When you’ve been in Africa for a while, you become more aware of all the things that can happen unexpectedly. You’re always on your guard here, knowing that something might happen and that you should try to avoid it.

Many Africans still believe in black magic, ghosts of the past and in witchcraft. We see it at our own company. The stories I hear from some of the workers sometimes make me wonder what kind of world I ended up in. And the truth is that these beliefs are widely accepted. Sometimes leading to practices in which children and albinos mysteriously disappear and are sacrificed for ritual killings.

I find that so unreal and it makes me wonder who exactly is involved in these things. Even when you’re just driving around here, you’re always on high alert. Why has that car been behind me for 5 minutes now, why is it following me at each turn, who are they? Natural questions to ask yourself when you know that car drivers are mugged all the time.

You might not be consciously thinking of it, but unconsciously, you’re always keeping an eye out. Everyone in Africa knows at least one person who let go for a minute, whose thoughts were elsewhere for a moment. That kind of thing can be fatal here. And this state of alertness stays with you, even when you’re back in the Netherlands. Once you’ve developed it, it doesn’t go away.

You’re constantly questioning why things happen the way they do. In Africa you really learn to read between the lines. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is just what it is or as it’s said. Everything has a double meaning and many conversations contain a hidden message. Concealing their messages like this is something the Africans are very good at.

The Dutch on the other hand, aren’t able to do it at all. They’re as transparent as can be. Even if they try to be more convoluted, they still can’t help being totally straightforward. It seems that he African way of talking is in people’s genes – it’s been passed on from generation to generation. At least you know what to expect. That’s the only constant in this otherwise unpredictable continent.

Feico Smit,

General manager, Royal van Zanten Uganda