*The Essence Festival is finding a new home on international soil with a move to South Africa.
The move comes amid a three-year partnership between the Essence and eThekwini Municipality. As a result, the Municipality will host the Essence Festival in Durban, South Africa in 2016 and 2017, Essence President Michelle Ebanks and eThekwini Mayor James Nxumalo at Durban City Hall announced Thursday (Oct. 15).
“We are delighted to partner with the vibrant city of Durban to launch the Essence Festival globally in South Africa,” Ebanks said in a press release. “Hosting our first international Essence Festival in Durban purposefully extends our mission to convene the diaspora around shared aspirations.”
Prior to its worldwide expansion, the Essence Festival was held in New Orleans. More than 450,000 attendees from across the globe have attended the annual multi-day entertainment, empowerment and cultural event each year, according to the release. In addition to bringing a variety of people to the city, the Essence Festival has made a noticeable impact on the local economy to the tune of more than $200 million.
Despite the Festival leaving New Orleans, the city’s mayor, Mitch Landrieu, referenced the benefit of the city playing host to the event as well as his excitement over the event residing in Durban.
“For more than 20 years, the Essence Festival has brought thousands of people together in New Orleans from near and far to celebrate a world-class event,” Landrieu stated in the release. “I am thrilled that this festival is now expanding internationally to Durban, South Africa. The people of New Orleans know first-hand that the Essence Festival has not only enhanced our cultural economy, but it has also made a meaningful impact across the community through service and personal empowerment.”
Taking its cue from annual New Orleans event, the Essence Festival Durban will present international performers and speakers to entertain and inspire, in addition to a host of local artists and experts. Small businesses and youth will also be targeted at the event, with the presentation of exciting and informative ideas to equip them via empowerment seminars across various sectors that include career guidance workshops and other empowerment initiatives.
For Mayor Nxumalo, the Essence Festival cements Durban’s status as a choice international destination as it joins a number of high profile events the city has hosted in the past two years.
“This partnership will have a host of benefits for residents starting with the Durban Business Fair (DBF) program which strives to connect local businesses globally. The Fair is taking place simultaneously with the Essence Festival launch announcement,” Nxumalo said while pointing out that the Essence partnership would continue to focus on the development of women and youth in business.
According to the release, a number of women-owned businesses will be selected to trade at the Festival in a move to boost their profile and drive sales for their respective companies.