How Seychelles built an internationally recognised carnival

A samba queen from the 2013 carnival.
A samba queen from the 2012 carnival.

Children are making their way to the town square dressed in colourful costumes that must have taken a long time to work on. Everyone is dressed in the best they can in the hot humid weather which means hot pants and short skirts from the ladies that leave little to the imagination. The men have also put an effort to look presentable as they line up the main avenue in town and wait for the action.

The floats start streaming down the street and a fair share of the Seychelles, 35,000 in a population of 87,000, give their appreciation as floats come through and show the best they have to offer. Dozens of floats come down the main street, Independence Avenue, from a huge variety of locations from around the world many with their own carnivals. The eye of the world is on this island nation in the Indian Ocean as the party goes on for three days straight and that country laps in the attention of people wishing to make it to paradise as the Seychelles are often referred to as.

How did little Seychelles pull off such a feat in only two years? Organising a carnival is not an easy feat. Kenya has been trying to host a successful one for years with the Koinange Street Festival that came with a bang in the mid-2000s and quietly sneaked out of the city quickly coming to mind. The Seychelles really had no choice. Seychelles has been a welfare state for many years. All Seychellois born will get free healthcare education until university. The elderly who find it difficult to make a living are giving a monthly stipend to make ends meet. The health and education system are heavily subsidised by the government for them to get to acceptable levels. The government recognised that their main industries are tourism and fisheries with the former bringing in the foreign currency needed. Thus they invested in the islands security as well as the other services that making any country attractive to visitors.

Unfortunately piracy in the Indian Ocean waters had gone a long way in giving travel for leisure in the Indian Ocean area a very unsavoury concept. ne of the ideas to attract visitors to the island in a positive way was the International Carnival De Victoria, born in 2011. The organisers led by Seychelles Tourism Minister Alaine St Jean went a long way to building partnerships with all that they felt could be useful in achieving their goals including other nations. Their first country partnership has already born fruit and the 2012 edition was a collaborative effort between the hosts and the La Reunion islands also on the Indian Ocean. Carnival organisers are also hard at work to make partnerships with countries that are in the Indian Ocean and Equatorial belt like Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

The organisers of the inaugural carnival also made partnerships with some of the more famous carnivals n the world and owing to the success of last year, this year the partnerships increased. Their work was evident as the floats of the different countries went down the streets of Victoria. The Europeans had strong delegations from the German Dusseldorf Carnival with their famous ladies with the blond hair n pigtails wigs wowing the audience with the athleticism as they did their splits and back flips. The Russians sent in their soldiers to show their prowess at defending themselves from enemy intruders. The Italians were at their flag-waving best but it was the British with their bikini clad dancers from the Notting Hill Carnival travelling troupe who took away the breath of all present as the ladies danced oblivious of the effect of their near nudity. There were delegations from other parts of the world: China, Indonesia, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Zimbabwe and South Africa serving to make this a truly international carnival.

The world media was another important part of the puzzle as the carnival organisers recognised that all heir work would be for naught if it not seen by the global eyes that needed to do so. Over 120 hundred journalists from respected media house from targeted markets were flown in and given access all areas. hey slept in decent accommodation (The 5-star Kempinski Resort) and were accorded transport and the facilities that allowed them to showcase the island in its best light. Respected BBC news presenter Aaron Heslehurst and SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) presenter Maschaba Lekalake were also roped in to be emcees of the whole event alongside popular locals and this gave the event an international feel that went beyond just what we saw on the streets.

So how was little Seychelles able to afford such a monument feat in such a short time? After all it must have cost a lot to make the whole events happen. Luckily the government didn’t have to invest colossal amounts of money to prepare the country as the systems on the islands already work quite well and there is only a small amount of money that needed to be invested on the event specifically.

“We only spent 300 000 US dollars on the event as a government,” stated Seychelles tourism minister Alaine St Ange on the sidelines. “Most of the money for this event came from the sponsors.”

Oil was discovered in the Seychelles and in the very recent past there has been speculation from many investors many from the Middle East including the Saudis, the Qataris and those from the United Arab Emirates. The government has leveraged on this position of strength and gotten many sponsors on board to bring life to the event. The title sponsor of the event this year was the Emirates with a hefty sponsorship.

Ultimately the carnival is aimed to highlight the Indian Ocean area which has often been forgotten where the world tourist circuit is concerned with many visitors heading to the Pacific islands and the Caribbean. This will make the Seychelles and its inhabitants keep the lifestyle that they have been accustomed to.