Accidents abroad: Britons killed in Africa

Full marks to the FCO press office for getting back to me so quickly on my latest request to unpick the broad-brush data in their “British Behaviour Abroad” report – this time with a country-by-country breakdown of the 386 Britons who died accidentally between March 2010 and March 2011. The list is slightly oddly sorted, by number, but easy enough to scan.

The African figures amount to 42 people in 15 countries. Again, like the murder figures in my previous post, it seems a reassuringly small number considering the total number of visits by British passport-holders to all 59 African states and territories. And it’s the same proportion of the global total – 42 out of 386, or 11% – so there seems to be nothing intrinsically out of the ordinary about the safety of travel in Africa.

It’s worth pointing out that these figures include all British passport-holders, whether they stayed for a day or a year, including permanent residents – which presumably explains the relatively high figure from South Africa, home to a sizeable British community.

I don’t have up-to-date British visitor numbers for every country, but South Africa gets about 500,000 British visitors (and has more than 200,000 British residents) and Egypt more than 1 million visitors from the UK. Apart from Kenya, which receives around 200,000 British visitors, and has around 30,000 British residents, the other African countries below each host a few tens of thousands of Brits each year, or in some cases less.

Of course, it’s morbidly fascinating to compare the murder and accidental death figures. Globally, an average of one Briton is murdered abroad for every six who die accidentally. In Spain the ratio is less than 1 in 8, in South Africa it’s 1 in 4, while in Pakistan Brits are five times more likely to be murdered than to die accidentally (11 to 2). Can that really be true?

There’s probably nothing statistically valid about these observations as the numbers are too small, but they’re interesting none the less. And from the African travel perspective, the small numbers have to be good news.

Next FCO request:  a country-by-country breakdown of the 2174 “Deaths by Unknown Causes”. Now that seems a high figure.

Country Death – Accidental
Spain 59
Thailand 35
France 29
USA 22
South Africa 17
Germany 14
Greece 14
Australia 13
United Arab Emirates 13
Cyprus 11
Turkey 10
Switzerland 9
Portugal 7
India 6
New Zealand 6
China 4
Jordan 4
Malta 4
Peru 4
Serbia 4
Sri Lanka 4
Austria 3
Barbados 3
Brazil 3
Canada 3
Democratic Republic of Congo  3
Egypt 3
Ireland 3
Italy 3
Nepal 3
Netherlands 3
Saudi Arabia 3
Vietnam 3
Bahrain 2
Belgium 2
Denmark 2
Iraq 2
Jamaica 2
Kenya 2
Nigeria 2
Pakistan 2
Philippines 2
Romania 2
Sierra Leone 2
Sweden 2
Taiwan 2
Tanzania 2
Uganda 2
Zambia 2
Afghanistan 1
Bangladesh 1
Belize 1
British Virgin Islands 1
Bulgaria 1
Cayman Islands 1
Costa Rica 1
Dominican Republic 1
Ethiopia 1
Finland 1
Ghana 1
Hungary 1
Indonesia 1
Iran 1
Libya 1
Lithuania 1
Mexico 1
Montenegro 1
Norway 1
Poland 1
Rwanda 1
Singapore 1
Slovakia 1
St Lucia 1
Sudan 1
Trinidad & Tobago 1
Tunisia 1
Ukraine 1
Zimbabwe 1
Grand Total            386

About Richard Trillo

I'm the author of Rough Guides to Kenya, Madagascar and West Africa, and co-author of Rough Guides to First-Time Africa and The Gambia. I was formerly editor of the African chapters of the Rough Guide to World Music. The blogs for Kenya, West Africa and First-Time Africa are a way for me to post news for readers and for readers to keep in touch with me and with info from other travellers, posting updates, news and comments. Or that's the idea. To be honest the blogs barely get any attention from me these days. I am the East Africa Manager at the safari tour operator Expert Africa and was previously a freelance writer, editor and PR consultant, and before that Director of Communications at the publisher Rough Guides.
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2 Responses to Accidents abroad: Britons killed in Africa

  1. I did similar analysis for US outbound travelers for my previous job. Chance of US traveler while abroad dying from non-natural causes was 1:70,000 for 2009 figures. That’s the same likelihood as dating a supermodel apparently (or drowning or dying in a house fire). Highest rated country was Philippines, with a 1 in 35,000 chance of being killed based on the number of US visitors per incident. Vehicle accidents (249), Homicide (190), “other accidents” (133), drowning (119) and then suicide (114) is how they broke down in terms of frequency – strong relationship between vehicle accidents and drowning in popular holiday destinations and Germany had the most suicides for some reason. I would be surprised if something similar wasn’t true too with British travelers.

  2. Thanks for this, Ruraigh. Those figures sound high considering Americans only get two weeks annual leave.

    Interestingly, the average chance of an American citizen being a victim of homicide in the course of a year is 5 per 100,000, or 1 in 20,000.

    That is an annual rate though. You’d have to know the average length of an American’s stay abroad to be able to compare the risk of travel abroad with that of staying at home and having to face domestic murderers. And the biggest issue with all these stats is being confident of comparing like with like.

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