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Dereck Joubert on Ebola and Africa

EXTRACT FROM THE FOLLOWING THIRD PARTY SOURCE: Written by Dereck Joubert for The Huffington Post

Africa is a continent, not a country, and it is big! I cannot tell you how often I meet someone and tell them I am from Botswana, and they ask if I know so and so, “I think he lives in Uganda.”

There has been a wave of hysteria in the media about Ebola and how it is raging through Africa. I want to tell you that it is not! “The Killer African Disease” and other banner headlines in red with dripping blood graphics are unbelievable. So it is worth addressing some of this hysteria around Ebola and Africa.

First of all everything I say here is in the context of deep sympathy for anyone who has a family member or friend infected. At the same time, information about this, and every calamity is very important. To be of any use, it needs to be accurate and in context.

Africa is a huge continent that stretches wider than the USA, (4 350 miles versus the 3 400 miles of the USA) and twice as deep, from north to south, as the USA (4 500 miles versus the 2 600 miles of the USA). In fact the USA, China and Europe can all fit inside Africa’s landmass.

The USA is about 3.7 million square miles, Africa is 11.67 million square miles, more than THREE times larger. To suggest that one city or country in Africa is unsafe because another on the same continent has Ebola is clearly ridiculous. The virus is isolated to a few spots within very few countries in Africa: Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

Africa has over 42 independent countries, each with its own economy, executive structure, language, health care systems, currencies, independent airlines etc. To travel between countries you require a passport, unlike the European Union, or states in the USA or even countries in North America. These are so uniquely different that cultures are different and even wildlife is so diverse that for example the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda have mountain gorillas, and yet 4 500km to the south Botswana does not even have mountains!

In the 36-year history of Ebola there has not been a single case in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, and in fact most countries, while there have been cases in the USA and Europe (Spain).

Many people are canceling travel to Africa as a result and out of fear of contracting the virus. Some prefer to avoid Cape Town, or Johannesburg, thinking that if it is in Africa, it’s trouble!

When in March 2014 Ebola raised its head again, countries like Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania put in place strict screening processes for all arrivals and in Botswana, it stopped ALL travel from West Africa to ensure that it stayed Ebola free. This move was made six months before similar conditions were initiated in the USA.

There are, as a result, more cases in the USA and Europe than in East Africa, (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania) or Southern Africa, (Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland) as there has NOT been a single case in these regions.

There is US$200 billion-a-year tourism flowing through Africa, money that supports economies and communities which is often the only thing that keeps people above the breadline. If you ask anyone in Africa what is important to them it will be jobs, and the future of their children. Ignorance about Ebola can lead to an epidemic of poaching just to survive.

The isolation of Africa condemns Africans. The environment is intangible and irrelevant in a life where community, family and finally self is all important in a struggle for survival.

News Desk

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  • Susan Carnahan

    Stupid Americans generalize to the point of ridiculous! I would be in Southern Africa now if I could afford it!

  • Gatin

    I’am in the airport right now, waiting my plane to Tanzania
    Woop woop woop

  • Dorothy

    I don’t think Susan Carnahan should use the word stupid when discussing Americans, I am an American and I am not stupid.
    I have been to Tanzania twice and would love to go again as soon as I can afford to. I just read Mr Joubert’s article and I hope a lot more people will read it and understand.
    Gatin have an awesome trip must say wish it were me.

  • SD

    Good article. Interesting that everyone finds Africa difficult to afford? It has become a very expensive continent to visit and Ebola fears may at least halt the extravagant price rises. Personally I go at least twice a year and I like to give to the locals but I am thinking of cutting back due to price rises not Ebola!! Food for thought?

    • Not sure where you normally go SD but South Africa has always remained extremely affordable, being priced in local currency (Rand) instead of USD like most other African countries. And right now the exchange rate of R11 to $1 makes South Africa even more affordable. Perhaps what makes a trip to Africa expensive is the long haul flight, it is rather expensive to get here but once in SA you can enjoy a fantastic itinerary for any budget level.

  • Kat

    Calling Americans stupid Susan Carnahan is as ridiculous as believing Ebola is all over Africa. I am an American who lives in Australia, planning a trip to South Africa next year.

  • Corne Schalkwyk

    Great informative article – Much appreciated, as we desperately need to inform the world of the impact of an unofficial boycott in travel to most parts of Africa. The impact on conservation that is linked to tourism will be incredibly destructive to our protected areas.

  • Phyllis Elias

    Wonderful article that I hope will be read by many who seem to think ‘Africa’ is smaller than it truly is. American’s rarely understand the geography of anywhere in the world unless they have invaded it!

  • Becca

    I’m American and planning a trip to South Africa next year. I’ve been asked if I’m afraid of getting Ebola while there. The best way I’ve learned to answer it is to tell people I’m more afraid of being needlessly quarantined upon my return to the states due to the ill-informed and misguided policies of some U.S. state governments. I’m also going to share this article via social networking in hopes that one person may be more informed that before. Thanks Dereck!

    • Great to hear Becca, yes we hear this a lot, there is a lot of ignorance and misunderstanding out there about Africa and about Ebola. Great article by Dereck, definitely worth sharing on social media, we’ve already shared it on our FB page. We also published a number of similar blog posts and helpful maps on our own website to put things in perspective. I don’t think I can post the links here but you can easily google it.
      Onne from Wild Wings Safaris

      • Becca

        Thanks Onne! It gets tiresome to hear people ask if I’m afraid of getting Ebola. It is going to take some ongoing re-education to remind these people that Africa is a continent and not a country.

  • tommy

    The intent of the article was to help describe the vast size of the African continent, especially to Americans, I believe. The picture gives a great visual representation of this however it describes the USA (single country) as North America (continent including 23 different countries). Seems ironic considering the content.

    • Anton Crone

      Tommy, please can you quote the text you are concerned about.

      • JMK

        The article states that North America, China and Europe can all fit inside Africa’s land mass but the only North American country represented in the graphic is the US: missing Canada and Mexico.

        • Anton Crone

          A good point, thanks JMK. Whereas this image was sourced separately and is not intended to reference the exact wording, the size of the land masses the author originally writes about (North America, China and Europe) would not fit. It must be a typo and we will correct it on his behalf.

          • tommy

            Looks like you got it…

  • serve the people

    yes there are many stupid Americans, but stupidity is widespread throughout the world. It relies on ignorance and a willingness to be blind to truth. Americans are victims of a highly effective propaganda machine far more effective than any goebbels could construct!

  • Melinda Kuglitsch

    Thank you for sharing awareness on this! I am a South Africa Travel Specialist and cannot tell you how important it is to educate people on this and help ease their misgivings about travel to Africa.

  • Jcat Board

    Okay lots of palaver about Ebola, but don’t forget the many illnesses still rife in Africa – T.B., Malaria, Yellow Fever, AIDS, Tsetse Fly, Bilharzia – just to mention a few.

    It is also VERY sad that the normal Mr & Mrs African citizen is hit when tourist search out other destinations to travel too. But IMHO it is even more sad when African leaders invest more into their personal offshore bank account than in the future of their citizens.

  • Peter Reitze

    I think this is not an American problem. We live in Germany and we love travelling to Africa. In fact just openen a tour operator business for vacation in Namibia and South Africa. And we hear the same concerns from people here too as the headline news usually say: “Ebola in Africa”. And if I explain to people that Monrovia is about 9.000 km away from Cape town but Frankfurt is only about 7.000km away they are usually very surprised. Nevertheless, many of them kepp saying “OK, but anyway I will wait until it’s over”. We are looking forard to our next trip down there in February!

Africa Geographic