I write this article just five days after the Brexit vote, following a torrent of negative and divisive emails from friend and foe. And it’s got worse – England knocked out of the Euros by Iceland, a country with a third of the population of Swaziland! No Europe, no prime minister and no football. “Woe, woe and thrice woe!”
As many of you know, Atta is based in London and I can report that the vote to leave Europe has left us reeling from uncertainty. For many years I have watched African countries tear themselves apart after elections, smug in the knowledge that it could never happen here under the watchful eye of Big Ben. But it has, with families divided down the middle. In many cases our young voted to stay and the older, more cynical, to leave. But let’s forget all the razzmatazz about immigration and national sovereignty. Yes, it was partly about that, and indeed over 17 million voted to leave the European Union. But I am not so sure that is the whole story. I suspect if there was another vote, and there will not be, it would go the other way. ‘Remain’ would win as I believe that at least 20% only voted ‘out’ in protest against the status quo. We are, in truth, a nation deeply divided, a total misconnect between the impoverished north and the rich south with a deep mistrust of the upper class in Armani suits running our country. Until that fault is recognised by our London-based rulers, we will get nowhere. We now need a strong leader, socially acceptable to all classes, who can unite our island from north to south and move forward, a cry that has rebounded across many African countries after so many divisive elections.
And for those sending out torrents of emails calling for a re-run, I say “there is no going back”. I very much doubt there could be a second vote; it appears constitutionally impossible. We “are where we are” and it is time to pull together, setting an example in difficult times. Let’s stop this hysterical right wing rant fuelled across social media which is backward thinking, childish and unproductive.
We must look on the positive side, stocks out but bonds in, all good for UK reserves, which are getting stronger, fantastic for exports and a great time for overseas investors strong in dollars. One fund manager even told me that they are cash rich and poised to pile in at these lower levels.
So where is tourism to Africa in all this? Certainly a weak pound is a problem to an industry predominantly priced in dollars (except South Africa). In an early-morning call today, one East African operator reported that they would now quote in pounds to support the UK, which remains their strongest market, the case across many sub-Saharan countries promoting tourism. Interestingly, a poll of African-focused UK tour operators this week revealed few cancellations as yet and bookings to Africa continue to be strong.
For once the problem is our end not in Africa. The leaders of our tourism industry in the UK must set an example, be positive and move on, accepting a democratic decision that has been made. After all, as Rudyard Kipling said, if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, and if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too, then yours is the Earth and everything that's in it. (Except of course Iceland)