The criticism of the travel bans has also stemmed from Africa’s lack of access to vaccines – which has increased the chances of the virus mutating. Many countries have not followed through on their pledge to donate vaccines to the continent. As a result, only 7.5% of Africa’s population is currently vaccinated.

Some predicted this outcome. In an interview in March 2021, Dr John Nkengasong, the Director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that “[Europe and the US] will finish vaccinating, impose travel restrictions and then Africa becomes the continent of Covid.”

These latest bans have dealt another blow to the region’s tourism sector. South Africa has the second largest tourism industry in Africa, contributing nearly 7% of its GDP and employing over 1 million people. In July, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC,) reported that the South African economy could face losses of more than ZAR 181 million ($11.4 million) every week (pdf) if it remains on the UK’s red list.

South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, called for an immediate lift of the bans, asking countries to reverse them “before any further damage is done to the economy.” Ramaphosa said he learnt about the travel ban through a “patronising” and “disrespectful” call from European officials.

In Malawi, president and SADC chair, Lazarus Chakwera deemed the new restrictions afrophobic.

“The unilateral travel bans now imposed on SADC countries by the UK, EU, US, Australia and others are uncalled for,”  he said. “Covid measures must be based on science, not afrophobia.”

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