The outbreak of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and recently in Nigeria has revealed the ignorance of many westerners concerning the actual geography of Africa as a continent made up of about 51 countries. The Ebola scare has shown that many people in other parts of the world consider Africa a single nation or country, and hence want to stay away as much as possible from undertaking vacation trips to the continent out of Ebola fear.
This writer was chatting with a white girl from America, and the latter asked him where he was located. He answered he was in Nigeria, and the girl asked where Nigeria was. He responded that Nigeria was in Africa, and the girl asked if they were white or black. A young teenage American does not know if Nigerians are white or black, and she’s never heard or Nigeria or Africa for that matter. This only shows the level of ignorance that many out there have concerning Africa, and this got played out recently when a Canadian tourist, Shauna Magill posted on Facebook that she arrived safely to Uganda.
A friend asked her to be careful about “a thing called Ebola” in Uganda, and another went further to upload a Google Maps link that showed that Uganda and Nigeria are only 4,900 kilometers or 3,045 miles apart by road. A stated width that’s about the size of continental US. This shows that many do not know a thing about Africa or her countries; but then, this ignorance is affecting the continent because many tourists are staying away and the continent is losing big money from this.
Many countries like Kenya, Botswana, Mauritius, Tanzania, Namibia, Cape Verde, and South Africa depend largely on foreign incomes from tourism and hospitality to sustain their economy, but with the ban on travel to Africa and the Ebola misconception spread out there, the continent’s economy might take a nose-dive. Many British airlines have suspended flights to and from Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, and hotel bookings have dropped in the affected countries and throughout Africa out of the Ebola scare.
According to the World Tourism Organization’s communications director, Sandra Carvao, “putting a halt on flights or imposing unnecessary travel restrictions will not help contain the virus but it will surely dampen the economy of the region, namely its travel and tourism sector, and jeopardize millions of livelihoods.” And a tourism researcher at Euromonitor adds that “many travelers see Africa as one big country. Ebola can damage Africa’s economic revival of recent years, resurfacing the continent’s negative stereotypes as a place of disease, famine, and poverty.”
Shauna Magill says, “I had second thoughts about coming because of how the media in Canada displayed the outbreak in western Africa. They don’t explain the rest of the continent is safe and not affected by the virus.”