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In Africa, Intelligence is King

6 May 2022

In Africa, Intelligence is King

Whether you are venturing into African markets for the first time or supporting an ongoing operation, up-to-the-minute local intelligence is key to business success. Lawrence Clinton of global security and risk management experts, Castor Vali, explains why up-to-the-minute intelligence is so important.

“Whilst it’s fine to think of ‘Africa’ in terms of generic risk, the reality is that it’s the specifics of where you intend to operate that will drive your risk profile.

“Africa is a vast continent made up of 54 countries. Each of them has its own character, culture, and political make-up. No fewer than 20 states are currently categorised as fragile or conflict-affected. Terrorism and ethnic unrest are becoming a common factor across the continent, with recorded incidents affecting different areas each year.

“Country regulation and legislation also differs vastly. The reliability of justice and local law enforcement can be a critical factor and local politics can affect your ability to operate. Your precise location, be that offshore, remote or city-based, will bring its own risk factors. And the quality of immediate risk management and mission support will affect how you go about meeting your duty of care responsibilities for expats and locals.

“From a business perspective, you need to consider each stage of your operations. Have you started yet? If you have, how can you identify, reduce and mitigate day-to-day risks? And what will you do if you face an emergency situation on top of the normal challenges associated with working in African nations?”

Before You Go

“If you’re planning a new project in an African country, you need to understand the local business framework, culture and environment, as well as the geo-political risks.

“Many countries in Africa now expect you to incorporate in their country. Take Mozambique or Nigeria for example. For smaller businesses or project-based enterprises, you can run an operation there as a branch or representative office, but you are strongly encouraged to formally incorporate for more permanent operations. As Castor Vali, we are now incorporated in nine separate countries across the African continent. We are committed to local content and employ local people wherever we can. We want to create long-term employment opportunities and promote development of professional skills for the benefit of the communities in which we operate.

“Just as every region is different, so is every business. That’s why we create bespoke security and risk-management assessments for our clients, exploring the issues that are particular to their operation. And bringing their attention to areas our local experts know will be relevant for them.

“Together, we create a risk assessment and mitigation plan. Then clients have the intelligence they need to make informed security decisions about the business prospect. And about how they might protect their assets, equipment and people on the ground.”

Everyday Support

“The security situation can change in a heartbeat. That’s why we also provide our clients with the option of ongoing daily, weekly or monthly intelligence briefings once their operations are set up.

“From terrorist activity involving groups like Al Shabaab and the rise in robbery and theft in urban areas, to warnings about extreme weather events, these briefings give our clients a heads-up of what is happening in the countries they operate in, and how that might affect them.

“We also provide security and protection services on the ground. This might include protecting corporate offices, personnel and equipment, or a specialist project security plan for offshore rigs or maritime operations on any of Africa’s coastlines. It might also include tracking and monitoring client personnel, close protection for a VIP visit, or ongoing security briefings for staff, enabling our clients to maintain maximum operational effectiveness.”

Emergency Response

“Sometimes, situations can spring up that require an instant reaction.

“For example, the sudden passing of President Déby in Chad in April ’21 caused prolonged unrest on the streets. Even the jailing of a former president in a highly developed economy like South Africa can lead to deadly riots, destruction and looting, as it did in July ‘21 after Jacob Zuma was sentenced.

“Extreme weather situations like floods, drought and heatwaves are getting more common, despite being less well reported globally than similar events in the developed world. These can physically affect business operations – but can also cause local unrest. Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Niger and Nigeria have all suffered major incidents in the last few months alone.

“Of course, emergencies may involve more direct threats like jihadi or terrorist attacks on client compounds, kidnap and ransom attempts, equipment or supply chain failures, sickness and disease, or individual accidents.

“Having a properly managed risk assessment and security plan fed by topical intelligence, with regular emergency drills where appropriate, means that, should an emergency arise, your team will be clear about what actions they should take. We can also arrange emergency response personnel, ready to deploy within hours, if needed.”

Managing Risk. Helping Business Thrive

“It’s estimated that trade between the UK and African nations accounts for more than £17bn a year. Much of it flows smoothly and works efficiently.

“Our team at Castor Vali are here to help companies avoid the obvious pitfalls, and take sensible measures to keep it that way. All our services are delivered to international standards and designed with a common goal – that of helping create and maintain the safest possible environment for staff, equipment, information and premises.”

Known as ‘Clint’ to his colleagues, Lawrence Clinton is the Chief Operating Officer at Castor Vali. For a free trial of some of Castor Vali’s intelligence products, sign up here:

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