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African roads less travelled

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African roads less travelled
Our logistics does not always work out as we planned. Here we found ourselves stuck in the town of Luacano in the Moxico Province of Angola. Image credit: Leon Louw for WhyAfrica.

African roads less travelled

The WhyAfrica Road Trip concept was born more than 23 years ago on a winding dirt road in remote Namibia.

By Leon Louw, owner of WhyAfrica and editor of the WhyAfrica magazine

Our unscheduled stop happened about 60km from Rundu on the way to Divundu in the Caprivi Strip. In the truck were international visitors, including journalists, photographers, tourists, academics, and potential investors.

The 14-seater Nissan Cabstar suddenly came to a grinding halt, milliseconds after I heard a muted thump from the engine block underneath the truck cabin.

The acrid smell of burnt oil and diesel confirmed my suspicion that the crankshaft, pistons, and engine block were damaged beyond repair. We were not going anywhere.

It was my first trip as expedition leader tasked with gathering information in the Caprivi after tourism numbers dwindled following a gruesome attack on a French family near Rundu. Sadly, the ambush, suspected to have been carried out by Unita rebels from Angola, claimed the lives of all three young children while their parents were both seriously wounded.

Being stranded next to the main road at this time was not ideal. The only solution I could think of then, was to ask the group to grab drinks and wait in the shade of the closest Amarula tree, while I (being extremely fit at the time), would run to get assistance.

About 6km back towards Rundu, I veered off the tarred road and took a winding sand road that I hoped would eventually lead to a village.

WhyAfrica’s seeds planted (African roads less travelled)

It was during this run, on a scorching hot day, two o’clock in the afternoon, more than 23 years ago, that the idea of WhyAfrica and WhyAfrica’s Road Trips was born. At least, that’s when the seeds were planted.

Our experience in the Caprivi Strip was the exact opposite of what we expected. Before departure, we read and heard about the risks, the dangers, the security concerns, the hostility, the bad roads, the crime, the unfavourable economic indicators and, of course, the rampant corruption.

What we found was totally different. Desk top studies and reports in the international media, and in some cases even in the local media, was not a true reflection of what was happening on the ground.

Yes, we knew it was not an ideal world, it never is. There was lingering tension as fighting in Angola, a stone’s throw away on the other side of the Kavango River, resumed and the Unita rebels under Jonas Savimbi made their last stand.

What we realised though is that talking to stakeholders on the ground gives one real insight into the issues at hand, the true and perceived risks, opportunities, and solutions.

Solutions when you least expect it (African roads less travelled)

I continued running through thick sand until, after about 2km on this dirt road, I reached a small school. The teacher stopped her morning history lesson immediately when she saw me through the window. She came running out with a big glass of water, and after listening to my story, gave me the keys to her old, rusted Pickup standing in the shade of a towering Camelthorn tree.

Before resuming class, she told me with a big smile on her face that I could return the vehicle the next day.

I drove back to our truck, loaded the group and their luggage on the back, and returned to Rundu, where we slept and got further assistance.

I’ve found the same kindness, trust, and helpfulness in people on numerous occasions when travelling through Africa.

For example, local Damara people allowed our group to camp in their village and gave us all food when the vehicle got stuck for two days in the mud of a retreating Ugab River close to the Brandberg, also in Namibia.

We’ve slept in a Bayei village on the way to Serongo in remote Botswana for four days when the annual floods damaged the road, and at another time stayed over in Basotho huts high in the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho when a snowstorm made it impossible to continue the trip.

Every so often I return to the village in the Caprivi Strip. The teacher who helped me has moved on, but the school is still there. A framed picture in the headmaster’s office reminds me of what the village looked like 23 years ago, when the school was just established. “The school has grown significantly, and the kids are thriving,” the headmaster told me during a recent visit.

Telling a good story (African roads less travelled)

Development has come to Africa, and not an inch is spared. In 2022, during the first WhyAfrica Road Trip, I visited Kavango East and the Caprivi Strip again, this time with Recon Africa, a Canadian exploration company operating close to Rundu.

To get to Recon’s project site we had to use the same road I ran on to get to the tiny school 23 years ago. It is now a wide, two-laned, well-maintained gravel road, and many of the traditional African huts have made way for rudimentary blue and green abodes – the zinc plates used in building these houses supplied by a group of enterprising Chinese businessmen.

As a journalist, and later editor, covering African mining, business in Africa and current African affairs, the most important aspects of a good article for me was not the grammar, or the structure, or the punctuation of the article.

It was getting my boots dirty and experience what I was writing about firsthand. When you have not ventured 3km down a mine shaft in a cage packed to the brim with shift workers or tasted coal on your lips on a windy winter’s day in the pit, it is difficult to tell that story accurately.

Telling the story is what the annual WhyAfrica Road Trip is all about. During our 40-day overland expedition through five or six African countries, we travel light and remote, and seek out the roads less travelled.

During our adventure, we take on calculated risks, manage unexpected risks, and gather the original, to-the-point and on-the- ground information and business intelligence that our readers, members, and followers need, while photographing and recording our experience, sharing the information, and ultimately telling the real African story.

Prepare for WhyAfrica’s 2024 Road Trip (African roads less travelled)

In July and August this year, WhyAfrica will embark on our third consecutive WhyAfrica Road Trip after numerous requests by WhyAfrica members, readers, partners, sponsors, advertisers, and followers to make it an annual event following the extremely successful Road Trips in 2022 and 2023.

This year we will attempt to visit more than 30 projects sites and interview about 46 stakeholders in less than 40 days, traversing five African countries and covering more than 9000km.

During this year’s WhyAfrica Road Trip we plan to drive overland through the Limpopo Province of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, and Tanzania.

The project sites that we visit are mostly in the mining, exploration, quarrying, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy, infrastructure, cement, concrete, ESG, water management, environmental management and the travel and tourism sectors.

At the same time, we look at biodiversity, conservation, carbon emissions, sustainability and consider the impact of climate change and extreme weather events.

During our trip we interview ministers, business leaders, government representatives, business associations, NGOs, labour unions, ordinary workers, community leaders, members of local communities and entrepreneurs that make a difference on the ground.

We compile a large library of video clips and photos in the process, some of which will be used in our Road Trip Review magazine in November and in our Road Trip coffee table book that will be printed early in 2025. Most of our images and videos can be viewed on WhyAfrica’s Instagram account and on our YouTube channel.

We expect to once again attract a large, targeted audience who follows the WhyAfrica Road Trip on various platforms during the event.

In a first this year, WhyAfrica members will be able to follow us on our WhyAfrica Road Trip WhatsApp channel, will be able to track us with new technology, and could, with the necessary permission, join us virtually for some site visits and live interviews. Members interact during our trip and can even ask question during some of our interviews. To become a member, all you need to do is head to our website for more information.

This year our unique project is backed and endorsed by the Mozambique Chamber of Mines and several associations, ministries and business chambers in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, and Tanzania.

We believe that the 2024 WhyAfrica Road Trip provides a unique opportunity for companies to benefit from any one of our partnership or membership opportunities.  If you are interested in partnering with WhyAfrica during our 2024 WhyAfrica Road Trip, or you would like to join WhyAfrica as a member, please contact us as soon as possible.

As a partner and sponsor, you will get the following:

  • Great branding and marketing opportunity
  • On the ground business intelligence about the countries that we visit
  • Free access to the WhyAfrica WhatsApp channel where you will get regular updates about the Road Trip in real time.
  • In-depth review reports about the Road Trip which includes possible opportunities, leads, and risks.
  • De-brief face to face meeting with WhyAfrica after the Road Trip
  • Free entry and opportunity to distribute marketing material at the WhyAfrica Road Trip networking event the night before departure.
  • Opportunity to present at the Road Trip Networking event.
  • A digital gift pack with images and videos of the Road Trip
  • Double page advertisement in Road Trip Preview and Road Trip Review magazines.
  • Four-page editorial in the Road Trip Preview and Road Review magazines.
  • Marketing material in the Road Trip pack that gets distributed at project sites during the Road Trip.
  • Banners on the WhyAfrica website and in our bi-weekly newsletter
  • A mention of your company’s name on social media, in magazines and in newsletters with links to your website.
  • Sharing of any leads or opportunities relevant to the sponsor
  • Contact us for more information

African roads less travelled

African roads less travelled
Book with Endorphin Expeditions. We create African adventures. https://endorphinexpeditions.co.za/contact/


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AgricultureEnvironmental Management & Climate ChangeEnergyESGInfrastructureMiningPolitical EconomyTourism and ConservationWater Management