In today’s entry in the “How’d that work out for ya?” file, we have this headline from the April, 1979 edition of the Disney Times.
An African Pavilion for EPCOT Center’s World Showcase came a step closer to reality with the recent receipt of a letter of intent from Kenya. Two other African nations, Senegal and Ivory Coast, are expected to send similar letters soon.
Definitive agreements with these nations are still being negotiated by representatives from Disney and the respective governments.
The African Pavilion will promote tourism in the participating nations and will feature authentic food and merchandise of each country. There is a strong possibility that other nations may also participate as co-sponsors of the pavilion, according to Jack Lindquist, Corporate Vice President who’s heading the EPCOT team in seeking out participants for both Future World and World Showcase.
Kenya, with 14,340,000 population, is slightly smaller than Texas. Under British control since the 19th Century, it became independent in 1960. Acting President is Daniel Arap Moi. Tourism is the main industry, with coffee, tea and cotton the chief crops. The capital is Nairobi (pop: 736,000).
Ivory Coast is the most prosperous of the tropical African nations. A bit larger than New Mexico, with a population of 5,150,000, Ivory Coast became independent in 1960 after being a French protectorate since 1842. Coffee, cocoa and bananas are chief exports. The president is Felix Houphout-Boigny. Abidjan (pop: 800,000) is the capital.
Senegal, about the size of South Dakota, has a population of slightly more than five million. It, too, became independent in 1960. Peanuts, millet and corn are its chief crops. President is Leopold Senghor and the prime minister is Abdou Diouf. The capital is Dakar (pop: 600,000).
Now, didn’t you just learn so much? Imagine how much you’d have learned had the pavilion actually been built!
Of course, political instability and economic woes kept these nations from sponsoring a pavilion. Kenya’s president Daniel arap Moi became something of a dictator, surviving a coup attempt in 1982. The nation’s page on Wikipedia includes the following phrase: “In rural areas like Kisii District the cases of people being burnt as witches is on the rise.” Well, ok then.
Côte d’Ivoire has had similar issues; President Houphouët-Boigny was another long-serving benign dictator, and following a decade of economic woes in the 1980s and the death of Houphouët-Boigny in 1993 there has been a military coup and a civil war. All of which would make for a very awkward World Showcase experience, and one wonders what missions Kim Possible would assign you in that pavilion. Senegal has fared better by comparison, despite a militant separatist movement, but it remains overall a very poor nation.
All of this makes these nations’ intended participation in World Showcase that much more ambitious, and I would love to know the details of those negotiations. These nations’ woes are, of course, mostly unfortunate from a humanitarian perspective, but the collapse of these plans are also a shame because this would have been an interesting and unusual pavilion. Its design details remain intriguing today.
Mostly, though, the pavilion’s potential was in introducing a western audience to the cultures of countries that most people couldn’t find on a map. Perhaps it’s an idea worth revisiting.