A meeting on Friday with the Brussels Airlines (SN) management in Kampala, country manager Sebastian Spijkers, and Belinda Sebunya, was mainly to get first-hand updates, such as the airline’s return to Washington with five flights a week for the summer season. It did not take long though to learn about SN’s latest initiative, launched in the United States during the week, to highlight how Africa is NOT Ebola and that only three of the 56 countries on the continent are in fact affected by the outbreak.
Considering that more countries around the globe had their episodes, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Spain, among others, the opinion was swiftly sealed that Africa is hard done by and unjustly singled out, perhaps bundling other anti-African sentiments together and hiding them behind the Ebola scare.
No countries across the continent have been affected other than some closer by, but still East Africa and in fact even the Seychelles faced the fallout of a hysteric anti-travel campaign, showing that for much of the world population, ignorance persists in their belief that Africa is a country, and Africa is Ebola.
Not so, going by Brussels Airlines’ CEO, who featured on the airlines’ dedicated Africa Facebook page.
SN, of course, is an airline with long-standing ties to Africa, both west and east. In the dark days of Uganda’s history, the then SABENA kept flying into Entebbe throughout the height of the civil wars, showing a commitment which today is mirrored in the fact that it remains the only airline to fly intercontinental to Monrovia, bringing in vital medical supplies and more recently the first batch of experimental vaccines. Connecting Brussels to four destinations in East Africa, including Entebbe, Kigali, Bujumbura, and Nairobi, and more than a dozen destinations in West Africa, more even when taking the codeshared flights with partner Lufthansa into account, makes Brussels Airlines THE airline of choice for many travelers for the range of Africa destinations on offer.
Both Benjamin and Belinda commented how the Ebola hysteria had affected travel to Africa, even to parts which were further away from the outbreak than some European countries where cases emerged, expressing support for their CEO’s position to more aggressively spread the message that Africa is NOT Ebola.
A website was launched giving added information, and Brussels Airlines, led by Mr. Bernard Gustin, will continue to play its part to help Africa and travel to Africa get back on track, and in the process fill their seats. Readers can help by using the hashtag #AfricaINotEbola, highlighting that travel to East, South, or North Africa involves no risk of contracting this viral disease, but not traveling out of fear will continue to inflict untold economic damage to those regions which depend on tourism, especially countries like Kenya which is struggling with a more homemade downturn, and also Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda which got affected by both factors.