Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Creating a Pan-African Festival Travel Circuit

The St Louis Jazz Festival,
in St Louis, Senegal

Back in 1999, I attended the WOMEX World Music Conference and Marketplace in Berlin. One of the most interesting sessions there was one looking at creating a pan-African festival circuit, much like what Europe has, with festivals connecting, and making it possible for artists to tour festivals in Africa.

12 years later, we're perhaps marginally closer to that, but we certainly haven't made the kind of progress that was anticipated. Political instability is one reason, funding another, but one of the most crucial, I believe, is the lack of good, cost-effective, regional travel options in Africa. As you know, it is damn expensive to travel within Africa, far more so that to travel from somewhere in Africa to Europe.

From the Sauti za Busara festival, Zanzibar, Tanzania, East Africa's most important festival

 That is now starting to change. Once upon a time, there was Air Afrique, which made a lot of things possible. But they went bust. Only in the last two years or so have South African low cost carriers started offering flights to other parts of Africa, and other African national carriers are starting to do the same. The costs are coming down. The frequencies getting better.

And so we are looking more capable - from a mobility point of view - of achieving some of the goals laid out in 1999. There are some other areas that are not looking so good, still, and that's the topic for another post sometime.

There's not much tourism to Angola at this point, but the possibilities are huge. This festival opens up a lot
of opportunities, for the country and the region

Since that time my interest has shifted from being exclusively pan-African music to a combination of pan-African music and travel. And the opportunities for pan-African festival travel packages are hot.

In 2009 Coffeebeans Routes put together a business plan for the creation of a set of such festival packages, working with the Arterial Network. It was an insightful process. While there are thousands and thousands of safari offerings and safari operators and agents, there are some five entities offering festival packages in Africa. It's a wide open space. And of those offerings, none of them offer much more than flights, hotel and tickets. Pretty much nothing that gets you inside the city you are going to.

Fespaco, Africa's most
important film festival, in
Ouagadougou, Burkina

And so I am delighted that, in alliance with the Out of the Box Festival in Cape Town, we have now made a start on realising our goal of offering a variety of Coffeebeans Routes pan-African festival travel packages. Eventually you will be able to book a package with Coffeebeans to experience - very deeply - some incredible festivals in Africa:

- Fespaco Film Festival, Ougadougou, Burkina Faso- Sauti za Basura, Zanzibar, Tanzania - Cape Town International Jazz Festival
- Maputo International Jazz Festival
- Luanda International Jazz Festival
- Mawazine, Rabat, Morocco
- St Louis Jazz Festival, St Louis, Senegal
- Ethiopian Music Festival, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
- HIFA, Zimbabwe

It'll take some time before we are offering packages around the whole lot, but that is the goal. And there are others too...

Int'l music festival in Morocco

This September of 2011, the process begins with the 9 day Out of the Box Festival in Cape Town, a festival of puppetry, physical theatre and cinema. Coffeebeans will be offering a small selection of small-group travelling theatre experiences as part of the festival. And in 2012 we plan to be offering full packages with accommodation, tickets, behind the scenes experiences, tours etc.

Here is the little press release that went out on Tue the 14th at the press launch for the Out the Box Festival.

Thanks for listening

Out the Box Festival September 2011

Coffeebeans Routes is delighted to be a part of the 2011 Out of the Box Festival. It is a part of our strategy, as a pioneering cultural travel company, to work with pan-African festivals, finding novel ways to bring storytelling into the tourism economy. 

The long term goal of the alliance is for Coffeebeans to offer international travellers compelling packages around the festival, including flights, accommodation, tickets, `behind the scenes' festival activities, as well as tours. This would ultimately form part of our pan-African circuit of festival packages, including festivals such as the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Sauti za Busara Zanzibar and the Addis Ababa International Music Festival. 

As a starting point in 2011, Coffeebeans will be curating a set of `fringe' theatre experiences, working with community theatre organisations that have been through the Unima Active Puppets programme. Available to very small groups of up to 12 guests per event, Coffeebeans will take guests to unusual spaces for short form performances by township-based physical and puppet theatre practitioners. 

Closer to the time more detail will be announced. 

In the meantime, take a look at what Coffeebeans does by visiting

Watch for updates on the festival activities.
And follow @
 for Twitter updates


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I have a curious mind. I created Coffeebeans Routes, a travel company that creates experiences around urban stories, creativity and culture. I think in moving pictures.