Based on personal observations by ORC pricing agents visiting different locations in Africa, expatriates in the poorer nations should expect some of the following typical logistical problems:
- Trying to telephone or send fax messages to many countries in Africa is a major problem, as there are insufficient lines and numbers that keep changing.
- Applying for visas to travel from one African nation to another requires patience, as the waiting period often takes much longer than expected.
- Traveling to Africa is time-consuming, as there are only one or two flights a week, depending on the location.
- Credit cards and traveler's checks are not acceptable in most African countries, so it is important to have cash on hand.
- Public transportation (e.g., taxis) is not recommended, as many drivers are in league with criminals.
Angola. Luanda, the capital, has about three million inhabitants, most of whom live in impoverished conditions. Some sections of the city are undergoing renovation and repair, particularly areas in which there are buildings occupied or leased by foreigners. Several new buildings are also being built.
Judging from the construction activity and the number of late-model vehicles in the commercial district, business appears to be thriving and the expatriate community growing. For these expatriates, driving a reliable car is a necessity, as roads are poor and breakdowns dangerous. Local residents drive old cars and/or use public transportation (i.e., buses and minibuses) as the local railroad no longer exists.
Prices affecting foreigners (e.g., hotel accommodations, restaurants, transportation, and housing) are often high. In addition to cost, dining out at night is also risky. Food shopping for those who choose to eat at home is a challenge due to the scarcity of certain items, although some local markets offer cheaper--and sometimes fresher--fruits and vegetables.
Republic of the Congo. The only apparent impact of the recent war (which ended in October 1997) on the city of Pointe Noire is the damage done to the foreign-operated oil refineries. With gas now exported overseas for refining, the country faces a shortage.
On the other hand, Brazzaville was ravaged by the war. Hotels, stores, schools, embassies, and homes were bombed, robbed, looted, and destroyed. The only buildings currently under repair are some hotels, banks, car dealerships, and a few smaller concerns. Bribery and corruption are common (one trip to Brazzaville involved a demand for tip money by eight government officials).
Unhygienic conditions are prevalent in most hospitals (expatriates either go to Pointe Noire or to Europe for major medical attention). Drinking water is not fit for human consumption, and hot water is not always available. Electricity is sporadic, with telephone lines frequently not working. Medicine, furniture, clothing, and electrical appliances are practically nonexistent. Local embassies import what they need for any remaining expatriates.
Nigeria. The situation in Nigeria is the worst it has ever been. Several renovation projects and critical repairs are under way to revive the oil refineries. Fuel shortages are endemic, causing long delays and detours in airline travel. Those passengers fortunate enough to board planes face first-come-first-served conditions despite having legitimate tickets (although bribery helps). The fuel crisis also has had an adverse impact on goods and services, so that fresh vegetables and meat are either of poor quality or nonexistent, with supplies very erratic.
On Ikoyi and Victoria Islands, where most expatriates reside, roadblocks are nightly occurrences. Although the practice is intended to deter armed robbers, some incidents of theft have been reported at the roadblocks.
Johannes Weitsz is a pricing agent coordinator for Organization Resources Counselors in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. For more information about ORC, contact [email protected].
This article first appeared in ORCs Expatriate Observer.
Organization Resources Counselors, Inc. is a leading international human resources consulting firm headquartered in New York. Serving the business community for 45 years, ORC consultants offer their expertise and research capability to help clients respond effectively to a wide range of human resources management issues and challenges, as well as achieve a competitive edge in the present global economy.
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For more information, contact ORC at www.orcinc.com or [email protected].