The Safari Experts

Crime in Africa


Contrary to commonly held pre-conceptions, crime is no more of a problem in most of Africa than it is in many other parts of the world. But it is something of which you need to be aware and act accordingly.

You should be able to minimise your exposure to violent attack, kidnap and political unrest simply by avoiding certain areas at certain times. This applies to both the process of planning your trip and to the way in which you behave whilst travelling.

For information on other types of risk refer to our section on safety.

For specific travel advice on crime we recommend that you refer to government advisory services such as these ...

Australia : Department of Foreign Affaris and Trade.
Canada : Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
UK : Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
USA : State Department of State.

Theft ...

In most parts of Africa foreigners are treated with great respect. If you stick to sensible neighbourhoods at sensible times of day then your chances of encountering robbery or theft are relatively low.

But it is important to realise that as an international visitor you will probably stick out like a sore thumb ... local people will recognise you for what you are, a rich foreigner.

Most of the people that you encounter survive on a fraction of the income that you do. A decent wage in many Africa countries can be as little as US$3 per day and many people don't even have a job as good as that. Furthermore most countries do not have a social security system, so people who are out of work are compelled to scratch a living in some way or another. So before you step out into the streets, try adding up the value of everything that you have on you ... watch, camera, jewellery, cash ... and then multiply that amount by 30 times and see what it comes to. Now imagine what would happen if you walked around in your home country with everyone knowing you have US$50,000 to US$100,000 on you. When you think about it like that, it is remarkable that there is not a lot more crime.

So please think twice about carrying valuables in Africa. Leave your cash in a safe at your lodge. Leave your expensive watches and jewellery at home if you can. Never make an overt display of your wealth, be modest. It is the sensible and decent thing to do.

It might be worth mentioning here that, in our experience, hotel safes are usually very secure. We have never experienced a robbery from a room safe. But we have experienced at least one robbery from the kind of safe which is held in reception and we urge you to be sure to get a clear and accurate receipt for anything that you hand over.

So far as which areas need to be avoided, it is largely a matter of common sense. Avoid areas where large crowds gather. Expect more hassle at transport hubs such as ports, airports, railway and bus stations. Avoid travelling at night, especially in towns and cities. Generally speaking, the more rural the location, the less chance of incident.

It is also recommended that you are careful when walking alone on remote beaches. Generally speaking there is nothing to worry about, but certain stretches of beach have gained a reputation for robberies. Always ask at the lodge for the latest advice before wandering off.

If you need to visit these higher risk areas, then either travel by car. If you have to travel on foot, such as in Stone Town in Zanzibar, then pay for an askari, guide or guard to accompany you.

Violent attack ...

Incidents of violent attack on foreign visitors are extremely rare. Use the same precautions as above. Particularly avoid areas where people may be drunk, such as village beer breweries on a Sunday afternoon, football matches or any other type of fiesta where the regular crowds have subsided and only the worse for wear remain.

Kidnap ...

There have been several high profile incidents involving Somali pirates, both on land in northern Kenya and the north Kenya coast, as well as further afield across the Indian Ocean. Please refer to your governmental travel advice for updates.

Political unrest ...

The democratic process does not always run smoothly in Africa and considerable unrest can arise during election time.

The most notable events took place in Kenya in late 2007, when around 800 people were killed and up to 600,000 displaced. Whilst this violence did not ultimately pose a threat to international visitors, it did cause considerable travel disruption and loss of earnings for the Kenyan tourist industry. We were in country shortly after and encountered no problems at all.

There were similar but much less serious events in Zanzibar in 2002, but ultimately this caused only minor inconvenience to international visitors.

If you want to be ultra-cautious over this issue, then you can always avoid visiting countries during their election periods, but a more usual course of action is to simply avoid all political rallies.
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