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Sharing Africa's Roots
Diverse African cultures on vivid display at the Beijing International Horticultural Exhibition
By Xia Yuanyuan and Li Jing | VOL.11 September ·2019-08-30

A performance during the Malawi Day celebration at the Beijing Expo (XINHUA)

Imagine walking into neat African villages with round decorated kitchens and warm welcoming smiles from African exhibitors offering genuine teas and other beverages, indigenous snacks, music dance and hospitality.

Welcome to the African Joint Exhibition Park at the Beijing International Horticultural Exhibition (Beijing Expo). The park covers an area of 1,006 square meters and is jointly used by 30 African countries including Algeria, Sudan, Angola and Lesotho. According to the organizers, the overall design of the exhibition park comprises five sections: East Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa and North Africa, which reflects the unity of the continent.

The park also utilizes unique gardening techniques in its design, striving to reproduce the natural environment of different parts of Africa while highlighting its diverse characteristics. In Nigeria Pavilion, the exhibition garden features a small sand dune planted with palm trees and cactus. The plants are like a small oasis under the scorching sun.

Besides large-scale activities, such as the expo's opening ceremony and the China Pavilion Day, participating countries and international organizations have planned to host 58 national or honor days during the 162-day expo to highlight their local customs and horticultural features. Among them, African countries are proving to be very popular with visitors.

ChinAfrica visited several African pavilions to learn more about some of the events on the expo calendar.

Rwanda exhibition (XINHUA)

 

Rwanda Day: The Joy of Harvest

August 2 is a special day for Rwanda. Charles Kayonga, Rwanda's Ambassador to China, announced the launch of Rwanda Day at the expo, on the occasion of Umuganura Day, a celebration of national harvest by Rwandans the world over. Coffee, tea,

handicrafts and horticultural products on display in its pavilion were all a crowd magnet.

The event featured cultural performances by both Rwandans and Chinese, aimed at enhancing cultural experiences between communities, food sharing, as well as serving as a platform to showcase Rwandan products.

Various guests from different Chinese institutions and investors witnessed the celebrations.

In his keynote address, Kayonga introduced Rwanda to visitors, especially the country's horticulture and agricultural by-products, culture, tourism resources and investment opportunities. He fully demonstrated the cultural relationship between China and Rwanda, and the diverse possibilities of economic cooperation and cultural exchanges between the two countries.

Kayonga urged Chinese investors to invest in Rwanda, citing many opportunities in sectors such as manufacturing, agro-processing, tourism and hospitality, as well as real estate.

Kayonga said that Rwanda is one of the best places to do business as a result of infrastructure development, ease of business registration process and a culture of honesty and transparency.

"The expo is a very rare opportunity for Rwanda. I am very grateful that the expo provides us with a platform to showcase products and promote tourism and investment opportunities to China and the people of the world. We will continue to work with the Chinese Government to scientifically manage the ecology and cooperate on tackling environmental challenges," Kayonga told ChinAfrica.

Wang Chunfeng, Deputy Commissioner General of the expo, highlighted the achievements of the China-Rwanda relationship since 2009, adding that the friendship between the two countries will continue to grow.

"The exhibition is an opportunity for Rwandan companies to further explore the Chinese market with a view to increase Rwandan exports to this market," Sunny Ntayombya, an official with Rwanda Development Board, told Xinhua News Agency.

Nine Rwandan companies are taking part in the exhibition, and presenting processed fruit juices, processed chili, honey, roasted coffee, tea and handicrafts.

"We expect to use the expo as another opportunity to tap into the big Chinese market for made-in-Rwanda products and to expand our networks," said Gerard Sina, owner of a Rwandan company taking part in the exhibition.

Ugandans celebrate Uganda Day (XINHUA)

 

Malawi Day: A Fancy Tour

On July 3, the Malawi Day event was launched at the expo.

The event, which began with a grand ceremony, was centered on the display of Malawi's unique culture, food and art and the promotion of Malawi's tourism and trade.

A staff member from Malawi at the Beijing Expo, who only gave his name as Andrew, said though Malawi has put a lot of effort into planting trees, the country is still facing the problem of deforestation.

"I used to see flowers and plants on the building roofs in Shanghai, which made the city clean and green. It is a good practice," said Andrew who believes that the theme of the expo Live Green, Live Better is very pertinent, and that Malawi and other African countries could learn from China's experience of green development through the expo.

According to Charles E. Namondwe, Ambassador of Malawi to China, Malawi attending the expo will help promote cooperation between China and Malawi in trade, humanities and other fields. Thus, Malawi can showcase its trade and investment opportunities to more countries.

Belin Day celebration (XINHUA)

 

Uganda Day: Confident and Open

Located in the East Africa section of the expo, the Uganda exhibition is eye-catching with its cartoon images of tropical animals such as giraffes, crown cranes and elephants decorating the glass walls, coffee beans on the stand and black wood carvings, all displaying the country's unique attributes.

On June 22, Uganda Day was held at the expo. Traditional African musical instruments such as the royal drum and harp, played by Uganda's Afro-Ngeye Art Troupe, combined influential songs and dances. The performance attracted a large crowd.

"National day activities shattered my bias toward African countries, and gave a chance to know a new Uganda," said Wang Hao, a visitor from Hebei Province in north China.

At the expo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and other East African countries set up the East Africa Joint Exhibition Park.

Zhang Yinchao, Deputy Secretary General of the China Flower Association, said that Uganda, as an important member of the East Africa Joint Exhibition Park, fully demonstrated its characteristics and traditional culture. The exhibition organically integrated natural ecology and garden art, and fully expressed the pursuit of beauty of Ugandan people.

The Ambassador of Uganda to China Crispus Kiyonga said that he is grateful to the Chinese Government and the organizers of the Beijing Expo for their help and support to Uganda. He believes that Uganda-China trade can foster complementarity, and welcomes "more Chinese entrepreneurs to invest in Uganda."

About 70 percent of Uganda's population is engaged in agriculture. It is rich in natural and mineral resources. There are about 10 national parks in Uganda, and Lake Victoria, Africa's largest freshwater lake, is also located there. Besides being the only place in the world where people can see snow at the equator, it is also home to rare animals such as mountain gorillas and more than 1,000 species of birds.

"Agricultural processing, tourism, minerals and infrastructure are priority areas for investment in Uganda," said Elly Twineyo-Kamugisha, executive director for the Uganda Export Promotion Board, adding that Uganda is 100 percent open to foreign investment.

 

Benin Day: Kwaabô!

"Benin is very pleased to welcome you to the Benin Day at the 2019 Beijing International Horticultural Exposition. In one of our dialects, 'Kwaabô' means 'welcome everyone.'" This was the greeting from Benin Ambassador to China Simon-Pierre Adovelande at the colorful launch of Benin Day of Beijing Expo on August 1.

Benin is to the north of the Gulf of Guinea and has a coastline of 125 km. The coastline gives Benin an abundance of beaches and coconut groves, as well as abundant fishery resources. The ceremony was presided over by Adovelande and Xie Yunliang, Diplomatic Advisor to the Beijing Expo from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China.

Adovelande introduced the investment and business environment of his country to guests, and said that the success of the expo will be of great significance for building a community with a shared future for humanity.

"The 2019 Beijing Expo has two major meanings for our country. On the one hand, it will help us link with the Belt and Road Initiative. On the other hand, Benin and China can share more experiences related to the Live Green, Live Better theme of the expo, so that we can jointly build a community with a shared future," he told ChinAfrica.

The design of Benin's exhibition at the expo is also closely related to the theme and the design of its stand resembles that of Tata Somba, a renowned unique residence in north Benin, shaped like a small castle. The design reflects the harmony between humans and nature.

"The 2019 Beijing Expo is an international grand event in which countries share the fruits of ecological civilization and work together to build an ecological civilization," said Xie. According to him, the expo is not only an exchange link between China and the world in horticultural culture, but also an important medium to share green development achievements, promote international trade, and advance the development of the Belt and Road Initiative.

(Comments to xyy@chinafrica.com and lijing@chinafrica.com)

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