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How can regional players create better business travel programs in Africa?

Juan Torres

General Manager, East Africa, Amadeus IT Group

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series that looks at key trends in business travel in different parts of the world, as uncovered by local and regional studies that Amadeus participated in. How does this match up with your own experience with business travel?

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Africa is home to many of the world’s fastest growing markets and the region will only become more significant in the global context as travel players seize the many new opportunities that will come with this growth.

Supporting this notion, a recent report from Ernst & Young showed that in less than five years, Africa has risen from eighth to second as the most desirable regional investment destination in the world, tied with Asia. However, for Africa to achieve its economic potential, it needs the support of a fully formed and functioning business travel industry .

What do we need to think about?

So, just what should be taken into account in order to create better business travel programs within Africa? Have a look at some of the key findings from a recent report we sponsored entitled ‘Understanding Business Travel in Sub-Saharan Africa ’.

Governance and travel policy

The nuances of travelling in Africa are rarely addressed in global travel policy. Travel managers (local or global) need to increase their knowledge of Africa and build creditability with business heads. For many large companies, Africa is a subset within EMEA (Europe, Middle-East and Africa), creating unrealistic time pressures on staff to effectively manage this growing region.

Technology

The study shows that the mobile device is becoming the dominant means of Internet access in Africa. Nigeria and Kenya have the highest mobile Internet usage of close on 80% and 75% respectively. Travel Management Companies (TMCs) should start to consider how mobile strategies can be incorporated into their service.

Payment

Developing more efficient payment and reimbursement processes is a highly effective way of reducing friction, driving better data and improving supplier relationships particularly in Africa where cash and invoicing still dominate vs cards.

Safety and Security

Too many companies have gaps in their traveller locator information and this should be addressed urgently. Travellers should be briefed, tracked and supported at all stages of their journey.

Travel Management Companies (TMCs)

Huge opportunities exist for TMCs who can deliver consistency in service, data and policy application.

Africa has the potential to leapfrog more advanced nations by developing new ways of doing things, rather than simply implementing Western travel management principles. From leading the world in mobile payment platforms, to delivering every travel manager's dream: ubiquitous and free Wi-Fi. Africa needs to have a seat at the table in global travel. Likewise, business travel needs to underpin African development, and to be recognized as an enabler of growth, wealth and integration.

As Diana Games, Honorary CEO of the South Africa-Nigeria Chamber of Commerce, said “The biggest risk right now is not being in Africa – it is not being in Africa.”

Download a copy of the Understanding Business Travel in Sub-Saharan Africa report for a more in-depth examination of the potential the region has to offer.


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Middle East, Research