A Guide to How African Countries Are Reopening

Many predicted dire consequences when COVID-19 made its way across Africa, but the case numbers in African countries have largely remained low, especially in contrast with the United States and Europe. 

Despite being home to 17 percent of the world’s population, Africa accounts for about 3.5 percent of virus-related deaths. Experts have posited that factors like climate, strict lockdown, the continent’s relatively young population (more than 60 percent of Africans are under 25), and preparation measures already in place for other outbreaks may have all played a role. 

But case counts, as well as government responses, have varied across the continent. South Africa has been the continent’s worst-affected country, accounting for nearly half the deaths, despite a rather strict lockdown; Rwanda, which has also implemented strict measures, has reported 34 deaths and a death rate of 0.3 per 100,000 residents; while Tanzania stopped releasing official numbers after April and resumed international travel early, with surprisingly relaxed measures.

Many African nations are welcoming foreign travelers again, but Americans are not always on the invite list. If you do decide to travel, be conscientious about not overburdening the local health systems. Stay on top of each country’s rules—which are subject to change based on rising case numbers—and wear masks, practice social distancing, and sanitize regularly.

Read on for how African countries are reopening—and which travel restrictions you need to be aware of. As you plan your visit, remember to keep checking in on local government and tourism board sites, as coronavirus updates come quickly, and often.

Northern Africa

As of July, Egypt has been open to international travelers. All visitors must present printed results from a negative PCR test taken 72 hours before arrival, as well as proof of health insurance. Most major tourist attractions are open, with limited capacities and mask requirements, and many entrances fees have been reduced.

Morocco began lifting travel restrictions in September. 

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Morocco began lifting restrictions in September. Travelers from visa-exempt countries—including the U.S.—with confirmed hotel reservations are allowed, as are business travelers invited by Moroccan companies. Visitors must have negative PCR and serological tests taken less than 48 hours before departure, with printed results to be presented at check in and at health screenings at the port of entry. Upon arrival, you might have to concentrate your time in certain areas: some cities, like Casablanca, have curfews, and lockdowns in various cities restrict unauthorized travel between certain destinations. The rules change frequently and can make travel within Morocco a challenge.

East Africa

One of the first African countries to open widely for tourism—way back in June—was Tanzania. At the time, there were no testing or quarantine requirements. That was changed in August to require a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of travel, but the rule was later lifted in September. Now only enhanced screenings (and testing on arrival, if deemed necessary) are required. That said, your airline will likely require a negative PCR test to board, so it’s best to get tested regardless of changing rules. Keep in mind that the Tanzanian government has not been releasing any of its COVID-19 statistics since April, so accurate information about the impact the pandemic is having on local citizens and resources is not readily available.

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