The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) last week announced the 8th edition of the Pan-African Dance Festival (or Fespad, in its French acronym) - a biennial cultural event that has been taking place in the country for more than a decade -scheduled to take place in Rwanda from February 23 until March 2 under the theme "The Spirit of Expression."
"Fespad is in line with Rwanda's strategy of showcasing our unique cultural heritage to the entire world through dance," said Rica Rwigamba, RDB's head of tourism and conservation. "But it's also about creating a platform to position Kigali as international events destination while promoting African unity through dance."
Among the 40 African countries that have been invited, five so far have confirmed their participation: Burundi, Tanzania and Madagascar, all of whom have participated in previous editions, as well as newcomers Niger and Liberia. "We are slowly getting the confirmations, and remain confident that we will have many participants when the day comes," Rwigamba said.
Every country that will was requested to send a maximum of 10 participants.
The 8th edition of Fespad, which has a budget of Frw 276 million, will consist of several dance-related activities including national dance competitions in all provinces of Rwanda, dance workshops - a great opportunity to showcase what the local dance clubs such as traditional troupes and Salsa clubs are doing -, and concerts featuring international, regional and local artists.
"We've contacted mainly regional and African artists and we are finalizing the logistics to bring them on board," she said, but declined to give names to avoid creating false hope - as it happened in 2010 when Chris Brown had been announced yet in the end the RnB star didn't show up. "We will be able to give names once we have something tangible," Rwigamba promised.
A special event will be the Pan-African Dance Competition which will involve participating countries to compete for the African Dance Title. Rwigamba explained that the competition will focus on traditional dances and that this will be a big opportunity to put Fespad on the map.
"At every venue we'll have at least two countries or more depending on the number of confirmations that we'll be having," she said. "It's also an opportunity for people in the provinces to see what's happening. We are taking Fespad to them."
The national dance competition will kick off in Kigali on the first day of Fespad, an in the following days in the provinces. The idea of competition is one of the novelties in this edition of Fespad different from the previous one. "We feel that when people know that they are competing for prizes, that alone make it attractive and at the same time increase the interest that people have in this festival."
Yet RDB also wants to use the festival to profile Rwanda, and Kigali in particular, as an events destination. "It's clear that when you have events which are well marketed, you'll have other countries coming to attend -- and that brings revenue in the tourism industry," Rwigamba said. "We want more people to think of Rwanda as a place of events. We have a lot of competitive advantages such as security, and easiness to get around, just to name a few."
While in the past Fespad normally took place in August, it was this year deliberately rescheduled to February to avoid that it falls in the tourism high season when there are naturally a lot of visitors. "The strategy was to invite and convince people to come in the low season so we will be able to assess its impact on tourism. If we get a lot of visitors, then we'll know that Fespad is the main reason why they came -- which is more important for us."
Rica Rwigamba also announced that the government is in the process of building a major cultural village where artists will showcase their creative arts. "This is one of the main things I'm going to discuss during the coming government retreat," she said. "We've identified a 9 ha plot at Mount Rebero that the district has handed over to us. A study showed that it's going to cost about US$ 70 million."