• Ida Vahtera, Assistant Manager |

As I conclude my fifth year at KPMG, it also signifies my half-decade of assisting our clients with immigration processes in African countries. Over these five years, and through numerous work and residency permits, I have gained extensive familiarity with various work practices and immigration procedures across multiple countries in the region.

The African continent spans across 54 countries, each with its own set of laws governing the employment of foreign workers. Additionally, many of these nations are members of trading unions like ECOWAS, allowing citizens of member countries to travel visa-free according to the agreement. However, rapid development of the region coupled with political instability can quickly alter the trajectory of change.

Authority level interpretations and fast changes of the law may cause a headache to companies figuring out the right direction when planning the projects in African countries. There are always multiple factors to consider when sending employees to foreign countries to resource a project, for instance, the nature of activities, duration of assignment, traveler’s nationality, and whether the inviting company must sponsor the assignee. While immigration requirements and regulations are one part of crucial factors to contemplate, it's worth noting that other considerations such as tax, social security, and payroll add further dimensions to compliance. Especially companies without a legal presence in the host country should carefully consider these factors before setting travel dates for employees sent on assignments to Africa. 

Africa is no exception - ensure enough time for planning

It is highly important to know that many African countries commonly enforce quotas or ratios dictating the number of foreign employees eligible for work permits. These requirements must be thoroughly checked before initiating any assignments, especially when sending multiple employees to a country. 

Like in every assignment, enough time for planning should be ensured, and Africa as a region is no exception.

Allowing two to three months for processing by the relevant authorities before the assignment start date is generally a prudent approach. This is particularly true in Northern Africa, where the immigration process often involves multiple stages even before the employee travels to the host country. Many countries like Egypt, Nigeria, and South Africa, require the employees to secure the applicable work permit in home country before traveling to work.

You may want to prepare yourself also to heavy document requirements. As an example, in Mozambique you may need to have a master’s degree and provide your education transcript for authorities to review that the qualification of the foreign employee is sufficient.  

In some countries such and in Kenya, authorities have introduced online application systems potentially obviating the need for original documents. However, it is still recommended to have all original documents ready to be submitted to the authorities if requested. Authorities may also request additional supporting documents to be provided at any time.

Backlogs and lengthy authority processing times are common in Africa. It is a common approach in the region for authorities to convene on a weekly basis to discuss applications individually, determining which are approved and which are not. 

It is good to note that the examples above will need be checked when planning an assignment or a transfer; things change fast in Africa, and we see the same globally as well.

Both the company and the employee should anticipate delays and maintain flexibility regarding for example the assignment's start date to accommodate such eventualities.

How can we support?

KPMG has a long experience in supporting companies with global mobility related topics in Africa. We focus on the full compliance and are well equipped to carefully contemplate all the necessary aspects of your global mobility matters, such as immigration, relocation, tax, social security, and payroll. With our local colleagues in Africa, we have well established operations to support and partner with companies who are planning to send employees to work in the region.

From my own experience, I have been in South Africa on an assignment for three weeks in 2023, supported by our wonderful colleagues in Johannesburg office. Do not hesitate to contact us regarding any questions you may have, we are happy to help! 

  • Ida Vahtera

    Ida Vahtera

    Assistant Manager, People Services

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