, KAMPALA, Uganda, Nov 13 – African leaders should now join hands and preach to the international community that the Ebola epidemic is not affecting the whole continent.
Kenya’s Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie regrets that most nations outside Africa still view the continent as a country, hence putting a blanket judgement when there is a problem in one or few countries in Africa.
She says it is time to tell the world that the Ebola epidemic should not prevent tourists from visiting other African states as well as encourage support for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“Ebola is not an African problem as it is being put out there, but a world phenomenon. We should hold hands and support the affected countries,” Kandie said.
She was speaking during the 39th Africa Travel Association conference taking place in Kampala, Uganda which has attracted over 300 delegates from some 22 countries across the globe.
“We are going to use this conference to send this positive message to ensure that the truth is told. We are going to urge them to spread this gospel,” Kandie said adding that Kenya and the East African region will continue to support the affected countries.
According to the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), some hotels especially at the Coast have confirmed cancellations due to fear of Ebola despite zero reported case in Kenya so far.
“We can confirm several booking cancellations but our work is not to sit back and relax, but rather try to get the right information out there,” KTB Managing Director Muriithi Ndegwa said.
He urged the media in the region and the continent to help their governments in ensuring the real African story is told as a continent and not a country.
“Since this issue of Ebola started, there has not been a single case in East Africa. In fact, West Africa is much closer to areas like European countries like France, Spain etc than it is to EAC,” Ndegwa argued. “It is time to give correct, relevant and up to date information.”
The three-day ATA Conference was officially opened by Uganda President Yoweri Museveni who called on African countries to work closely in all aspects, as this would help the continent in dealing with its challenges without depending a lot on the West.
“Ebola is a very simple disease to deal with than even Influenza. We have had three outbreaks of Ebola in the past and we stopped them promptly. West Africa was caught off guard. Here, we are experts,” Museveni said.
“If it was me, I would have personally – not even my health minister – gone on radio and advised all the citizens what to do and what not to. For example no shaking hands, no hugging each other like you are doing here at this meeting and so on. And that would be the end of Ebola,” Museveni explained.
He called on EAC countries to invest more on promoting regional tourism following several partnerships like the single EAC visa and use of IDs in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.
“Africa is the cradle of mankind; Africa is the cradle of religion and Africa is the cradle of civilization. This should be the story and not Ebola,” he says.