The Undeserved African Stigma

steppeThe recent international Ebola scare sent tidal waves around the globe, which started in Sierra Leone. Though this tiny 27,000 square mile country happens to be on the 12 million square mile continent of Africa, all countries are feeling the effects. And these effects have absolutely nothing to do with disease.

African tourism has unfairly grinded to a halt on the entire continent of Africa, costing tourism dollars the World Bank estimates at $36 billion. If Africa was densely populated, it is much more likely Ebola would spread. But Africa is very sparsely populated, especially on the interior. Without any population through which to transmit from host to host, Ebola simply can’t cross a 4,600 mile divide full of nothing but steppe, savannah and desert.

One industry bearing a huge brunt of the Ebola scare, far from the heart of West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, is the safari industry. Big game safaris are conducted in such southeastern African countries as Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The West African countries impacted with the Ebola virus include Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The closest distance between these groups of countries is over 4,600 miles, most of which consists of nothing but untouched wilderness.


So why are these countries, with completely different geography, culture and people being associated with countries where there is Ebola and no big game? The answer is simple; because they share a continent. The reaction on the global stage essentially makes no sense. Not going on big game hunts in Namibia because there are cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone can be likened to not visiting South Carolina to avoid a virus in British Columbia, Canada.

Not only have there been no incidents of Ebola documented in any of the popular destinations for big game safari hunts, but it is very unlikely Ebola will make it to any central, northern or eastern regions of Africa. The distance between the eastern most country with Ebola and the Indian Ocean coast is greater than the entire lateral distance across the continental United States. And to give perspective on how Ebola is very well contained to 3 tiny countries on the very western top of Africa, consider there are 49 out of 54 countries where the disease was not found. There were, however, four cases in the United States.