Better safe than sorry: the value of preparation

Karim Ibrahim, Security Specialist, London


Global Situation

2020 has been a year full of uncertainties and volatility, significantly but not exclusively impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals, organisations and governments around the world have been impacted by the pandemic, which essentially grounded international business travel to a standstill and has posed significant business and operational challenges. Many countries in West Africa are, however, dealing with an additional layer of complexity: closely contested elections. As polls in Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger and others approach in the coming weeks and months, it is necessary to monitor developments and identify local triggers for unrest and instability in both the short and long term. 
International SOS understands this and is closely monitoring these election-related developments in order to provide comprehensive analysis and operational assessments in the context of shifting COVID-19 restrictions and socio-political and economic implications, for both domestic movement and essential travel to these countries. 



Actionable Insight 

Our 24/7 London-based regional security centre, which covers West Africa, is keeping an eye on all election-related developments on the ground and producing alerts to inform, advise and support appropriate preparation. By identifying key dates, planned associated protests, flashpoints for unrest and key mobilising figures, our election coverage ensures that the element of surprise is kept to a minimum. For instance, our pre-election alerting on Guinea has included providing key dates in the electoral calendar, highlighting the potential for violence as well as likely flashpoints for unrest. We have sought to anticipate potential impromptu protests and advised to minimise movement in Conakry upon the release of results.  


This is further supported by our forward-looking reporting, comprising of weekly regional security forecasts, monthly security forecasts and insight reports. Whether it is by looking at the near-term or the longer-term security environment, our forecasting aims to provide timely and actionable information to enable our manager audience to plan and prepare rather than react and protect their people and assets.


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Additional Mitigation Steps Solutions / Client Specific Plans and Matrices 

We also understand that each organisation and their mission is unique and face different challenges. This is where we are also able to aid our clients with their preparedness and business continuity through bespoke consulting solutions, to include escalation and evacuation matrices and plans. Undoubtedly, planning and preparation has historically been key for members operating in some of these locations, though future security challenges must now be looked at through the lens of the current COVID-19 landscape. Are current plans up-to-date and actionable with present-day COVID-19 restrictions, that include border closures, PCR test requirements and restricted entry for many nationalities? 


Our COVID-19 pandemic information site on travel and domestic restrictions, flight operations and screening for each country has been recognised internationally for its scope, level of detail and up-to-date information. This critical information has also enabled us to review the feasibility of evacuation plans, escalation and business continuity triggers and in recommending secure accommodation. Our team’s experience and expertise, and our extensive network of contacts on the ground enable us to continue to provide information, analysis and advice for all types of scenarios, and to adapt plans to the current local environment. 


COVID-19 has proven that more than ever that while preparation is key, a one-off plan will not suffice. Be it an election linked to socio-political instability or a snowballing protest movement, or a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or wildfires, preparation is a continuous process which should be constantly remodeled depending on the changing circumstances to ensure relevance and resilience.


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