As diverse as it is large, travelling to and doing business in Africa can present many logistical challenges. Colin Ellson takes a look at seven key destinations across the continent


Rift valleys, jungle, exotic cultures and wildlife seen through the eyes of David Attenborough – that’s the general perception of Africa.

In fact, in the 21st century the vast land mass often merits the Victorian description, 'Dark Continent'. Once a reference to its remoteness, mystery, danger and tribalism, today the phrase is a synonym for poverty, corruption, political unrest and outdated work practices.

The continent is made up of 54 countries, speaking as many as 2,000 languages, and a population of 1.1billion. It is characterised by economies at strikingly different stages of development, variable degrees of political stability, and slow population growth, which hampers efforts to boost employment and reduce poverty.

In this context, the countries that are featured in this survey (Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Ethiopia and Ghana) are a microcosm of the whole continent. The region has rebounded in 2017, after registering the worst decline in more than two decades, and growth in the economy is expected to climb to around 2.6% this year.

The continent’s largest economies, Nigeria and South Africa (along with Angola), are also seeing a rebound from the sharp downtown of 2016. But recovery has been slow due to snail-like reactions to low commodity prices and policy uncertainty, although a healthy sign has been a rise in UK exports to South Africa in the three months to August 2017.

This market will be among the most familiar to British businesses. Executives who visit benefit from a well-established and modern infrastructure, an up-to-date financial and legal system, and will notice a growing middle class eager for consumer goods.

Hearteningly, the UK’s Department of International Trade has identified growth potential in South African finance, real estate, business services and catering, and accommodation.

Elsewhere, the Department has forecast £300billion-worth of opportunities in rebuilding Egypt’s infrastructure, and similar work in Ethiopia, a regional air hub whose basic amenities are outdated.

Ethiopia, along with Kenya, continues to show economic resilience, largely due to domestic demand, recording annual growth rates above 5.4% since 2015.

The situation is summed up by Albert Zeufack, World Bank Chief Economist for the Africa Region. “We need to implement reforms that increase the productivity of African workers and create a stable macroeconomic environment,” he says. “Better and more productive jobs are instrumental to tackling poverty on the continent.”

The UK should be ready to meet the challenges of Africa and shine a light on the potential waiting on the Dark Continent.

From London Heathrow, British Airways flies daily to Lagos and Virgin Atlantic also operates daily. In addition, Med View Airlines serves the city from London Gatwick four times weekly.

The only direct flights from Heathrow to Cape Town are offered by BA, which flies twice daily. BA and South African Airways serve Jo’burg twice daily from Heathrow.

BA offers one flight a day to Cairo from Heathrow, with Egyptair flying twice daily.

Both Kenya Airways and BA serve the Kenyan capital Nairobi daily from Heathrow.

Ethiopian Airlines (pictured above) flies to Addis Ababa daily from Heathrow. It also serves every city in our survey from its hub.

BA flies to Accra once a day from Heathrow.

One-stop alternatives:
There are literally dozens of other alternatives to flying direct from the UK to the destinations in our Africa survey. Choosing to stop en route has its benefits if executives are travelling from regional UK airports – using European or Middle Eastern gateways avoids London’s congested airports. Of course, journey times are increased, sometimes doubled. The onestop options begin way up north in Aberdeen, which covers every city we feature. You can, for example, fly to Accra via Amsterdam with KLM, or Cape Town with Lufthansa via Frankfurt. From Birmingham, you can reach Accra with KLM via Amsterdam, Brussels Airlines via Brussels or Air France transiting Paris CDG. Manchester, too, offers every destination we cover on direct services, its one-stop options including Emirates to Addis Ababa via Dubai.