The elite hotels of Africa serve as an interface between the tribal, religious, social and cultural aspects of Africa and the global uniformity of international business culture. They are also the places where the unseen resources of many African countries – oil, diamonds, minerals – are bartered away behind closed doors. These are environments which have a strangely hybrid quality – their design, their cuisine, musak and global TV echoing ‘international’ standards. Yet they are ultimately sites of tension, where cultures collide and conflict.
At the same time, however, these hotels are viewed by their local communities as symbols of achievement which contradict the more usual representations of Africa. Far from being despised as enclaves of the rich, these hotels have become ‘objects of desire’, the dream venue for weddings and where to be invited to a business conference is to have reached the pinnacle of success. And for most hotel employees there is the reassurance of wages that are higher than they could earn elsewhere and therefore their duties are carried out with pride and self-assurance.