Last week was Africa Week here in Taipei. Africa Week is apparently a yearly event which is organized I believe by the Taiwan International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF) (if I am wrong, please correct me). This event highlights the charitable work done in Africa by multiple organizations and emphasizes the relationships Taiwan has with some of those countries. The weekend events were run at the Hua Shan Art District in Taipei. A few businesses in Taiwan that are run by South Africans and other Africans were invited to put up some stands. There were also many other charitable organizations in attendance that were highlighting the work they do in Africa including Buddhist Organizations, Churches and other charities.
Some of the businesses that were there included Grillmasters, Frankies, and Afriwine. Grillmasters is a BBQ company that specializes in South African Braais, Frankies is a restaurant in Yonghe run by an old colleague of mine at Kojen and Afriwine is a new shop that opened and imports wine from South Africa. There was also a central stage on where a lot of Taiwanese performers were playing African drums and on which a few presentations were given. The Taiwanese government had also flown in a dance troupe from Swaziland. From what we could see, they were pretty good.
Unfortunately the weather played the spoiler. It rained all weekend. According to one of the stand holders, they were very optimistic at the grand opening since Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) himself attended. The stand holders were told they could expect at least 10,000 visitors over the weekend but by Sunday afternoon when we visited they said they were lucky if 1,000 people had shown up. All the stand holders we spoke to said they were losing money being there but were hoping the marketing opportunity would help their businesses grow. Those we spoke to thought that although the weather was bad, poor organization and poor marketing were responsible for the low turnout. This may be true. I only heard of the event last week on ICRT and Queenie said she had seen nothing in the Chinese press about the event.
Nevertheless, the main hall had a host of displays highlighting different countries in Africa including Burkino Faso, South Africa, and Nigeria. There were also stands highlighting medical missions to Africa and the health issues faced by Africans including HIV and malaria which afflicts a large portion of the population. There were also presentations by Taiwanese people who had worked in Africa as well as African students in Taiwan who were learning Chinese.
What was good for us is that we got to eat some boerewors (farmer's sausage) rolls at the grillmasters, eat some excellent chicken pies from Frankies and buy some good South African wine from Afriwine. Hopefully next year the marketing and organization is improved, the weather is better and more people attend. This has the makings of a fantastic annual event if the organization can be improved. Until next years, totsiens and sala kahle.