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Rwanda. The Economic Allure of Entertainment

22nd Jul, 2016

Ever wonder what happens in some of the less common suburbs of Kigali after dusk? A few months ago my friends and I attempted to dispel the notion that Kigali’s entertainment options were limited.

We arrived in the cultural medley that is Nyamirambo, a short drive from the city. The lot of us were remarkably surprised by the energy reverberating through these streets. This Kigali suburb has progressively molded its leisure landscape over the years; from just bars to discotheque’s, musical shows, theaters and the like.

It was admirable to see a variety of establishments open and vibrant, especially because often times, the active social media population in Rwanda is embroiled in one debate or another about the entertainment gaps that exist in Rwanda.

Is it possible that Rwanda can integrate and nurture a vibrant entertainment culture into the local community? Simply put, yes.

The financial potential of the entertainment sector in Rwanda is immense. Ranging from exhibition entertainment – art fairs, trade shows, theme parks to live entertainment – concerts, theater, discos, comedy shows etc.

On the other hand, with the growth, other sectors such as foods and beverage, construction, transport, fashion, media, hospitality etc. indirectly benefit through expenditure linkages.

If you consider more developed countries, revenue generated from the night time entertainment outlets is remarkable.

In 2010 the UK made £66 billion from the entertainment sector alone, accounting for 4% of GDP. Manchester’s registered count of visitors was 150,000 per weekend during the same period albeit with the presence of England’s most successful football team, Manchester United.

Just to put this into context, last year Nigeria’s heavy reliance on oil cost them a considerable portion of their revenue’s when the price of crude oil plummeted from 100 $ to as low as 25 $ a barrel. It had far reaching repercussions for Africa’s largest economy.

Today the Nigerian government is calling for diversification of the economy by fast-tracking industrialization, agriculture and calling for investment into the tourism and entertainment sectors.

A drop in mineral, tea and coffee prices globally puts Rwanda in a similar but less chaotic situation. However it serves as a reminder that the country must constantly seek alternative revenue generating activities to keep track with its developmental goals. Reliance on aid or traditional economic sectors will not be sustainable.

Why can’t Rwanda reinvent herself as the regional hub for entertainment?  We are inherently good hosts which would give us massive competitive advantage in my opinion.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, vices such as irresponsible consumption of alcohol, noise pollution, commotion, and crime to mention a few exist. However these are controllable risks. Globally, cities with successful recreational sectors have acknowledged the associated risk and have created control-measures to mitigate this risk.

Rwanda can adopt a similar approach. It would be ideal to have a dedicated organization for example to oversee the strategic management of Rwanda’s entertainment sector.

Another road Rwanda can take is documenting a policy (formulated by an association of practitioners working hand in hand with government) that outlines specific requirements for all segments of the entertainment sector. A well written policy would require mandatory features for live entertainment outlets such as security, parking, sound management, and age/alcohol regulation.

So far in 2016, Rwanda has hosted the World Economic Forum, Interpol General Assembly and the African Union Summit. This is a consequence of a deliberate strategy to improve its Services sector through promotion of Meetings Incentives Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE).

While business tourism generates considerable revenue, there is still vast potential in leisure tourism. In most cases they are complementary.

Wouldn’t it be great if delegates extended their stay to experience go-kart racing, paintball, a comedy night, a night at the casino, and perhaps a musical show or two. We would soon be the land of 1000 activities!

The writer is the Head of Marketing & Communications for KCB Bank Rwanda

By: Albert Akimanzi

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