WATCH | West African trip: Ramaphosa canvasses for support to put an end to Omicron travel bans

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  • Cyril Ramaphosa thanked Nigeria for the solidarity it showed amid the Omicron variant fallout.
  • He said the economic consequences of the travel ban would be lasting.
  • The president was on a state visit to Abuja on Wednesday. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa used his high-level West African tour to canvas support on the continent against what he called an "unscientific and discriminatory" travel ban imposed on South Africa and some of its neighbouring countries.

"President [Muhammadu] Buhari, the solidarity expressed by yourself and the government of Nigeria sends the strongest message. It says, as African countries, we are standing united against the imposition of arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions that are not only unscientific, but counter-productive in the long run," Ramaphosa said at the conclusion of talks at the state house in Nigeria.

"Indeed, the leaders of Cote d'Ivoire, where we will be travelling to later today, as well as of Ghana and Senegal, have also expressed their dissatisfaction with the travel ban against South Africa and our sister countries in southern Africa.

This is a global pandemic, and overcoming it requires that we collaborate and work together as a collective."

Ramaphosa and a team of ministers held high-level talks on a number of areas, including the ease of doing business, the Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCTA) and other wide-ranging bilateral agreements. 

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The president is on a week long, four-country West African trip, starting in Abuja and onward to Abidjan, Accra and Dakar.

 Ramaphosa's visit takes place as countries are doubling down on the travel ban imposed following the discovery of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.Earlier on Wednesday, Nigerian health authorities announced that it, too, found the Omicron variant in samples collected in October, Reuters reported. 

Ramaphosa said the resulting damage of travel bans on the economies of affected countries would be "considerable and long lasting".

"I want to use this opportunity to once again call on countries, who imposed this ban, to reverse their decisions - whether they are in the northern, more developed economies and on our continent and elsewhere."

READ | Covid-19 SA questions UK flight ban amid global alarm over new variant

On his departure, Ramaphosa said African countries should not react like the former colonisers in imposing travel bans.South African high commissioner to Abuja, Thami Mseleku, said the fact that the state visit and bi-national commission took place amid the Omicron fallout was indicative of a success.

On the conclusion of the talks, Buhari said the agreements signed enabled the private sector of the two largest economies in Africa to further promote economic cooperation and development"We appreciate that we need to do more to achieve integration between the two economies, and take full advantage of the AfCTA," he said.

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