October Covid-19 Africa Update
When the Australian borders initially closed back in March, we put out a statement encouraging the travel industry to stay strong. We understood that the situation was serious, but we also knew that, like most things, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. After all, we have been through 51 years of our own ups and downs, from the low points like the Ebola outbreak and the Zimbabwe crash to high points like our 50th anniversary celebrations last year.
Our calculations based on previous crises determined that although this situation wouldn’t be great for our business (or our industry) we were in a strong financial position to patiently wait it out. What we hadn’t imagined, however, was quite how long this situation would drag on for, and as time has plodded on and borders remain closed, we have had to fine-tune our strategy.
And so whilst our entire staff has remained with us throughout the past 6 months, unfortunately, due to all of the factors out of our control we have had to deviate from our original plan to ensure we continue on as a robust company into the future, however long that this may endure. This has resulted in having to say a sad farewell to a few cherished members of our close-knit team. This has been a very painful process, as these are the same friends with whom we sat around the campfire last year in South Africa when life seemed so easy. These are the same team members with whom we have shared all our ups and downs. And these are also the same individuals we will look to rehire when we can ultimately return to business as usual.
Bench Africa remains in a stable financial position as we await the inevitable end to restrictions. We are already seeing signs of a return to normality, with African borders beginning to open up again, subject, of course, to strict conditions for entry. It’s these well-established protocols that saw East and Southern Africa entirely evade the Ebola pandemic in 2014. In general, Africa's statistics are comparatively remarkable and their response to the pandemic is noteworthy. Despite having over a population of one billion, Africa’s figures are the second-lowest in the world, second only to Oceania. Although I’ve seen explanations thrown about as to why this may be the case, with everything from young populations to parasitic worms, I believe that the African nations simply learned from previous experience and were well prepared to react quickly, and with more remote communities they have sidestepped the issues that affected major developed nations. I recall a friend from Africa saying once that whenever something bad happens in Africa, it’s the fault of Africa. However, whenever something goes right in Africa, it’s just luck or a miracle rather than a sign of any success on Africa’s part. I, however, believe in giving credit where credit is due.
We are proud to watch the nations of Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Mauritius, Namibia and Egypt really stepping up to the plate, having been awarded the WTTC Safe Travel Stamp in recognition of their implementation of global, standardised health and hygiene protocols – meeting the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards. This certainly was not by luck!
Bench Africa looks forward to welcoming tourists back to Africa. It is, after all already set up perfectly for post-pandemic travel; open spaces, low population density and well-practised safety protocols make visiting Africa a perfect proposition. Most importantly, the very reason we return to Africa still remains. The safari experience is as amazing as it ever was and that hasn’t changed since the human world shut down. As most other destinations are frantically making changes, rethinking how they do things and offering alternatives to their core attractions, Africa is already the perfect set up. After all, an elephant is an elephant, whether or not you are wearing a mask. We won’t be sanitising the leopards after each sighting. The lions will keep their distance.
Back in March, I likened the pandemic to a drought. I said that food would be scarce and that every day would be a challenge but that like most droughts, it would end and that the rains would wash away the dust. I still know that to be true. We at Bench Africa will be here to see it happen. We may be leaner, hungrier and a little irritated that the rain took so long, but we will be here.
We hope you will be there with us.
Onward we go.
Let’s wait for the rain.