5 Francophone African Countries You Should Visit

Posted By : Travel Africa Movement/ 211 0

Francophone Africa offers beautiful landscapes, friendly people, and abundant history and culture. Here are our top 5 French-speaking countries that you should visit.

Due to its history of colonization, there are more French speakers on the African continent than in the country of France itself. In fact, French is the official language in 21 African countries and spoken in at least 29, primarily in West and Central Africa. American and other English-speaking tourists often overlook the Francophone countries due to a perceived language barrier, but those adventurous enough to explore will find beautiful landscapes, friendly people, and abundant history and culture. By learning some basic French words and hiring a bilingual tour guide, English speakers can have an enjoyable time in Francophone Africa. Here are our top 5 Francophone African countries that you should visit.

WEST AFRICA

1. Senegal

Known as the land of “Teranga” (a Wolof word for hospitality), Senegal is quickly becoming one of West Africa’s most popular tourist destinations, with visitors lured by its vibrant culture, historical sites, and fabulous beaches. Its capital and largest city, Dakar, sits on the Cap-Vert peninsula, the westernmost point of Africa. At only 7.5 hours from New York, the flight is one of the shortest from the United States to the African continent.

The first stop for most tourists is Dakar, the bustling capital with a fascinating mix of old, traditional, and religious juxtaposed against new, modern, and secular. It’s not uncommon to see a Range Rover drive past a horse-drawn cart on the same street or to see two Senegalese men greet each other, one dressed in a traditional boubou and the other wearing jeans and a tee. Though more than 90% of the population practices Islam, Muslims and Christians live side by side in relative peace. In fact, two of the city’s most notable buildings are the Catholic Our Lady of Victories Cathedral and the Mosque of the Divinity. But don’t let this deeply religious nation fool you. Dakar also has a vibrant night life and you’ll need plenty of stamina to keep up. Most parties don’t start until after midnight and continue well into early morning.

African Renaissance Monument
Photo credit: The Travel Sista

For those interested in heritage tourism, Goree Island and the House of Slaves is a pilgrimage destination. Once a slave trading post during the transatlantic slave trade, today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and memorial to those affected by the suffering and brutality of slavery. Dakar is also home to the Museum of Black Civilizations – the world’s largest museum dedicated to the history of Africa and the African diaspora, as well as the African Renaissance Monument – Africa’s largest statue. This massive bronze statue of a Black man, woman and child represents the end of slavery and Africa’s emergence from colonial rule. Other noted attractions include IFAN Museum of African Arts, Village des Arts, Ngor Island, and the Pink Lake.

If it’s beaches that you want, Senegal has plenty to choose from. Dakar is surrounded by water on three sides and its public and private beaches provide a break for locals and tourists alike. But the most popular Senegalese beaches are found along the Petite Coast, in the coastal towns of Saly, Somone, and Popenguine. Another popular beach area is the Casamance region, in southern Senegal, where Cap Skirring, Abene, and other coastal villages boast some of the most beautiful and unspoiled beaches in the country. The Sine-Saloum delta region, south of the Petite Coast, is a fascinating area of lagoons, islands, and coastal villages and well worth a visit.

French and Wolof are the most widely spoken languages in Senegal. Though it’s possible to find a few English speakers, we recommend learning some greetings and phrases in French and/or Wolof.

For more insider tips and information about things to do and the best places to visit in Senegal, check out our Senegal Travel Guide.

2. Côte d’Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire (commonly called Ivory Coast) is one of West Africa’s fastest growing tourism destinations, having seen a near ten-fold increase of visitors between 2010 and 2020. Tourism largely centers around nature, beaches, culture, and architecture. Côte d’Ivoire is an interesting country of contrasts with the 3rd largest French speaking population in the world.

Abidjan is the de facto capital and largest city of Côte d’Ivoire. It’s also West Africa’s second most populous city and a cosmopolitan city renowned for its shopping, food, and nightlife. Its Plateau area has been called the “Manhattan of Africa” because of its gleaming skyscrapers and manicured gardens. Landmarks include La Pyramide building, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Plateau Mosque, Félix Houphouët-Boigny stadium, and the Museum of Civilizations of Côte d’Ivoire. From the markets, maquis (local restaurants), and caves (local bars) to the many rooftop bars, lounges and nightclubs, there’s always something fun to do. By contrast, Yamoussoukro, the official political capital, is a much smaller urban town explored by most visitors as a day trip. Its pièce de resistance is the Our Lady of Peace Basilica (Basilica Notre Dame de la Paix), the world’s largest church. The Fondation Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Presidential Palace and surrounding Crocodile Lake are other popular attractions there.

The town of Man, located about 9 hours from Abidjan in western Côte d’Ivoire, lies between two of the country’s highest mountains and is popular with hikers and rock climbers. It’s also home to Les Cascades, a natural waterfall which is the city’s best-known attraction (the falls are most impressive during rainy season, but less so during the dry season from July to October). Korhogo, in the north, is a cultural hub known for its wood carvers, weavers, painters, and metalworkers. The handpainted pictorial Korhogo cloth, named after the village, is its most famous export. Kong, a few hours east of Korhogo, is known for its mud mosque reminiscent of those in Mali.

Grand Bassam beach
Photo credit: The Travel Sista

The beach towns of Grand Bassam, Assinie, and San Pedro are also popular with vacationers and locals alike. Grand Bassam is the closest to Abidjan and a popular weekend hangout. The National Costume Museum, Lighthouse, and Artisans Village there are worth a visit. Assinie, about 2 hours from Abidjan, is a resort area with boutique hotels lining the coast. San Pedro, about 7 hours from Abidjan, arguably has the most pristine beaches in Côte d’Ivoire and they’re swimmable, unlike those in Grand Bassam and Assinie which have dangerous waves and riptides.

For the nature and wildlife lovers, Côte d’Ivoire has 3 national parks on the UNESCO World Heritage List: Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve, a geographically unique mountainous area with unusually rich flora and fauna; Taï National Park, home of 11 monkey species and the pygmy hippo; and Comoe National Park, West Africa’s largest protected area, which is teeming with wildlife.

French is the lingua franca in Côte d’Ivoire. English speakers are few, particularly outside of Abidjan, so it’s useful to learn some basic French greetings and phrases.

3. Benin

Known as the birthplace of Vodun (aka voodoo), Benin is a popular destination for those interested in history, heritage tourism, and traditional African religions. Present day Benin was the site of Dahomey, a prominent West African kingdom that rose in the 15th century and specialized in the slave trade. Today, its ruined temples and royal palaces are a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the country’s top tourist attractions. The 12 Royal Palaces of Abomey are spread over 100 acres in the town of Abomey and several have been converted into museums which illustrate the history of the kingdom.

Cotonou, a coastal city in the south, is Benin’s largest city and the primary entry point for most tourists as the main international airport is located there. But alas most people are surprised to learn that Cotonou is not the official capital; that would be Porto Novo, the former colonial port city known for its colonial architecture, Yoruba culture, and its connection to Afro-Brazilian history. One of Cotonou’s most famous buildings is the Grande Marché du Dantopka, where you can find fruit, spices, electronics, woven baskets, and just about anything else for sale. But the main draw for tourists is the fetish market, with skulls, bones, medicinal treatments, and other items used for traditional vodun rituals. Other Cotonou attractions include the Foundation Zinsou, an artistic space with artwork from local and regional artists; L’etoile Rouge, a monument in the center of the city; Centre Artisanal, an arts, crafts and souvenir market; and the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Door of No Return monument, Ouidah, Benin
Photo credit: Dan Sloan, Flickr

Ouidah, also in southern Benin about 50 minutes from Cotonou, is ground zero for heritage tourists. One of its most visited sites is the Slave Route, a 2.5 mile trail terminating at the beachside Door of No Return monument, a memorial to those who were kidnapped, sold, and shipped to the Americas. Ouidah is also the main site of the Vodun Festival, held every year on January 10th. This festival attracts visitors from around the world who come to celebrate vodun, the traditional animist religion that centers vodun spirits and other elements of divine essence that govern the Earth. At the Python Temple, dozens of pythons are revered and worshipped as religious symbols.

Benin’s most unique landmark is the lake village of Ganvie, affectionately called the Venice of Africa. The founders of the village escaped there 500 years ago to avoid slave traders and today the settlement has grown to more than 3,000 homes and buildings, all on stilts and accessible only by boat.

Most Beninese people speak French or Fon, so it’s useful to learn some basic French.

4. Togo

One of the smallest countries in West Africa, Togo draws visitors to its wildlife, nature, traditional religions, and historical sites. Its capital and largest city is Lomé, where popular attractions include the Lomé National Museum, Palais de Lomé, Grand Marché, Monument de L’independence, Sacred Heart Cathedral, and the Hotel Sarakawa’s Olympic-sized pool.

Similar to Benin, Vodou is one of its most popular animist religions and traditional healing methods are widely used. The Akodessewa Fetish Market in Lomé is the world’s largest voodoo market and a mecca for local practitioners and tourists curious about the oft-misunderstood religion. There you can find anything from talismans, leopard heads, and human skulls to Vodou priests who will bless you, create fetishes, predict the future, and make medicines to heal your ailments.

The coastal town of Aného (aka Little Popo), in southeast Togo, was founded as a slave port in the late 17th century and was once one of West Africa’s largest slave centers. Today, the slave house in nearby Agbodrafo is a tourist site where visitors learn about the legal and illegal slave trade in the region. It’s often a stop for tourists en route to Lake Togo and Togoville, known for its many sacred trees and vodou shrines.

Togo also offers a variety of nature activities. Kpalime waterfalls in the central region are the tallest and most beautiful waterfalls in the country. The falls are impressive during the rainy season, but less so during the dry season from late October to March. Nearby, Mount Agou, Togo’s highest mountain, provides hiking and climbing opportunities. Togo also has a range of wildlife in three national parks: Fazao Mafakassa National Park, Kéran National Park, and Fosse Aux Lions National Park.

Takienta mud tower house, Koutammakou, Togo
Photo credit: David Bacon, Flickr

The Koutammakou landscape, in northeast Togo, is a UNECO World Heritage site and home to the Takienta houses of the Batammariba people. These mud tower houses and village architecture have become a symbol of Togo and source of national pride.

French and Ewe are the mostly widely spoken languages in Togo, so it’s useful to learn some basic French.

CENTRAL AFRICA

5. Cameroon

Unlike the others, both French and English are official languages in Cameroon. But eight of its 10 regions are Francophone, with 84% of the population speaking French (the Northwest and Southwest regions are Anglophone, with 16% speaking English). Tourism is a minor but growing industry and typically centers around heritage tourism, history, and nature. Travelers are advised to avoid the borders with Nigeria, Chad and Central African Republic due to ongoing conflicts, but otherwise Cameroon has much to offer adventurous tourists.

Cameroon’s natural features include beaches, deserts, mountains, rainforests, waterfalls, lakes, and savannas. Wildlife and safaris are also popular, with Waza National Park being its largest wildlife reserve along with 18 other national parks. Mount Cameroon, an active volcano, is the highest point in the country and is popular with hikers and climbers.

Douala is its largest city and also the location of its international airport and largest port. Things to see include the Maritime Museum, Flower Market, La Nouvelle Liberte monument, Doual’Art gallery, and St. Pierre and St. Paul Cathedral. Sonara beach, in nearby Limbé, features black sand, a laid-back vibe, and the best views of Mount Cameroon. Tea plantations and the Limbe Botanical Garden are other oft-visited attractions there.

Yaoundé is the capital and 2nd largest city, beautifully spread over seven hills. Popular attractions include the Reunification Monument, Musée de la Blackitude, Mokolo Market, Place de l’Indépendence, Benedictine Museum of Mont Febe, and the National Museum of Yaounde.

Kribi, located about 2.5 hours south of Douala, is called the paradise of Cameroon. It’s renowned for its white sandy beaches, crystal blue waters, and fresh fish served in the many seafront restaurants. The Lobé Waterfalls, which cascade into the ocean, are also nearby. Kribi is also home to the Baka people (formerly known as pygmies).

Bimbia, in southwest Cameroon, was said to be Central Africa’s largest slave port during the transatlantic slave trade. Today, its slave village is a national monument and tourist site. While most of the structures were destroyed at abolition of slavery, a few remain albeit in disrepair due to the passage of time. Periodic enslavement reenactments are performed at the site.

Palace of the Sultan of Bamoun, Foumban, Cameroon
Photo credit: Jasmine Halki, Flickr

For history buffs, the Foumban Palace and Bafut Palace are must-see attractions. Foumban, in northwest Cameroon, is home to the Bamoun kingdom, which has had a succession of 19 kings since 1394. The palace, where the current king still resides, houses a museum which tells the history of the Bamoun dynasty and displays a multitude of royal gowns, arms, musical instruments, statues, jewelry, masks, and colorful bead-covered thrones. The nearby Museum of Bamoun Arts and Traditions is also worth a visit. Also in the northwest, the Bafut Palace is the heart of the Bafut kingdom. The palace comprises over 50 buildings arranged around a shrine, which are used by the Fon (traditional ruler), his wives, and the royal court.

French, English, and several pidgin languages are lingua francas in Cameroon. But since most Cameroonians speak French, it’s useful to learn some basic French greetings and phrases.


Local African tour guides and tour companies with Bilingual guides:

Africa Border Re-openings

Posted By : Travel Africa Movement/ 827 0

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, most African countries closed their borders to international travel. Here’s an updated list of border reopenings.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, 36 African countries closed their borders to international travel. Another 8 countries suspended flights from countries with high Covid-19 transmission. Now these countries are slowly re-opening their borders and allowing international flights to resume in a bid to rejuvenate their economies.

Be mindful that many countries still have mandatory mask and social distance requirements, as well as prohibitions on mass gatherings and/or public transportation which may limit some tourism options. Also, be sure to check with country embassies for detailed information regarding entry, testing and quarantine requirements, as information is subject to quickly change.

* Current as of November 11, 2020. Below is a list of current and future planned border re-openings. Check back often as we will update the list as information becomes available.

Current Border Openings

Seychelles – June 1: air borders open for tourists from select countries, charter flights only, commercial flights commencing Aug. 1, negative Covid test from 48 hours or less from time of arrival

Tanzania – June 1: normal border rules apply, no mandatory 14-day isolation or quarantine period

Equatorial Guinea – June 15: phased reopening of air borders, land and sea borders remain closed until further notice, negative Covid test from 48 hours or less from time of arrival, social distancing rules in place

Zambia – June 25: negative Covid PCR test within 14 days of departure required, retesting on arrival if passenger has symptoms or temperature above 38C/100F, mandatory masks and social distancing required

Tunisia – June 27: air, land and sea borders open to select travelers based on country risk assessment, mandatory masks, hygiene and social distancing policies in place.

Egypt – July 1: foreign tourists may only visit the South Sinai, Red Sea, and Matrouh provinces and select resorts. Proof of valid health insurance is required.

Gabon – July 1: air borders open, land and sea borders closed, limited international flights allowed, mandatory face masks and social distancing policies in place, curfew from 8 pm – 5 am.

Liberia – July 1: air borders open, negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival, temperature scan, health check, and retesting may occur upon arrival, mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone positive on arrival

Morocco – July 14: air borders open for Moroccan national and legal residents only, both a PCR virus test taken within 48 hours or less from time of arrival AND an antibody test are required, mandatory face masks and social distancing policies will remain in place

Senegal – July 15: air borders open, land and sea borders will remain closed until further notice, reciprocal ban on tourists from EU and other countries who have banned Senegalese travelers, negative Covid PCR test within last 7 days required or test on arrival, health declaration form must be completed on arrival, mandatory masks and social distancing rules in place.

Sierra Leone – July 22: air borders open, tourists must have negative Covid PCR test from 72 hours or less from time of departure and be tested again on arrival, must prepay for Covid testing online before arrival, mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine will be required – at traveler’s expense – if traveler tests positive on arrival, mandatory masks and social distancing rules in place, curfew 11 pm to 5 am, departing passengers also must have negative Covid test from 72 hours or less from time of departure or travel will not be allowed

Chad – August 1: air borders open for international flights, must have negative Covid PCR test dated 72 hours or less from arrival, passports confiscated upon arrival and 7 day self quarantine at passenger expense, retest required on 7th day and passports returned after final negative test result

Ethiopia – August 1: air borders open, land borders closed. Negative PCR test within 5 days of arrival and upon arrival, must self-quarantine for 14 days. Passengers arriving without a negative PCR test must quarantine at government designated hotels for 7 days at their own expense and be retested at end of quarantine period

Kenya – August 1: air borders open for international tourists, negative Covid test from 72 hours or less from time of arrival, temperature check, and health questionnaire, 11:00 pm to 4:00 am curfew.

Rwanda – August 1: air borders open, tourists must have negative Covid test from 72 hours or less from time of arrival and be tested again before visiting any tourist attraction or embarking on any tour/trek, negative test results must be emailed to [email protected] before departure and a copy provided on arrival

Togo – August 1: air borders open, land borders closed, negative PCR test within 72 hours of scheduled departure,  additional test upon arrival and travelers must quarantine in their hotel until negative results return, online immigration form required, must also download a contact tracing app.

Benin – August 10: air borders open for limited commercial flights, essential travel only at land borders, passports confiscated upon arrival, three Covid tests required at cost of 100,000 CFA, 3 day hotel quarantine at passenger expense, passports returned after day 15 upon final negative test result.

Democratic Republic of the Congo – August 15: air borders open, negative PCR test within 72 hours of scheduled departure, temperature screening at airport, possibility of retesting and quarantine, face masks and social distancing required

Mozambique – August 20: air borders open, both a PCR test taken within 72 hours departure AND a second PCR test after 10-day mandatory quarantine are required, 2nd test can be avoided with a 14-day quarantine, NO Airport or border are being issued, so only those with valid existing visas or residence permits will be permitted to enter, mandatory face masks and social distancing policies will remain in place

Namibia – September 1: tourists from carefully selected low-risk markets, negative Covid-19 PCR test taken 72 hours or less before arrival, quarantine for 7 days at own expense and retesting on 7th day required.

Ghana – September 1: air borders open, negative PCR test within 72 hours of scheduled departure AND mandatory retest upon arrival at cost of $150 USD, temperature screening at airport, face masks and social distancing required

Nigeria – September 5: air borders open, negative Covid PCR test required within 96 hours of scheduled departure (from certain countries tests only accepted from specified laboratories), mandatory quarantine for 7 days and retesting required on 7th day after arrival at passenger’s expense, online health questionnaire and test payment must be completed with copy on arrival, temperature screens, masks, social distancing and other safety protocols in place.

Cote d’Ivoire – September 24: air borders open, land borders closed, negative PCR test within 7 days of arrival and within 7 days of departure for passenger from certain countries, mandatory online health declaration form and fee with printed copy on arrival: https://deplacement-aerien.gouv.ci/#procedure, temperature/symptom screening upon arrival, masks, social distancing and other safety protocols in place.

South Africa – October 1: air borders open for tourists from low risk countries only, negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival, mandatory travel insurance required, temperature/symptom screening upon arrival, travelers from high risk countries are banned for tourist travel: https://www.gov.za/speeches/minister-aaron-motsoaledi-re-opening-borders-and-ports-entry-international-travellers, if a traveler has spent 10 days or more in a low risk country before departure, he/she is deemed to be arriving from a low risk country

Uganda – October 1: air borders open for all tourists, negative PCR test within 72 hours of scheduled departure and 120 hours prior to departure from Uganda, temperature/symptom screening and fingerprinting upon arrival, mandatory masks and social distancing required, nationwide curfew from 9:00 pm to 6:00 am daily.

Zimbabwe – October 1: air borders open to tourists, negative PCR test within 48 hours of scheduled departure, temperature/symptom screening upon arrival

Cape Verde – October 12: air borders open to tourists, negative PCR test within 72 hours of scheduled departure, online health surveillance form and online Airport Security Tax form must be completed prior to travel, temperature/symptom screening upon arrival

Gambia – Air borders are open for international tourists on October 31. Land and sea borders are open effective October 16, 2020, negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival, temperature/symptom screening upon arrival, mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers with rapid tests or those whose tests don’t fall within the required timeframe

Botswana – November 9: phased reopening thru December 1, 2020. International airports in Gabarone and Maun open on Nov. 9 and at Francistown on Dec. 1, certain land borders open on Dec. 1, negative PCR test within 72 hours of scheduled departure, temperature/symptom screening upon arrival, must self monitor and maintain contact with local health authority for 14 days

Future Border Openings

Month by Month Guide to Africa’s Best Festivals

Posted By : Travel Africa Movement/ 2103 0

With 54 countries and island nations, there’s never a shortage of things to do in Africa. Here are some its best festivals.

With 54 countries and island nations, there’s never a shortage of things to do on the African continent. Festivals provide a great opportunity to experience the diverse culture, music and food, while also benefiting the local economies. Here are some of the best ones you should consider attending.

JANUARY

The Equatorial Guinea Bodypainting Festival ~ Equatorial Guinea

The Equatorial Guinea Bodypainting Festival is one of the newest festivals on the continent, having only been launched in 2019. But it’s already gaining fans and spurring tourism to the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa. The festival includes tours, eco-adventures, and art workshops on mask making, pole dancing, and creative drawing, among others. Of course, the festival highlight is the amazing body paint presentations.

Timkat Festival ~ Ethiopia

Timkat is Ethiopian Epiphany Day, a celebration of the baptism of Jesus Christ, occurring across the country, but mainly in Lalibela, Gondar, and Addis Ababa. The festival happens every year on January 19 (January 20 in leap years), with preparations the day before (ketera) and three days of colorful processions, dance, music, prayer and a ritual baptismal re-enactment. This is one of the major religious festivals in Ethiopia and an excellent way to immerse oneself in Ethiopian history and culture. 

The Voodoo Festival ~ Benin

The Voodoo Festival is a celebration of the voodoo religion that takes place every year on January 10th  in Ouidah, Benin. This popular festival draws fetish priests, adepts, traditional chiefs and onlookers from across the globe. There are ritual sacrifices, dancing, drinking and drumming. Devotees assume the identity of gods, dressing up and transforming into that god as they do, with the realm of the magical close at hand. 

Video credit: Search for Uhuru

FEBRUARY

Abu Simbel Sun Festival ~ Egypt

The Abu Simbel temples are two massive rock temples built as a monument to Pharaoh Ramesses II and his queen Nefertari and to commemorate his victory at the Battle of Kadesh. The temples remain in darkness all year, except for two occasions on February 22 and October 22, when a stream of natural sunlight illuminates the entire complex. Tourists come from around the globe to see this solar phenomenon and architectural marvel, and to enjoy music, dance, food, drinking, market shopping and more. 

Carnival ~ Cape Verde

Carnival is celebrated on all 10 islands, but the biggest and liveliest celebrations happen in Mindelo on Sao Vicente island. The dates change each year, but the week leading up to Shrove Tuesday (February 25 in 2020) is filled with street parties and other events, culminating with the main parade complete with samba dancing, singing, live music, elaborate floats, and colorful costumes. Come ready to have fun because the celebrations start early in the morning and go on all day.

Video credit: Arpadinho Day and Night

Sauti za Busara ~ Zanzibar, Tanzania

This 4-day music festival is held every February and showcases African music from across the continent. Highlights of Sauti za Busara include 400+ live musicians, a carnival parade, impromptu jam sessions and after parties, with a backdrop of the beautiful beach views and island breezes of Stone Town. 

MARCH

Bouake Carnival ~ Cote d’Ivoire

Bouake Carnival is the Ivorian version of Mardi Gras. This weeklong celebration of life and friendship is held in late March in Bouake, the second largest city in Cote d’ivoire. Tourists and locals join together to enjoy great music, eat traditional foods, explore cultural markets, attend lively street parties and parades, and hear music from local artists and musicians from all over the continent of Africa.

Video credit: Hawkeye Production

Cape Town International Jazz Festival ~ South Africa

Touted as Africa’s Grandest Gathering, Cape Town Jazz Festival is one of the biggest jazz festivals on the continent. This 2-day festival is hosted in the beautiful Cape Town and known for its all-star lineup of local and international acts.

APRIL

Festival of Urban Music of Anoumabo (FEMUA) ~ Cote d’Ivoire

This annual music festival is a party with a purpose – the proceeds are used to build schools and hospitals across the country. Started by Salif “Asalfo” Traoré, singer of the Ivorian band, Magic System, as a way to give back to the Anoumabo neighborhood, this celebration has morphed from a neighborhood party to a major festival, drawing crowds of more than 100,000 people to Abidjan. FEMUA features a variety of Ivorian and Pan African music and has an annual theme aimed at spurring social awareness and change. Be warned — the festival starts late and typically runs until 5:00 am.

Harare International Festival of the Arts  ~ Zimbabwe

The Harare International Festival of the Arts is one of Africa’s largest art and cultural festivals, held in Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare. The 6-day festival and workshop program showcases Zimbabwean, regional and international arts and culture with dance, music, circus, street performances, fashion, spoken word, theater and visual arts. 

MAY

Azgo Festival ~ Mozambique

The Azgo Festival is a contemporary celebration of arts and culture, with a strong focus on artists from Mozambique and the entire African continent. The four-day festival includes live music, films, dance, artistic and cultural development workshops and gourmet street food vendors.

Bush Fire Festival ~ eSwatini (formerly Swaziland)

One of Africa’s most popular events, Bush Fire is an annual 3-day festival which showcases music, art and culture from all over the African continent. Through its mantra “Bring Your Fire”, Bushfire encourages creative expression and social change, and invites everyone to contribute and engage through a program of creative workshops, discussions, art exhibitions and guest speakers. 

Video credit: MTN Bushfire Festival

La Biennale de L’Art Africain Contemporain/Dak’Art ~ Senegal

La Biennale de L’Art Africain Contemporain, commonly known as Dak’Art, is a month-long contemporary arts festival held every two years in Senegal’s capital of Dakar. The festival features art exhibitions with a variety of national and international artists, as well as in situ mural and sculpture creations, lectures, films, live performances, African culinary presentations, and more. The next edition of Dak’Art is in 2020.

Saint-Louis Jazz Festival ~ Senegal

Held in the former French capital of Saint-Louis, the renowned Saint-Louis Jazz Festival happens annually in May and attracts local and international jazz greats. The 5-day festival is in its 28th year and attracts close to 100,000 music lovers from around the world.

Windhoek Annual Cultural Festival ~ Namibia

The Windhoek Annual Cultural Festival is a new festival, which seeks to promote Namibian cultural diversity and provide a platform for upcoming artists and entrepreneurs to exhibit and promote their businesses. Participants celebrate their cultural backgrounds through traditional dress, dance performances and food. Additional activities include a battle of DJs, choir competition, battle of chefs, eating competition and talent show.

Video credit: Southgate Films

JUNE

Fes Festival of World Sacred Music ~ Morocco

The Fes Festival of World Sacred Music is 10-day celebration held in Fes, in northern Morocco. The festival advocates music as a means of promoting dialogue and harmony between civilizations and is a combination of concerts, workshops and discussions on climate change, human and civil rights, social justice and other important issues.

Jazzablanca ~ Morocco

Jazzablanca is an international jazz festival held yearly in Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city. The 9-day festival features local and international artists with a mix of famous and up-and-coming jazz, pop, rock, blues and funk. Food and fashion workshops are also held.

JULY

Zanzibar International Film Festival ~ Zanzibar, Tanzania

The Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF), also known as Festival of the Dhow Countries, is an annual 10-day film festival held on Zanzibar island. ZIFF includes workshops and screenings of African films in various genres, including African Animation, TV series and Web series.

Panafest ~ Ghana

The Pan African Historical Theatre Festival, commonly known as Panafest, is a cultural festival held every two years for Africans and people of African descent. The festival is intended to bring together Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora around the issues raised by the transatlantic slave trade. The two-week festival includes a variety of cultural events, performance arts, dance and music workshops, speaking colloquiums, and tributes to the ancestors. The next Panafest is in 2021. 

AUGUST

Chale Wote Street Art Festival ~ Ghana

Chale Wote has quickly become one of West Africa’s biggest and most popular events, with more than 100,000 attendees and 200 Ghanaian and international artists participating. The 10-day street festival includes street painting, graffiti murals, photo exhibitions, live street performances, extreme sports, African cinema, street boxing, a fashion parade, a music block party, design labs and more. 

Gaborone International Music and Culture Week (GIMC) ~ Botswana

GIMC is a weeklong annual festival that celebrates the city of Gaborone through music, theatre, comedy, poetry, fashion and other cultural activities. Performers include local, regional and international artists.

SEPTEMBER

Lake of Stars Festival ~ Malawi

Lake of Stars is an annual 3-day international music festival held on the shores of Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa. The activities include music, talks, poetry, theater, film, art and wellness activities from Malawi and across the globe. On-site camping is available and encouraged. The festival is on hiatus for 2020, but is expected to return in 2021. 

Nyege Nyege Festival ~ Uganda

Held on the shores of the Nile River, the 4-day Nyege Nyege festival is one of the biggest underground music festivals in East Africa. Nyege Nyege is a Swahili word meaning an uncontrollable urge to move, shake, or dance and you’ll do just that at this non-stop party and celebration of Ugandan and African culture. Nyege Nyege showcases an eclectic mix of music genres from Africans and the diaspora, including electronic music, Ugandan dancehall, Balani (Mali), Kweito (South Africa), Kuduro (Angola), Cumbia (South America) and more.  

OCTOBER

Felabration ~ Nigeria

Felabration is an annual music and arts festival commemorating the life of Fela Kuti, a Nigerian musician and human rights activist known for pioneering the afrobeat music genre. The weeklong celebration includes a wide range of activities, including debates, symposiums, afrobics dance competitions, art exhibitions and competitions, and music concerts.

NOVEMBER

Mombasa Carnival ~ Kenya

The Mombasa Carnival is one of Kenya’s biggest and most popular festivals, held every year in November. This lively street party revolves around two parades, which converge on Moi Avenue and display Mombasa’s diverse cultures with an array of floats, traditional dress, music concerts, and dance. A mix of traditional and contemporary artists join the celebration.

DECEMBER

Afrochella ~ Ghana

Afrochella is Africa’s answer to America’s Coachella. This annual one-day festival seeks to highlight the thriving talent from and within Africa and features African music, culture, art, fashion and food. Related happenings, including panel discussions, charity events, and parties, are held the week of the festival.

Afropunk ~ South Africa

Afropunk is an annual alternative arts festival that includes live music, film, fashion, and art produced by black artists. The festival debuted in Brooklyn, New York and has since expanded to locations across the globe, including Johannesburg, South Africa. The two-day Afropunk Joburg features live concerts, panel conversations, battle of the bands, and food and craft markets. 

Calabar Carnival ~ Nigeria

Called Africa’s biggest street party, the Calabar Carnival takes place the entire month of December in the city of Calabar in southeastern Nigeria. It attracts more than 2 million revelers and has participants from 25 countries. The festivities include street parades, battle of the bands, concerts, art shows, street parties, food competitions, fashion shows, sporting events and non-stop parties. Carnival week, the final week between Christmas and New Year, is when most of the highlights occur. 

Video credit: Essence of Mae

Victoria Falls Carnival ~ Zimbabwe

The Victoria Falls Carnival is a 3-day blowout party held annually at the end of December. The party starts on Day One with a Carnival train ride and secret bush party. Day Two features an electric safari concert with the best live house, African, indie and electro-pop music. The party culminates on New Year’s Eve, with a concert and year-end countdown complete with fire breathers, traditional dancers, and a host of African music artists. All of the fun is held in the backdrop of Victoria Falls, one of the biggest and most famous waterfalls in the world.