Global kidnappings increased by 50% from 2020 to 2021. Martin Boreham considers what can be done to mitigate the risk.
Kidnappings have been a widespread security issue for many decades and are an ongoing global challenge that affect all levels of society whether rich or poor, and Africa is no exception. Kidnapping is used not only as a political means or to finance illegal activities, but increasingly also for monetary gain, hence the emergence of the “kidnapping for business” concept where hostages are recognised for their market value.
Global kidnappings increased by 50% from 2020 to 2021. Many incidents are unreported, and the true figures are likely higher still. Several factors have contributed towards the growth of “kidnapping for business” including unequal distribution of wealth, rising political instability and declining state authority. The latter allowed organised crime as well as smaller criminal groups to flourish and provided an opportunity for bad actors to use this modus operandi to finance their livelihoods and activities. The primary target for this crime is local nationals, with 97% of kidnap victims being local people.
The African operating environment can be complex, with Sub-Saharan Africa alone accounting for 37% of global kidnappings with a few locations contributing to its high rates, including Nigeria, South Africa, The Sahel, Mozambique and The Democratic Republic of the Congo. Cases of kidnapping involve rural and urban areas, and everyone is deemed vulnerable as opposed to exclusively foreign nationals and top local business executives. An upward trajectory can be observed across the Continent. For example, The South African Police Service registered an increase in reported cases of c. 32% from 2015 to 2020, and recently it registered a 109.2% increase from January to March 2022 versus 2021 alone which could be attributed to greater mobility following the relaxation of Covid-19 related travel restrictions.
Raising awareness to avoid complacency in response to a real risk
Kidnapping remains underreported due to the delicate nature of a hostage negotiation. The protection against this risk remains with the individuals or companies to do their best to reduce the risk of an incident by taking relevant security precautions, however, should the worst materialise, Kidnap and Ransom (K&R) insurance becomes an essential element in assisting both companies and families, noting that more than 97% of kidnappings handled by professional negotiators are successfully resolved.
The need for insurance protection and crisis management support is crucial to respond to the upward trajectory of kidnappings seen across Africa. K&R and Security Risk insurance can strengthen the possibility of a positive outcome and reduce financial pressures whilst simultaneously reducing potential future incidents.
Martin Boreham is Head of Liability Underwriting, K&R and Security Risks at Africa Specialty Risks, a risk mitigation specialist in Africa.