Cheryl Kahla
Deputy Online News Editor
2 minute read
4 Dec 2021
10:57 am

‘Health apartheid slap in the face’: African excellence deserves respect

Cheryl Kahla

The travel ban imposed on southern African countries when Omicron was first identified is a 'slap in the face of African excellence and expertise'.

An employee at the Afrigen biotechnology company and Vaccine Hub facility in Cape Town. Photo AFP/Rodger Bosch

President Cyril Ramaphosa took aim at the Omicron travel bans imposed on African countries. He said it was a slap in the face of African excellence, and warned against the risk of “health apartheid”.

During his first visit to the Ivory Coast this week, Ramapohsa slammed the actions taken by countries to impose travel bans as “regrettable, unfair and unscientific”.

Omicron ‘health apartheid’

African excellence deserves respect

Addressing attendees in Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire, Ramaphosa said the curbs applied to countries across southern Africa were “regrettable, unfair and unscientific”.

Ramaphosa said it was a “slap in the face of African excellence and expertise”, especially since it was African scientists who first detected the Omicron variant.

These bans will cause untold damage [to] livelihoods in South Africa and the southern African region.

ramaphosa cyril vaccine apartheid equity
Photo: Twitter/President Cyril Ramaphosa

Omicron travel ban impact on tourism

Unfortunately, the damage has been done, and the impact of these travel bans have already rippled through Africa’s travel and tourism industries.

Earlier this week, SA Tourism Business Council’s Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said Omicron communication should have been carefully considered to avoid creating panic.

“The impact this will have is unimaginable and I cannot imagine what our tour operators are going through,” Tshivhengwa said.

Ramaphosa said South Africa is ready to continue the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and as a nation, we will not back down in the face of health apartheid.

Vaccine equity for Africa

The importance of a global guarantee to ensure vaccine equity was once again highlighted, as was the need to produce Covid-19 treatments and make it freely available to all.

Back in September, WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted with concern that only 2% of vaccine doses made available globally have been administered in Africa.

He said if the unequal distribution of vaccines persists, the virus will continue to mutate and circulate, which in turn will lead to extended periods of social and economic disruption.

ALSO READ: ‘Worst pandemic in 100 years’ and still no vaccine equity for Africa

By Africa, for Africa

Ramaphosa is visiting four West African states – Nigeria, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal – as part of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) tour.

With the implementation of AfCFTA, trade agreements would drive billions of dollars to the continent, and help usher in the kinds of reforms necessary to facilitate long-term growth in Africa.

Ramaphosa said African countries have for far too long “trained our gaze on trade and investment opportunities in markets beyond the continent such as Europe, Asia and North America.”

“If the AfCFTA is to be a success, we have to both strengthen the existing trade relationships with countries closer to home and forge new ones.”

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