Negativity around Essence Festival impacts sponsorships

NEGATIVE media reports around the hosting of the 2017 Essence Festival are to blame for at least one sponsor pulling out of the event which is being hosted by the city.

This was revealed at an Executive Committee meeting of eThekwini Municipality on 22 August, as exco members discussed a report on the progress of the festival and budget approval.

The municipality faces a R12.8-million funding shortfall despite R2.8-million having been secured so far in cash sponsorships.

Acting Deputy City Manager of Economic Development and Planning, Phillip Sithole, said a number of events had been budgeted for by departments and were approved by Council as they were annual events.

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“We have a shortage of a certain amount to host the festival this year of R12.8 million. We are trying to retain sponsors from last year. One has already pulled out because of the negative media reports about Essence,” he added.

Mayor Zandile Gumede said the issue of officials leaking reports had to be dealt with. She was speaking on a leaked internal audit report on the 2016 Essence Festival which was subsequently withdrawn.

“People have perceptions of the City as a result of this. New Orleans is the sister City of eThekwini. Essence Festival is a brand and when we host the Festival here we are paying for that brand. Some of the programmes being held for the Essence Festival are held every year. Also, this Festival is about women empowerment,” Gumede said.

Sipho Kaunda, chairperson of the Economic Development and Planning Committee condemned the negative media reports which quoted the incorrect figures around the Essence Festival.

“The amount requested in this report is less than what was budgeted for originally. We cannot argue about a leaked report. What appeared in the report was incorrect. We can only discuss a credible report,” he said.

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This year’s Festival takes place from 26 September to 1 October at the ICC and Durban Exhibition Centre. It will combine existing council programmes such as the Durban Business Fair, Women Empowerment, the Gospel ID, the Articulate Africa Book and Art Fair and Health, Fitness and Lifestyle events. Sithole said many of these events had already been budgeted for as they were annual programmes.

Essence Festival Durban was approved by Council in 2015 to build the Durban brand equity, promote diverse culture and stimulate local economic participation while transferring skills according to the tabled report. It added that the initiative, to host the Festival over three years, was in line with the City’s tourism visitor strategy of ‘taking Durban to the world’.

Sithole said speakers from the United States had been lined up to talk at the Festival which would also be attened by a caucus of the US Chamber of Commerce.

“As a City we have never hosted 30 top businesses from America before. And they are coming to the City because of Essence. Businesses from the state of California have also confirmed their attendance,” he added.



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Lauren Walford

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