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Africa Takes Center Stage

2009. 24 April

( World Expo 2010 Shanghai is expected to create a platform for Africa to show its best side to the world

As the first comprehensive world expo held in a developing country, the World Expo 2010 Shanghai has paid special attention to developing countries, especially African participants. It will very possibly become the stage for Africa to display itself to the world,
Chen Jintian, Director of the Management Department of the Joint-Africa Pavilion of the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination, told Beijing Review

The formal Letter of Invitation to the expo, signed by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on March 22, 2006, has received enthusiastic responses from African countries. So far, 49 of those with diplomatic relations with China, among the 53 African countries, as well as Burkino Faso, which currently has no diplomatic relations with China, and the Africa Union (AU) have responded favorably.

By March 24, 2009, apart from Angola, Mozambique and Burkina Faso, all the other confirmed African countries had already signed participation contracts with expo organizers. The participation scale of Africa will be larger than ever before, and Africa is also the continent with the largest number of participating countries.

Africa exhibition area, which is located on the bank along the Huangpu River in the World Expo Park in Pudong, will be composed of a 26,000-square-meter Joint-Africa Pavilion, the rented and self-constructed pavilions, and the Africa Square for holding cultural activities.

The Joint-Africa Pavilion that began construction on August 15, 2008, is the largest and enjoys the most investment among all the international pavilions. The pavilion will be divided into 43 exhibition modules respectively for 42 African participants and the AU. Seven African countries such as Tunisia and Nigeria will rent modules.

As for the cultural activities of the African countries during the expo, it is reported that in its application submitted to the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination, the Afrikakeur Arts Festival plans to invite well-known professional troupes and artists from the African countries that have confirmed participation to perform in the Africa Month of the expo.

Moreover, the organizers of the expo set up a special $100-million fund for the over 100 participating developing countries, including African countries, for the basic operation of their pavilions like designing, construction and disassembly, which shows the great importance the Chinese Government attaches to developing countries.

On April 24, 2007, when meeting M. Vicente G. Loscertales, Secretary General of the International Exhibition Bureau, former Chinese Vice Premier and former Chairwoman of the Organizing Committee of the World Expo 2010 Shanghai Wu Yi explained that the Chinese Government would cooperate with African countries to make the Joint-Africa Pavilion one of the highlights of the expo.

A. F. R. I. C. A.

With the guiding ideas of "Participating Together, Displaying Together" and "Personalized Display of Each Country," the Joint-Africa Pavilion aims at showing the long history, rich culture, urbanization process and new economic achievements of Africa. Chen told Beijing Reviewthat in order to reach the goal raised by Wu, the organizers listed six points to be included in the construction of the Joint-Africa Pavilion:

Africanization: Showing a true Africa is the common hope shared by all the participating African countries at the expo. Therefore, the expo organizers require that the design of the pavilion should be accepted and understood by both African and Chinese people in order to attract more visitors.

First class: Among the 11 joint pavilions of the expo, "the design and construction of the Joint-African Pavilion will rank first-class and become the best ever of the pavilions of all previous expos. This is the goal we are trying to reach," Chen said.

Restricted costs: Since the Joint-Africa Pavilion is built with special funds, tight economic controls should be exercised.

Integration: The 43 exhibition sections in the Joint-Africa Pavilion are designed as a whole. Besides, the theme day of each country's module and the African culture performances on the culture square will be arranged uniformly in order to form an integrated image of Africa.

Cooperation: The pavilion is co-designed by several designing teams. By sharing related experiences, resources and information, the teams are trying to create a perfect stage for the African countries.

Ahead: Starting first, the construction of the Joint-Africa Pavilion is expected to be able to offer experience to the construction of all the other pavilions.

The design teams are selected by the organizers from bidders all around the world in accordance with the convention of the expo. As service providers, these teams that come from Shanghai, other Chinese cities and provinces, and even abroad offer designing plans for the participants to choose from, said Chen.

Respecting the African participants' ideas, each important idea is fully discussed and approved by them before it is finally decided when designing the pavilion, Chen said. For example, the theme of the Joint-Africa Pavilion "A Continent Full of Hope and Opportunity" was agreed on by the African participants unanimously. The expo will design the pavilion and plan activities to display the images of the people, land, cities, origin, development and contribution of the continent.

'Better City, Better Life'

With the theme "Better City, Better Life," the expo will try to answer three questions through various kinds of exhibitions and activities: What kind of cities can make our life more harmonious? What kind of lifestyle can make cities more harmonious? What kind of development model can make the world more harmonious?

The African participants submitted their exhibition themes to the expo, which resonate with the characteristics of their own countries. For example, Madagascar's exhibition theme is "Living Naturally" which echoes the sub-theme of the expo "Cities Interacting with Countries."

Denis Roland Raoeliarijaona, General Representative of Madagascar Exhibition Section, said that as an agriculture-oriented country, Madagascar bears both great differences and the need for cooperation between its cities and rural areas. He hopes that the expo can express the mutual-independence and coexistence between cities and countries.

When explaining the theme "Prosperous Urban Economy," Romain Pamo, General Representative of Central Africa Exhibition Section, expressed his hope for African countries to get involved in the study of the development of cities through the expo to create a better life. Besides, he also hopes that his country could take part in the establishment of the new development model of international urbanization, and the study of the globalizing development of cities and the harmonious coexistence of cities and countries.

The World Expo 2010 Shanghai is considering selecting African students in China who are able to speak Chinese as the volunteers, because they to some extent reflect the spirit and culture of Africa from another angle, Chen said.