By Julius Odeke
The first-ever EAC Arts and Culture Festival officially opened Tuesday in Kigali, Rwanda. Rwanda’s Minister for Sports and Culture Protais Mitali represented His Excellency President Paul Kagame as the Guest of Honor and presided over the opening ceremony at a packed Petit Stade.
Performances from various artists drawn from the Partner States added vibrancy to what was a very colourful event that began in the afternoon and run into late Tuesday evening.
The Festival, codenamed Jamafest, runs until Saturday 16 February and features hundreds of performers from all the five EAC Partner States. The Festival theme is Fostering the East African Community Integration through Cultural Industries.
Protais Mitali opened Jamafest by observing that the Partner States had gathered in Kigali “to celebrate and acknowledge the great importance of our cultural identity while appreciating the significance of coming together to interact and share experiences meant to foster social cohesion and unity among our people.”
“In cultural expressions such as music, dance, drama, art and crafts, people share cultural values and are able to feel oneness as well as the cohesion that exists among them as one people with a common destiny,” he added.
He also highlighted the economic value of the culture industry, pointing out that in both the developed and developing countries, export of creative goods and services amounted to USD 592 billion in 2008 compared to USD 267 billion in 2002 which meant an annual growth rate of 14% over a period of six years.
Against this background, he called on the region to harness its abundance of creative talents and rich cultural assets to promote economic growth, job creation and social inclusion.
Speaking on behalf of the chairperson of the Council of Ministers, Ugandan State Minister for Culture Rukia Nakadama called for a special focus on enhancing skills and competence of cultural practitioners and stakeholders involved in the creation, production, distribution, marketing and management of cultural goods and services to fully exploit the economic potential of the regional cultural assets and creativity.