Many of Africa’s economies have been booming over the past few years, as money is pumped into infrastructure development, mining and other growth sectors. Combined with the stagnation in the US and Europe over the same time period, this has created a distinct shift in business travel patterns. More and more South Africans are travelling all over Africa on business, often for extended periods.
But visiting Lagos orLuanda carries different risks than visiting London. There are the health risks, including malaria and other nasty tropical diseases as well as poor roads and anarchic traffic; then there are the risks associated with crumbling infrastructure, political instability and light-fingered baggage handlers.
“In our experience of insuring business travellers in Africa, properly covering medical risks is absolutely critical,” says Milenko Skoro of Chartis Insurance. “In many parts of the continent, health care of the standard you and your employees expect just doesn’t exist – so your insurance needs to offer the best possible medical care, whatever it takes with options of cover which include unlimited medical expenses.
“At Chartis, for example, we have a network of air ambulances and intensive care transport to get patients to wherever the best quality of care is available.”
Life and death
This access to a global network of providers can literally make the difference between life and death. “If your employee is involved in a car accident in a remote part of the eastern DRC, for example, you can’t afford to wait for your insurer’s preferred contractor to send a plane from wherever it happens to be: You want the nearest air ambulance available, full stop,” says Skoro.
“Sometimes, of course, the best medical option is not to move the patient at all. Deciding on what care is most appropriate takes a high level of training and experience, which is why our global emergency response call centres always have a medical professional on duty to co-ordinate the response.”
According to Skoro, some risks can be avoided before you even leave home, which is why we are also able to offer full pre-trip medical examinations to identify underlying problems as an additional service through our assistance call centre at reduced rates. “If your executive is weeks away from a heart attack, you don’t want it to hit in Sierra Leone.”
Apart from emergency medical, death and disability insurance, you also need insurance for curtailment of travel and theft or loss of baggage. It’s important that not only scheduled flights on commercial airlines are covered: More and more companies are using chartered and non-scheduled flights to reach remote areas.
Politics and travel
What about political unrest? As visitors to Mali discovered most recently, this is a real risk – and our policies for business travel in Africa now include it as standard, along with cover for wrongful detention, kidnapping and detention. Negotiations and evacuations are handled by a third-party crisis prevention and response with over 20 year’s experience around the world.
“We now offer four tiers of coverage targeting everyone from senior executives to long-term workers, including those involved in high-risk activities. The principle is that the same quality of care should be available to all,” says Skoro.
“Business travel in Africa is very different. Business travellers often visit very remote places which are not particularly secure and where they tend to stick out. If your company is sending employees to manage any kind of investment in Africa, insuring their safety is one of the investments you can’t afford to skimp on.”