The CanalOlympia Rebero cultural complex in Kigali, built by the French group Vivendi and Inaugurated in December 2020, brings together in one place a range of leisure and entertainment activities, making the project unique in the country.
By Abraham Uwimana
Friday afternoon; it is almost 2 p.m. at CanalOlympia Rebero, the new cultural hotspot in the Rwandan capital. Judith Mukangamije and her four children are waiting for their movie screening scheduled to start at 3:30 pm. “CanalOlympia is exceptional. My children and I really enjoy being here, because it’s the only place to watch the latest movies and the screening room is incredible,” the mother, a regular visitor, says enthusiastically. In fact, this family is one of the more than 500 people who go to the CanalOlympia cinema every week, but not only: besides the movie theater, which has a seating capacity of 300, the complex also has an open-air stage that can accommodate up to 20,000 people and a space dedicated to escape games, team games where the players evolve in a themed area.
A result of French media group Vivendi’s ambition
Located on the slope of Rebero, on the outskirts of Kigali, CanalOlympia Rebero is the result of the ambition of the French media group Vivendi (Canal+, Universal Music, Editis, Havas, Gameloft, Dailymotion…). In return for a 20-year lease signed with the Rwanda Development Board – the national agency in charge of investment promotion – the group has invested 40 million dollars in this project. This is the first project of the French giant in East Africa. In all, Vivendi is present in 12 African countries, Rwanda and Nigeria being the only English-speaking countries on the continent where the CanalOlympia brand is currently deployed.
The project open to the general public since the beginning of December 2020 will be completed in two phases. The first phase, completed, includes the current facility (movie theater, open concert area, food court and children’s gaming area), while the second phase, underway, will comprise Universal recording studios, a Gameloft laboratory and a Canal Factory (TV recording studio). In short, a media concentration of the Vivendi galaxy that makes CanalOlympia Rebero “a unique place, with features not found anywhere else,” says Aimée Umutoni, the director of CanalOlympia Rwanda. “Besides, two professional mini-football courts and a mini-golf course will be shortly installed,” she further indicated, adding all “the facilities are powered by solar panels.”
The versatility of the proposed activities has already attracted a clientele eager for leisure and entertainment, happy to have a new offer in this area: the only modern cinema theater ever established in the Rwandan capital, the Century Cinema, had ceased to operate at the beginning of the pandemic, while many cultural events (concerts, festivals) are hosted by hotels, due to the lack of multi-purpose halls. A “void” that CanalOlympia wishes to fill. This is not to mention the efforts made by the country’s authorities to strengthen the cultural and creative industries, with the government having notably set up the Rwanda Film Office since 2019, in a bid to attract film production activity in the country.
Many jobs generated
One thing is certain, the opening of CanalOlympia “has provided many job opportunities because we have full-time staff, contractors and suppliers who all benefit from the project,” says Aimée Umutoni. Guy Ineza, an employee in CanalOlympia Rebero “after being unemployed for some time”, shares this view and hopes that “many more jobs will continue to be created through this initiative”. The director of CanalOlympia Rwanda acknowledges, however, that “the revenues generated during the first months of operation have been much lower than expected”, “due to the measures taken by the government to fight COVID-19.” These complicated beginnings do not affect Aimée Umutoni’s optimism. With the recent easing of containment measures, she already sees “a recovery in activity and the situation becoming more stable.”