Intra-Africa business travel

Arriving to Accra airport

As a part of my learning trip, I arrived yesterday to Accra, Ghana where I will be for one week. Travelling from Nairobi to Accra would have been as easy as travelling from Barcelona (where I was last week). But that’s not the case for most of intra-Africa business travel. There are very few flight connections — an important hindrance for companies to operate on a Pan-African basis.

One of the African business leaders I’ve interviewed shared some of his travel stories with me: in his first trip from Nigeria to Gambia, the initial itinerary was to fly from Lagos to Dakar, Senegal, stay there over night, and on the next day fly with a different airline to Banjul, Gambia. Early morning, he was notified that this second flight had been cancelled. As he had an important meeting that morning, on the road he was. Supposedly, it was going to take 4 hours: 8 hours later he was still on the road. But upon arrival, the trip hadn’t finished yet: the next hurdle was to take a ferry — one that offered transport not only to people but also to cows and the like. By the time he arrived, the meeting had dissolved.

But he’s a perseverant man. On his second trip to Gambia, the plane had a bird strike. As the bird had got into the engine, they had to land in Sierra Leone. But there are no flights from Sierra Leone to Gambia thus they could not be re-routed. Instead, they had to wait about 60 hours for another plane to come from Lagos and pick them up.

His own reflections: “How many of such places can you go to in Africa? We want to grow but these are some of the challenges. But that is why it’s good because Westerners will never do it.” — Do you agree with him?

My host in Accra is CEIBS Africa, the campus that IESE’s associated school CEIBS from Shanghai has in Ghana. My main purpose is to interview managers of some Pan-African companies. I’ll have some additional interviews to help me get acquainted with Ghana country.

4 thoughts on “Intra-Africa business travel

  1. Dear Africa,

    Many thanks for the insights you bring to the issues you share on this blog. The issue of intra-Afirca travel difficulties has featured consistently in discourses about the continent in recent months. It’s clearly a big issue and we can think of the many reasons why it’s that way but I have travelled a bit on the continent from my youth and I must say I have seen tremendous improvements, especially in terms of air travel. Who would have thought of direct flights between Kigali and Lagos 10 years ago. The increased levels of intra-Africa trade is certainly accountable for this development and will be the key driver for further improvements in the transport network. There is therefore a need to continuously drive growth in trade, especially within African regional economic blocs.

    I chuckled at the closing comments of the businessman you interviewed because he’s stating a fact, although with a dose of ironic humour. But then therein lies the opportunity. Huge infrastructure gaps in a fast growing economic landscape create an interesting scenario for investments.

    Please keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you, Charles! It seems that transportation was organized to connect Africa to the rest of the world (mostly to Europe) as those were the dominant trade routes. But as you say, intra-Africa trade and transportation will grow now. I think this is a virtuous circle where one drives the other one.

  2. Africa, I have just been catching up with your blog. What Charles says is very true. To be more specific, I shall add that air travel within West Africa has become much easier thanks to ASky Airlines. They describe themselves as “the pan-african airline” and work in partnership with Ethiopian Airlines. Their hub is in Lome, Togo, so that many flights require a change of plane in Lome; They still have many direct flights like the Lagos-Kigali one mentioned by Charles and, in any case, they are very punctual and very reliable so that passengers seldom suffer delays unlike with some other airlines. They are expanding their network little by little to cover more of Africa. This may look like an advertisement, but it is the simple truth.

    Thank you for your blog that helps us, permanent residents in Africa, to have a fresh look at ourselves.

    1. Chantal, thank you for sharing this info with us: it will help lower the psychological barriers to start doing business in Africa, and may also encourage Africans to think expanding their operations to other African countries.

Comments are closed.