria and Congo were able to accommodate unlimited shipments of alcohol, however now we can only accept a maximum of four cartons to Nigeria, and none to Congo”.
  • With customs allowances and clearance times continuously in flux, mobility managers should be proactive in consulting your household goods carrier to obtain the most up-to-date list of regulations based on the destination country.

Conclusion

All relocations have their share of challenges, but they also offer unique opportunities and experiences.  Many employees see international assignments as a great way to advance their career, while employers recognize the value in developing their employees and ensuring that they have the right talent in the right place at the right time.Given the broad cultural, political, language, and religious diversity within Africa, proactively implementing mobility best practices can help mitigate potential issues and ultimately ensure assignment success for both the employee and the corporation.