Majority of business travellers unprepared for travel in Africa
Africa’s emergence as an economic growth zone is attracting business investment – both from other countries on the continent and abroad. As interest and foreign direct investment into the region grows, so will the amount of travel for South African and global business executives.
However, according to Annelie Smith, Corporate Executive at Risk Benefit Solutions (RBS) – a South African independent financial services advisory firm operating in Africa - many of the businesses expanding into the region do not have the appropriate risk management procedures in place for staff traveling into these regions.
She said that representatives travelling for business need to have precautions in place for each region of travel as the associated risks could potentially expose both the staff and businesses to danger as well as significant additional expenses.
It was reported that 50 percent of the members of the American Chamber of Commerce in South Africa are Fortune 500 companies and that over 90 percent of these companies operate beyond South Africa's borders. Smith says that as companies are steadily expanding their presence across the continent, business owners and executives need to be conscious of not only the challenges of doing business from a risk management aspect, but also those associated with travel.
“Africa is not one single market and shouldn’t be treated as such when making travel arrangements. Similar to doing business, each country has unique challenges in terms of infrastructure and regulations, and the same is true for travel risks.”
Smith added that aside from the legal visa requirement for many destinations, correct travel insurance could just be the difference between a safe passage home, and not coming back at all.
The recently released International SOS Travel Risk Map 2016 – a comprehensive overview of risks by destination to aid organisations and staff in their travel risk mitigation efforts – highlights the disconnect between travellers’ preparation for travel and the reality of what travel actually entails. It revealed that 71 percent of senior executive travellers have experienced medical problems abroad, yet only 15 percent had adequately researched local healthcare prior to travelling.
She added that rising political and social unrest have further increased the risk of business travel. According to the Global Kidnap Review 2016, the threat of kidnapping in Africa has also increased due to militant activity. Kidnapping in Africa accounted for 34 percent of reported cases worldwide in 2015 - making it the second highest number of incidents per region.
Smith said that these statistics highlight the many risks associated with traveling into Africa, aside from stolen or lost luggage protection. “Medical and travel security issues may require extensive medical treatment, emergency medical evacuation, flight cancellations or even kidnap and ransom cover – all of which necessitate comprehensive cover. There unfortunately isn’t a one size-fits-all approach for travel insurance, and businesses should provide sufficient protection for their staff depending on the potential risks that may be encountered in the specific region they will be visiting.
“Those that have taken the necessary precautionary measures in advance will be better positioned to control and contain incidents, thereby ensuring the safety of the employee,” concluded Smith.
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SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”