Relo Originals: Solar Sustainability

Now that we’ve entered springtime in South Africa, the weather is gradually getting warmer, and many of us are preparing for being back at the beach during summer at the end of the year. In a region like SA, we’re lucky enough to get lots of sunshine not only in summer, but year-round. This creates the perfect opportunity to be more sustainable, and make use of solar power. And that’s exactly what we’ve done at our head office in Cape Town.

Solar power

Solar power is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics (PV), indirectly using concentrated solar power, or a combination. Concentrated solar power systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. Photovoltaic cells convert light into an electric current using the photovoltaic effect.

Photovoltaics were initially solely used as a source of electricity for small and medium-sized applications, from the calculator powered by a single solar cell to remote homes powered by an off-grid rooftop PV system. Commercial concentrated solar power plants were first developed in the 1980s.

As the cost of solar electricity has fallen, the number of grid-connected solar PV systems has grown into the millions and utility-scale solar power stations with hundreds of megawatts are being built. Solar PV is rapidly becoming an inexpensive, low-carbon technology to harness renewable energy from the Sun.

The International Energy Agency projected in 2014 that under its “high renewables” scenario, by 2050, solar photovoltaics and concentrated solar power would contribute about 16 and 11 percent, respectively, of the worldwide electricity consumption, and solar would be the world’s largest source of electricity.

Our office

Our head office in Cape Town has, since early 2014, featured 25 photovoltaic panels on its roof, positioned to harness the most sunlight possible during daylight hours. These panels are connected to a smart charge controller, and the power is distributed throughout our building. Electricity usage can be monitored via a mobile app, which provides us with usage history, so that we can track our conservation efforts.

In addition to this, we also have battery units that keep the solar system running. In the event of a power outage, the batteries will keep our essential systems running. To date, we have converted 40.7 MWh of solar energy into usable electricity. All of this is made possible by a SolarEdge system. To read more about them, click here.

Aerial view of Relocation Africa’s head office in Cape Town, South Africa.

The importance of renewable energy

Renewable energy is energy that is collected from renewable resources, which are naturally replenished on a human timescale, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. Renewable energy often provides energy in four important areas: electricity generation, air and water heating/cooling, transportation, and rural (off-grid) energy services.

Rapid deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency is resulting in significant energy security, climate change mitigation, and economic benefits.

In 2011, the International Energy Agency said that “the development of affordable, inexhaustible and clean solar energy technologies will have huge longer-term benefits. It will increase countries’ energy security through reliance on an indigenous, inexhaustible and mostly import-independent resource, enhance sustainability, reduce pollution, lower the costs of mitigating climate change, and keep fossil fuel prices lower than otherwise. These advantages are global.

We encourage other businesses to implement sustainable solutions to their power systems, over time saving both money and the environment.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2], [3]. Image sources: Andreas Gücklhorn [1], [2].

The Benefits of Using an Immigration Provider, and How to Choose the Right One

In the second part of our Choosing a Service Provider series, we’re looking at Immigration. As with temporary relocation, immigration can be a stressful and time-consuming endeavor. And however rewarding it may be in the end, it can also cost a lot, especially if you don’t do research leading up to your move.

Fortunately, you are able to get help if need be. Making use of an Immigration Service Provider can alleviate these issues, potentially saving you time, energy, and money. We asked our Director, Tracy, who heads up our Immigration Division, for an overview of the reasons you should use an Immigration Service Provider, and what to consider when looking for the best one for your needs.

What types of services is an Immigration Service Provider able to assist with?

Immigration Service Providers are able to offer a variety of related services, including facilitation, assistance, advice, and guidance relating to Visas, Permits, Authentications, Translations, Evaluation of Foreign Qualifications, Board/Body/Council Registrations, and Citizenship matters. The scope of these services may vary between providers.

Are there any limitations with regards to what a Service Provider can assist with?

Generally, such a provider is:

  • Unable to submit applications on behalf of clients.
  • Unable to influence processing times at the relevant departments (for example, VFS in South Africa).
  • Unable to predetermine whether the missions outside the country will request documentation which is not prescribed in the respective Immigration Act.

What are the major benefits of using an Immigration Service Provider?

Benefits include ensuring that:

  • Applications are correctly completed. Errors can delay processing significantly.
  • The correct visa category is chosen, based on the intentions of the client.
  • Letters are correctly worded, decreasing the chance that amendments need to be made at a later stage.
  • All correspondence is in sync.
  • All supporting documentation is as prescribed in the Immigration Act.
  • Red flags are raised prior to the submission of applications, saving time and money.
  • Expert and up-to-date knowledge of the Immigration Act and Regulations is provided throughout the application process.

What are the downsides of doing everything oneself?

Choosing to apply on your own may result in the application forms not being completed, or filled out correctly; choosing the incorrect visa category; nor wording letters correctly; and general uncertainties and misinterpretations of requirements, which leads to submission of incorrect support documentation, which further leads to application rejections.

What should one look for when choosing a Service Provider?

When choosing your Immigration Service Provider, it is important to ensure that they have references from past work provided, and that they are registered with a local professional body. In South Africa, this is the Forum of Immigration Practitioners of SA (FIPSA). It is also important to ensure that the Provider has been in business for several years, and that they have a comprehensive business set up (physical office address, reachable contact numbers and emails, websites with information about their services, etc). Checking all of these things before conducting business will give you peace of mind that your chosen Provider is trustworthy and well-established.

What should one do if one is experiencing difficulty working with one’s current Service Provider?

If you have tried unsuccessfully to resolve the issue with your chosen Provider, and the provider is a member of a local professional body, such as FIPSA, one may reach out to the body to request guidance. It may also be advisable to reach out to a second Provider for advice.

Is it best to work with a Service Provider located in one’s current country, or the country which one is planning to relocate to?

With current technology, it is almost irrelevant which country the service provider is located in. Make your decision based on whichever method will be easier for your communication. Bear in mind that a provider may have more knowledge about the country (and its Immigration Acts) that they are established in than a provider located elsewhere in the world.

Any insights with regards to what is happening in the South African Immigration space right now?

The Department of Home Affairs is doing random inspections at companies (without prior notice), to check if their foreign employees have the necessary legal documentation. These random checks may increase with time. Changes to the SA Immigration Act will more than likely be implemented during 2019. If so, we will be sure to let our readers know about them.

 

Using an established Immigration Service Provider can help you save both time and money, and allow you to enjoy more of the process of moving to your new country. With over 25 years of experience across the African continent, Relocation Africa would be happy to assist you with your immigration needs, and help you embrace the unknown. For more information about our Immigration services, feel free to reach out to Tracy du Plessis, via marketing@relocationafrica.com, or on +27 21 763 4240.

 

Sources: [1]. Image sources: Nils Nedel on Unsplash [1].

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, and Remuneration needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

How to Choose a Telecom Provider Abroad

Whether you are about to establish your business abroad or settle in your new home, you will have to choose a telecom service provider from the many available companies targeting the market. Our professional and personal lives are heavily dependent on online, instant communication and wireless telephones, and our home entertainment has incorporated streaming media. In a free market, with more options than ever, it can be difficult to conclude on a telecommunication service provider, especially when you are overseas, and you are not familiar with the brands and expectations. However, there are several things that you need to consider to select a provider which matches your needs.

Customer service
Efficient and considerate customer service is a big plus when looking into different telecom providers. Even the most reputable provider will, at some point, have to resolve some sort of a problem with their service, whether it is poor internet speed, billing inquiries, or service upgrading. However, before committing to a telecom service provider, you should feel confident that when an issue occurs, their customer service will apply good communication skills, and will treat you with patience and respect to solve the problem quickly. You can contact other expats, and ask them to share their customer service experiences with you, or ask the company directly to give you examples of their customer service methods.

Reliability
How important are the phone and internet services for your business or other tasks? Do you run an online business, which with every minute offline loses money? Or are you a freelancer whose work is conducted online? In any case, it is vital for your peace of mind to know that you have chosen a reliable telecom provider. Check with the different providers whether they own the fiber optic network or lease it from others, as this may affect the speed with which they resolve potential problems. Of course, no one is perfect, and especially if you live in a location with extreme weather conditions or developing infrastructure, issues may come more often than normally expected. However, the difference lies in the provider’s ability to fix the problem with the least possible impact on your work and day-to-day tasks.

Cutting-edge technology
With technology progressing exponentially, you would like to be assured that your telecom service provider is offering the latest technology available, and is conducting regular maintenance and upgrades. However, keep in mind that upgrades can often result in interruption of services or other failures. Thus, your service provider should be able to guarantee in advance that improvements are generally smooth and hassle-free. Also, you should be given the option to select or deselect products, depending on your company’s or personal needs, without any inconvenience.

Security
With the fast pace of technological development, comes a series of challenges to the security of telecommunications data. Risks may have an impact on the availability and confidentiality of telecom services and can result from hardware damage, misconfiguration, or hacking. For example, it is not uncommon that a third party may steal your service. However, you rely on your telecom provider to store and transmit data safely, and it is therefore essential to ensure that the provider you have chosen has taken proactive measures and has implemented regulatory frameworks to manage security risks and challenges.

Affordability
Last but not least comes the cost of your telecom service. Before you get carried away by marketing campaigns, check the quotes of as many companies as possible. In the past telecom service providers were mainly owned and operated by the government, but that is no longer the case, as many have been privatized. Thus, the competition is high, which is beneficial for clients, as prices can vary significantly from one provider to another. Also, make sure it is clearly stated in your contract what does the overall price cover — are cloud, broadcasting, voice, data, and internet products included? Are there other services you wish to add, and does the company offer tailor-made packages?

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: Expat.com [1], [2]. Image sources: Donald Giannatti via Unsplash [1], [2].

The Best and Worst Airlines and Airports: 2018

The 2018 AirHelp Score report has been released. AirHelp is a company that advocates on behalf of air travelers for compensation in cases of delays or cancellations. Its sixth annual survey uses data from the first quarter of the year to rank the 72 international airlines for which the company had statistically significant data.

Overall rankings are based on three factors: on-time performance, quality of service (gleaned from public reviews on an array of reliable websites), and a claims-processing score (which reflects how a company handles customer complaints).

“South African Airlines has a fantastic claims-processing score,” explains Ashley Raiteri, an industry adviser for AirHelp—the airline earned 8.69 points of a possible 10—and it’s also got a good track record of keeping flights on time.

“Irregularities in flights are going to happen,” Raiteri adds. “What’s important is whether the airline has planned for that so they can make the experience less hellish for the consumer.”

With that in mind, here are the best and worst airlines of the year, according to AirHelp, along with their on-time performance records.

The 10 Best Airlines of 2018

1. Qatar Airways (89 percent on-time performance)
2. Lufthansa (76 percent)
3. Etihad Airways (86 percent)
4. Singapore Airlines (85 percent)
5. South African Airways (85 percent)
6. Austrian Airlines (80 percent)
7. Aegean Airlines (90 percent)
8. Qantas (89 percent)
9. Air Malta (86 percent)
10. Virgin Atlantic (82 percent)

The Worst Airlines of 2018

63. Jet Airways (65 percent on-time performance)
64. Aerolineas Argentinas (85 percent)
65. Iberia (84 percent)
66. Korean Air (64 percent)
67. Ryanair (86 percent)
68. Air Mauritius (69 percent)
69. EasyJet (79 percent)
70. Pakistan International Airlines (61 percent)
71. Royal Jordanian Airlines (83 percent)
72. WOW Air (75 percent)

Surprises exist on both lists. Iberia—which ranked among the best airlines on a similar report from FlightStats last year that was configured purely according to on-time performance—appears in AirHelp’s worst airlines list, a reflection of its poor “claim processing score”.

KLM and Emirates, airlines with passionate fan bases, ranked 11th and 16th, respectively, just outside the top 10.

U.S. carriers didn’t fare particularly well: American Airlines Inc. performed best, at 23rd of 72, followed by United Airlines Inc. in 37th place and Delta Air Lines, Inc. in 47th place.

“Delta has a great on-time performance, but in dealing with claims, more often than not they either ignore them or reject them out of hand, forcing customers into court in order to pay what they’re legally obligated to pay,” Raiteri tells Bloomberg. While the three airlines won nearly identical scores in “quality of service,” Delta was the category leader by a few tenths of a point.

While budget carriers did not fare well, with Ryanair DAC, EasyJet Airline Co., and WOW Air all appearing among the bottom 10 airlines, there was one exception: Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA ranked 12th overall, reflecting a 76 percent on-time record and very good scores both for claims processing and quality of service.

The data concerning best and worst airports contain similar surprises. No American hubs were ranked in the top 30—Seattle-Tacoma took the domestic lead, in the 33rd slot—while a large number of Brazilian airports dominated the charts, something Raiteri attributes to good local weather and a “hub and spoke” route network that keeps flights moving smoothly and on time.

AirHelp’s data for airports cover 141 destinations. They factor in on-time performance, quality of service, and online consumer sentiment, but its rankings heavily favor the first two criteria.

“Different airports deal with different problems,” Raiteri explains, saying that Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta has recently battled a series of power outages, while airports in Scandinavia tend to get knocked for weather delays, despite their sleek looks and efficient service.

“In some places, the local culture can leave people feeling cold,” Raiteri adds, describing the direct style of security agents in northern Europe. Here are the best and worst airports of 2018.

The 10 Best Airports of 2018

1. Hamad International Airport, Doha (DOH)
2. Athens International Airport, Athens (ATH)
3. Tokyo Haneda International Airport, Tokyo (HND)
4. Cologne Bonn Airport, Cologne, Germany (CGN)
5. Singapore Changi Airport, Singapore (SIN)
6. Nagoya Chubu Centrair Airport, Nagoya, Japan (NGO)
7. Viracopos International Airport, Campinas, Brazil (VCP)
8. Amman Queen Alia Airport, Amman, Jordan (AMM)
9. Guararapes-Gilberto Freyre International Airport, Recife, Brazil (REC)
10. Quito International Airport, Quito, Ecuador (UIO)

The Worst Airports of 2018

132. Eindhoven Airport, Eindhoven, Netherlands (EIN)
133. Bordeaux Merignac, Bordeaux, France (BOD)
134. Edinburgh Airport, Edinburgh (EDI)
135. Boryspil International Airport, Kiev, Ukraine (KBP)
136. Manchester Airport, Manchester, United Kingdom (MAN)
137. Stockholm Bromma Airport, Stockholm (BMA)
138. Paris Orly, Paris (ORY)
139. Lyon–Saint-Exupéry Airport, Lyon, France (LYS)
140. London Stansted Airport, London (STN)
141. Kuwait International Airport, Farwaniya, Kuwait (KWI)

One note of optimism: Raiteri says most airlines and airports that descended in the rankings this year did so because the marketplace is becoming more competitive, not because their individual performance is declining.

“What we mostly see is improvement, to be honest,” he tells Bloomberg. “Most airlines have been late to recognising their responsibility, but after all the publicity that United got last year, we’re seeing airlines taking a much different approach to dealing with passengers.”

For both airlines and airports, he says, “We don’t see folks falling in rank due to poor performance, but because another entity is doing better and pushing them down.” Consider it a silver lining the next time you’re stranded at the gate.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, and Remuneration needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: IOL [1]. Image sources: Terence Ong [1].

Why You Should Use a Relocation Provider and What to Look For

Relocating employees can be a time-consuming, costly, and confusing process. But it doesn’t have to be. Making use of a Relocation Service Provider has numerous advantages for your business. We asked our Director, Rene, for an overview of the reasons you should do so, and what to consider when looking for the best service provider for your needs.

What would you say are some of the downsides to a company deciding to manage relocating their employees in-house?

Companies could end up spending 80% of their time on 20% of their employees. Unless all those relocating are going to the same location, it’s difficult to build resources and have a bank of information about each location when not using experts in each of those locations. In contrast to Destination Service Providers, companies might not have capability to negotiate on behalf of their employees. Human Resources’ time could be better spent – potentially making the business more money and developing employees.

What are some advantages to using a Relocation Provider?

Focused knowledge, expertise, and support along the journey. There are also potential cost and time savings due to the reasons mentioned above.

What should I look for when choosing a provider?

Don’t only look at cost – it’s only one factor. A successful assignment has other elements to it. Consider compliance – whether the provider has all the necessary checks and balances, such as ISO 9001 and industry quality standards. An example is whether a provider has reached the audit requirements to gain the EuRA Global Quality Seal (EGQS). Also look into how long the provider has existed for, and judge whether they are likely to continue to be in existence when you need them a few years into the future.

Look into how they vet and recruit their people, as well as whether they have the required insurance. Get feedback from previous clients of theirs, and, if possible, perform a site visit to see if what they are saying about their presence in a location is accurate. Consider their alliances and memberships, such as with The International Relocation Associates (TIRA).

Finally, there is a big difference between a mover and Destination Service Provider (DSP), and there can be confusion in the industry. DSPs focus on people, not boxes. It is important to understand exactly what the provider does, and where its focus areas are and capabilities lie.

What should I do if I’m struggling to work with my current provider?

Ultimately you want to fix the problem. Partner appropriately – remember you are both trying to service the client (assignee) as best as possible. Focus on bringing things back from red to amber to green as soon as possible. Work together to solve the problem, rather than pointing fingers. Consider whether the problem is a first, or a repeating one, before considering moving to a new provider. Resolve the issue in the best interests of the assignee.

Is it best to go with a global company, or one that is located in and specializes in the area I’m interested in?

It is definitely better to use a regional provider – one located in the country the assignee/s will be moving to, as it is too broad for one global provider to have expert experience in every area. If, for example, you are moving employees into or around Africa, use a provider that has years of experience focused on that continent.

Any insights on industry trends happening right now?

One trend is the shift from longer-term programs to shorter-term programs. Another is finding ways to add value for assignees and clients by using available technology and data. There is a general trend of companies disproportionately placing price over value, quality of service, and compliance. This needs to be considered in terms of risk aversion, taking new legislation such as GDPR into account, as well as long-term success working with the provider, in order to enhance the true overall value of using an expert.

 

So there you have it. Using a trusted Relocation Provider can not only save you time and money, but help prevent unforeseen problems with relocating employees around the globe. With over 25 years of experience across the African continent, Relocation Africa would be happy to assist you with your mobility needs, and help you embrace the unknown.

 

Sources: [1]. Image sources: Kyle Glenn on Unsplash [1].

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, and Remuneration needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.