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Consisting of more than 50 individual countries with well over 1,000 native languages, Africa demands anything but a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to multinational firms relocating employees, according to a new report from Cartus Corporation, a leading provider of global relocation services.

Cartus’ report, “Best Practices for Effective Relocation to Africa: Guide for Mobility Managers,” delves into the challenges that human resources (HR) professionals and international assignees face in what has previously been named the most challenging region for managing relocation programs. The report provides tried-and-tested practices for managing the unique challenges in African countries. Cartus includes information on the types of policies and practices needed to ensure that business needs are met, as well as tips for assignees and their families to ensure a successful relocation.

“Over the last three years we have seen a significant increase in transfers into South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt and Angola,” saidIan Payne, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, EMEA and APAC for Cartus. “When considering approaches to relocation policy, allowances, logistics, and security, it is critical to have access to country-specific advice,” Payne said. “The biggest mistake is to approach Africa as though it is one place rather than 54 separate countries, each with its own identity, culture, economy, and level of political stability.”

Cartus offers the following best practices for a successful job relocation to Africa:

International assignees are often alarmed at the level of security required for expatriate living. In some African countries, houses may be in a secure compound-especially useful for families with children. Good-quality home rentals can be relatively expensive by world standards; for example, apartments in Angola’s capital city, Luanda, can rent for £11,500 (US$18,013) per month. In all instances, security firms should pre-inspect and approve specific areas and neighborhoods before school placements or lease agreements are finalized.

A key consideration in many countries in Africa is security, and the key, according to Cartus experts, is to be sure that international assignees are “prepared, not scared.” Assignees should be given full and comprehensive security briefings before the assignment begins, as well as realistic but non-alarmist information about potential dangers. For example, transferees to Nigeria should be informed that it is common for hotels to post armed guards on each floor, and this practice should not be perceived as a precursor to an immediate security risk.

It is important to keep assignees informed and to review security procedures as conditions change. In recent years, some countries inNorth Africa have experienced increased political unrest and, as a result, many organizations are tightening security procedures. Companies should have a well-developed security policy and a local ‘go-to’ person for security-related matters.

Relationship building
It is essential for international assignees to take the time to build relationships with their African colleagues while also remaining mindful of local cultures and attitudes toward age, race, and gender.

Initial meetings often involve lots of small talk, which is an important part of the relationship-building process. Networking-reaching out to, and interacting with, a group of people with similar interests-is often key to success in the African business environment.

Family and kinship are typically prioritized and may even come before business. However, the giving and receiving of hospitality and welcome are important everywhere, and Africa is no exception. For example, if a Muslim colleague invites you to a celebration during Ramadan, it is most polite to accept and later, reciprocate with an invitation to join you and your family in an important celebration.

Sensitivity to local customs is imperative for successful relationships with colleagues.

School considerations
Available places in desirable schools may often result in assignees and/or their children needing to commute long distances. This is why it is recommended that international assignees secure the school placement before they select their housing. Kenya, for example, has a good selection of international schools; its academic year runs from January through December and consists of eight years of primary school and four years of secondary school. In Senegal, the International School of Dakar offers an American curriculum and provides schooling options for children ages three to 18.

Road challenges vary, depending on the location; local roads may be poorly maintained and lack signage and proper lighting. Many locations are heavily congested during peak hours. In Lagos, it can take between one and three hours to drive the approximately 30 kilometers from the popular expatriate area, Victoria Island, to the main Lagos Island. Senegal’s major roads are well maintained, but most secondary roads are in need of repair. In Nairobi, a 10- to 15-kilometer commute may take up to two hours during peak travel times. Expats who have lived in other world cities may shrug off these delays, but those who have not experienced this degree of traffic gridlock may be surprised.

Preparation is key
A formal candidate assessment program will be an effective tool to help employers determine the most appropriate employee for an assignment to an African country-one of the most diverse continents in the world. A great many cultures are represented and candidates need to be aware and respectful of differences. Once a candidate has been identified, preparation is essential to help ensure that expectations are set about the host location-long before the employee and their family move.

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