by Olatunji Saliu
MONROVIA, Dec. 23 (Xinhua) -- An ecstatic crowd filled the Samuel Kanyon Doe Stadium, a multi-purpose complex in Paynesville, Liberia, a suburb of the country's capital, Monrovia, on Sunday night.
The gathering was not to watch a game of football, which is the most popular sport here. The stadium was the venue of the maiden beer festival in the west African country.
The Belt and Road Tsingtao Beer Festival, a two-day jamboree, was organized in line with the spirit of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for promoting trade, sports, tourism, culture, and strengthening the mutual understanding and friendship among peoples of the world, organizers said.
The beer festival will be held in 15 countries between December 2019 and October 2020.
Amid a colorful display of the arts and culture of the Liberian people during the festival which climaxed on Sunday, a window of opportunities opened for the citizens in various fields.
In Liberia, the Tsingtao beer is one of the top imported brands. This Chinese beer entered the west African market about a decade ago, providing opportunities, including jobs for young people.
For Liberia as a nation, it was another opportunity to promote its art and culture for the world to see. Among other opportunities, there was a display of the various tribal marks from the country's 15 counties during the festival.
Earlier speaking on the beer festival in Liberia, Lance Gbayongon, the deputy minister of information, culture, and tourism, said the government will use the opportunity to engage with Tsingtao, brewed and bottled by Qingtao Brewery Corporation in China's Qingdao city, to establish a beer village in Liberia as a way of promoting culture and tourism.
"This festival is not just to drink, but also to promote peace and reconciliation for national unity," Gbayongon said.
During the festival, participants excluding citizens below 18 years of age enjoyed many cultural and art activities.
"This is a great opportunity for me to celebrate the peace and reconciliation that is fast returning to my country," Faith Bangura, a local arts and culture journalist told Xinhua.
For many local traders, the festival was one huge opportunity to make brisk sales. Local vendors spread across the 35,000-capacity stadium had a swell time serving their customers from one part of the sports arena to the other.
For Wilson Nyanneh, the chief executive officer of Nyanneh Company Incorporated, the sole importer of the popular Tsingtao beer in Liberia, importing the beer into the country for about a decade now is about promoting the country and networking to improve its image.
"I came into partnership with Tsingtao in 2010. I came across Tsingtao when I was in China back in the days. I used to drink Tsingtao in Germany and Europe. When I came back to Liberia, I could not find the beer in the region, so I decided to do some investment into the product and make sure that the product's brand got to Liberia," Nyanneh said.
"As you can see, my people love it," he said enthusiastically.
Nyanneh said efforts will be made to annually organize the festival, as a way of creating even bigger opportunities between the people of Monrovia and Qingdao, the origin of Tsingtao beer, and people across the world.
Established in 1903, Tsingtao is currently among the top six in the world, according to Xing Zhidong, the manager in charge of the African market in the Tsingtao Beer Group.
Xing said Tsingtao has been exported to over 100 locations and regions across the world, including Liberia, which is one of the top markets for Tsingtao beer in Africa.
"We are grateful that we have this opportunity to take Tsingtao beer festival to Liberia. It is very important to us. It is connected with China's Belt and Road Initiative," he said.
"Liberia is part of the Belt and Road Initiative countries. The two companies come from two different cities -- Monrovia and Qingdao. These two cities just became sister-cities, which is great for the business between our two companies. It brings a close connection between them for business, trade, cultural exchange and also in development," the Chinese senior executive said.
Xing further said he hoped the beer festival can be a platform to not only encourage the beer business but also to promote the mutual exchange between the two cities and the two countries.
In an interview with Xinhua ahead of the festival, Chinese ambassador to Liberia Fu Jijun said that just like other famous beer festivals across the world, the Tsingtao Beer Festival will further promote tourism and culture in the west African nation and deepen China-Liberia cooperation.
"It will not only bring more business people to Liberia, but also be a good platform to show Liberian arts and culture, and promote Liberian image as an attractive tourist destination," Fu said.
"I am so glad and happy because my sale is growing. I am happy with this colorful beer festival and those who organized it. I have made lots of profit. We bring very cheap water for the people," said Venie Geetoe, a sales representative of a local water-bottling company.
"Today, we are doing our best. I wish this festival can occur every month. I want to make more money for my company so that they can be proud of us," Geetoe said in an interview.
The opportunities created by the international beer festival was not limited to Liberians alone, but also tourists who came from other parts of the world to add glitz and glamor to it.
Tom Crow, an American Tourist, said he and his friends had heard about the beer festival several weeks ago and decided to visit Liberia to be part of the celebration during his annual vacation.
"This is my first international beer festival. Tsingtao keeps me cool and refreshes me. I always feel great about it. I am currently on vacation and I enjoy this beer festival. I love the people. I love Liberia and I love Tsingtao," Crow said.
The festival snowballed into the wee hours of the night, with revelers dancing to the music of local and international artistes who came from different parts of the world to perform to the delight of the audience.
John Watakambai, a beer enthusiast, said such initiatives as the beer festival will bring about a boost in the generation of revenue for the country and provide more flourishing opportunities.
"It is a pleasure to be here. This is my first time attending a festival like this. These are the things that we try to encourage in our African brothers in the diaspora; to seek opportunities and bring it back to Africa," Watakambai said.