With new op­por­tu­ni­ties, new risks: in­sur­ing busi­ness travel in Africa

RISKAFRICA Magazine - - CONTENTS - Sarah Bas­sett

Africa’s eco­nomic boom and in­flux in in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment and re­source sec­tor in­vest­ments, all at a time when de­vel­oped economies have seen stag­na­tion, have cre­ated a dis­tinct shift in busi­ness travel pat­terns, with in­creas­ing num­bers vis­it­ing high-risk re­gions. An alarm­ing num­ber of or­gan­i­sa­tions, how­ever, have not up­graded their cor­po­rate travel cover ac­cord­ingly.

“Vis­it­ing La­gos or Luanda comes with dif­fer­ent risks to vis­it­ing Lon­don,” notes Daniel An­dresen, se­cu­rity di­rec­tor for In­ter­na­tional SOS South Africa. “There are sig­nif­i­cant health risks, in­clud­ing malaria and a range of trop­i­cal dis­eases as well as poor roads and an­ar­chic traf­fic. Then there are the risks as­so­ci­ated with crum­bling in­fra­struc­ture and po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity.”

De­spite the risks, a sur­pris­ingly low num­ber of com­pa­nies use cor­po­rate travel in­sur­ance, says Shanaaz Ca­jee, prod­uct man­ager for ac­ci­dent and health at Guardrisk Al­lied Prod­ucts and Ser­vices. “In­stead of pro­vid­ing cover for their busi­ness trav­ellers, too many rely on their em­ploy­ees’ own in­sur­ance cover or, worse still, the very limited travel in­sur­ance pro­vided through credit card ticket pur­chases.”

Many in­sur­ers pro­vide mem­bers with ac­cess to de­tailed coun­try re­ports, through part­ner­ship ar­range­ments with risk man­age­ment ex­perts such as Europ As­sis­tance and In­ter­na­tional SOS ad­vis­ing on lo­cal con­di­tions and dangers, as well as nec­es­sary pre­cau­tions for spe­cific coun­tries. On-the-ground med­i­cal and ex­pert cri­sis as­sis­tance is avail­able 24/7.

“Com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing in high-risk lo­ca­tions or send­ing em­ploy­ees to th­ese ar­eas must de­velop a ro­bust risk man­age­ment pro­gramme. This re­quires prepa­ra­tion and plan­ning,” says Dr Charl van Log­geren­berg, re­gional med­i­cal di­rec­tor at In­ter­na­tional SOS. “Man­ag­ing se­cu­rity and med­i­cal risk proac­tively and re­ly­ing on ex­pe­ri­enced re­sources in the re­gion will in­flu­ence cri­sis out­comes.” He adds that proper prepa­ra­tion is now an in­dus­try stan­dard duty of care re­quire­ment. This in­cludes mon­i­tor­ing threat lev­els in a coun­try, pre­par­ing em­ploy­ees prior to travel, and hav­ing pro­ce­dures in place to re­act to travel-re­lated in­ci­dents, from the rou­tine to the un­ex­pected.

The costs of air evac­u­a­tions are high and there are many com­pli­ca­tions for the crew to man­age.

Ter­ror­ism and po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence

When a trav­el­ling em­ployee is in cri­sis, how rapidly and ef­fec­tively an or­gan­i­sa­tion re­acts is crit­i­cal. “Clear and ro­bust emer­gency plans are ef­fec­tive only when un­der­pinned with the abil­ity to as­sist em­ploy­ees when­ever and wher­ever they re­quire as­sis­tance,” cau­tions An­dresen.

The ram­i­fi­ca­tions of po­lit­i­cal un­rest can place em­ploy­ees di­rectly or in­di­rectly at risk, should they be­come stuck in a coun­try in tur­moil. For this rea­son, cor­po­rate travel cover should in­clude po­lit­i­cal evac­u­a­tion, Ca­jee ex­plains. “Re­cent in­ci­dents in Egypt and Libya demon­strated the ne­ces­sity of this. Even if a plane or a he­li­copter can’t be sent in, the cover will pro­vide ac­cess to a lo­cal net­work able to evac­u­ate trapped em­ploy­ees.”

The ex­per­tise of risk man­age­ment pro­fes­sion­als can be in­valu­able. Dur­ing the 2011 up­ris­ings in Egypt, for ex­am­ple, In­ter­na­tional SOS was able to lo­cate 900 mem­bers in the re­gion us­ing its Trav­elTracker sys­tem. In to­tal, more than 1 250 mem­bers were evac­u­ated dur­ing the cri­sis pe­riod. Those who needed to stay in Egypt re­ceived med­i­cal as­sis­tance, and ac­cess to food and in­for­ma­tion up­dates from a team on the ground. “The costs of air evac­u­a­tions are high and there are many com­pli­ca­tions for the crew to man­age,” notes Simmy Micheli, sales man­ager at Travel In­sur­ance Con­sul­tants (TIC). “Th­ese in­clude cop­ing with night land­ings on poor run­ways, am­bush by armed gangs, and air­port of­fi­cials who re­quire US Dol­lar bribes be­fore al­low­ing pi­lots to leave the coun­try.” How­ever, or­gan­i­sa­tions ac­cess­ing this as­sis­tance through their busi­ness travel poli­cies bear no costs.

A fur­ther key in­clu­sion in cor­po­rate travel cover is kid­nap and wrong­ful ar­rest, Ca­jee adds. Aon South Africa re­cently re­ported that kid­nap for ran­som is in­creas­ing in Africa. “There are about 15 000 to 20 000 re­ported kid­nap­pings each year, with many more un­re­ported. The im­pact of a kid­nap can be great; it is ex­tremely trau­matic for those in­volved, and can lead to sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial losses from ran­som pay­ments, as­so­ci­ated costs, busi­ness in­ter­rup­tion, lit­i­ga­tion and long-term dam­age to rep­u­ta­tion.”

Med­i­cal risk con­sid­er­a­tions

In a re­cent anal­y­sis of data from over 4.6 mil­lion trav­ellers to 223 coun­tries, 23 per cent of busi­ness trav­ellers were found to be vis­it­ing coun­tries with medium, high and ex­treme health risk rat­ings, as rated by the re­cently re­leased HealthMap 2013, pub­lished by In­ter­na­tional SOS. The HealthMap rat­ings pro­vide an over­view of health threats as well as the avail­abil­ity and qual­ity of the lo­cal health in­fra­struc­ture.

In many parts of the con­ti­nent, health­care stan­dards are dra­mat­i­cally be­low those of de­vel­oped coun­tries, says Micheli. “For this rea­son, the med­i­cal in­sur­ance se­lected by clients needs cover op­tions which in­clude un­lim­ited med­i­cal ex­penses.” A re­cent study pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Oc­cu­pa­tional and En­vi­ron­men­tal Medicine in­di­cates that ex­pa­tri­ates liv­ing and work­ing in a high med­i­cal risk coun­try are six times more likely to be hos­pi­talised and more than 23 times more likely to be med­i­cally evac­u­ated than those in a low med­i­cal risk coun­try. The au­thors hy­poth­e­sise that a lack of lo­cal med­i­cal ca­pa­bil­ity, pres­ence of en­demic dis­ease and haz­ardous work con­trib­ute to this sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in risk.

Sup­port­ing em­ploy­ees go­ing to higher-risk lo­ca­tions cre­ates ad­di­tional chal­lenges for or­gan­i­sa­tions. “Un­der­stand­ing the qual­ity of lo­cal med­i­cal ser­vices; dis­ease risks; vac­ci­na­tion re­quire­ments; food and wa­ter pre­cau­tions; and how best to man­age chronic con­di­tions are all im­por­tant prepa­ra­tion con­sid­er­a­tions,” says Van Log­geren­berg. “Iden­ti­fy­ing med­i­cal risks and pri­ori­tis­ing their cor­po­rate health agenda will help or­gan­i­sa­tions bet­ter con­tain hu­man and fi­nan­cial costs.”

In Ca­jee’s ex­pe­ri­ence, the big­gest costs in­curred abroad are med­i­cal evac­u­a­tion and repa­tri­a­tion, along with med­i­cal ex­penses. In­sured trav­ellers are not only cov­ered for th­ese costs, but in­sur­ers are usu­ally con­tracted to global ser­vice providers with ac­cess to med­i­cal net­works in most des­ti­na­tions. “If an em­ployee has an ac­ci­dent while over­seas, they will be pro­vided with lo­cal med­i­cal con­tacts who will ar­range trans­port or am­bu­lances while se­cur­ing ad­mis­sion to the near­est ap­pro­pri­ate med­i­cal fa­cil­ity. This is ei­ther car­ried out in English or by trans­la­tor,” ex­plains Ca­jee. “TIC uses the ser­vices of Europ As­sis­tance to pro­vide ex­pert 24-hour emer­gency as­sis­tance,” Micheli ex­plains. “Mem­bers can re­verse charge calls from any­where in the world to re­quest as­sis­tance.” “The bur­den of in­fec­tious dis­eases such as malaria, cholera, TB and HIV pose sig­nif­i­cant risks across Africa,” Van Log­geren­berg says. Micheli adds the preva­lence of ex­otic dis­eases such as sleep­ing sick­ness and Congo fever to this list. “Poor pre-travel ad­vice, fail­ure to take anti-malar­ial med­i­ca­tion, a lack of con­trol pro­grammes and in­ad­e­quate di­ag­nos­tic and treat­ment ca­pa­bil­i­ties all con­trib­ute to un­wanted out­comes,” Van Log­geren­berg con­tin­ues. “The cost to com­pa­nies of proper prepa­ra­tion for em­ploy­ees trav­el­ling to malaria hy­per­en­demic ar­eas, for in­stance, com­pared to ex­pen­sive med­i­cal evac­u­a­tions and in some cases, fa­tal­i­ties, is min­i­mal.”

“Due to the preva­lence of HIV/Aids and hep­ati­tis B and C, should an em­ployee be hos­pi­talised and re­quire a blood trans­fu­sion, poor health­care stan­dards are a se­ri­ous con­cern,” says Micheli. “TIC is a mem­ber of the Blood Care Pro­gramme, op­er­ated by the Blood Care Foun­da­tion. The pro­gramme pro­vides screened blood to its mem­bers in any part of the world.”

Iden­ti­fy­ing med­i­cal risks and pri­ori­tis­ing their cor­po­rate health agenda will help or­gan­i­sa­tions bet­ter con­tain hu­man and fi­nan­cial costs.

The tech­ni­cal­i­ties

Pur­chased on an an­nual blan­ket ba­sis, cor­po­rate travel cover can be ap­plied to all em­ploy­ees trav­el­ling abroad with­out the need to in­form the provider each time an em­ployee trav­els. For com­pa­nies do­ing less fre­quent travel, in­di­vid­ual busi­ness poli­cies can be pur­chased when needed. Some in­sur­ers will ex­tend cover to a spouse and de­pen­dent chil­dren ac­com­pa­ny­ing the busi­ness trav­eller at no cost or for a nom­i­nal pre­mium.

“There is in­creased con­struc­tion and en­gi­neer­ing travel as the con­ti­nent de­vel­ops. Firms should be aware that a reg­u­lar pol­icy will not cover in­juries re­lated to man­ual labour,” Micheli cau­tions. “Spe­cial cover can be set out for this in TIC cor­po­rate poli­cies and a busi­ness in­dus­trial pol­icy for once- off pol­icy pur­chasers.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.