Plenty of countries should have come up with more creative presentations for the Shanghai Expo. Rich countries like the US and France are notable examples of a failure to produce ideas that would truly capture the imaginations of Chinese audiences and improve national brands. The notion of the Expo might seem a bit quaint for many in the West, but it is very real when one considers the millions of visitors coming through who hail from the world’s fastest growing market.
Africa obviously has far less to work with in terms of financial resources and corporate backing. Still, such an occasion would have been a great chance to change and upgrade perceptions of the image of the continent and its individual countries. The Africa Pavilion contained nearly 50 countries and was the largest single pavilion in terms of size.
There were some thumping performances and countless knick-knacks for sale, but one was left with the impression of a continent that is not on the move. This I suspect is far from being the case. There must be countless creative activities happening in the fields of art, design, music, and even architecture in Africa, but the pavilion gave us the notion of a continent that remain one large animal reserve.
Almost every display reinforced the stereotypical notion of a continent filled with large game and primitive people. Perhaps this is the only way that Africa can sell itself to Chinese tourists and perhaps tourism remains the main way in which the continent can gain foreign currency outside of natural resources.