Africa is home to numerous beauties and wonders centuries old and encapsulating a divine heritage and history in its landscape. Journeying through the continents cardinal points immerses you in its majestic wonder. In the “Ventures Travel Interviews,” Vénicia Guinot follows the trail of international globetrotting artists, entrepreneurs, chefs, CEOs and designers, who share their most memorable travel experiences with our readers.

Christelle Pandanzyla is a proud Black woman. As an Event Producer and a Media Entrepreneur, this Belgium-based young woman is one of the African Diaspora success stories who has proven time and time again that dreams can come true. In a short space of time, she has come up with amazing cultural events concepts such as “Roots Events” and the “Afroperos” in the largest city of Belgium, Brussels. “Celebrating the Black Culture” is her main goal and everything she does revolves around this philosophy, and this includes her online magazine, Just Follow-Me, which is another statement. In this interview, Christelle Pandanzyla shares her passion for African tourism with our readers…


Welcome and thank you for granting us this interview. Please introduce yourself to our readers…

Thank you Vénicia for inviting me to take part in this series of interviews based on African tourism.

Well, I was born on October 24th in the heart of the European capital from African parents. As you mentioned it earlier on in the introductory part of this interview, I am a proud “believer in the Black culture” and a social entrepreneur based in Belgium. Through my work, I have come to nurture a precious desire to celebrate great realizations from my fellow brothers and sisters. As a Black woman, I find it important to learn from others, share the knowledge and take full advantage of the opportunities that come our way. In fact, my first trip will remain historical as I made it alongside my adventurous mother. The love of travelling and the passion of experiencing new worlds have, since then, led me to the African soil first, before embarking to other destinations such as the United States and various European countries that I have had the pleasure to visit so far. All these peregrinations at a very early age have helped me discover a new world and have helped me to appreciate other people’s cultures including my own, in a sense that I have come to understand that every time I have the privilege of going to a new destination, I contribute to an enrichment of my own life and in fact that’s exactly what every tourist experiment from these journeys.


Which country do you come from/call home? All in one, what is your heritage?

Originally, I am from the Democratic Republic of Congo but I was born abroad, in Belgium to be specific. I am the result of both African and Belgian cultures and, in fact, very much influenced also by the American culture. My parents have made their best, so far, to educate and pass on all their knowledge and values as per their African culture. This means that Africa is within us and we are quite happy about this heritage.

Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?

Well, it depends on wherever I am planning to go and who I am going with. To answer your question, I will say, I am a bit of everything you have mentioned. Frankly, I adapt myself to every situation I find myself in and act accordingly to the customs and country or city I plan to visit. For all business related trips, I do my best to be as organized as possible as I prefer to, often, spend some time away from the hotel or resort I choose as my main accommodation. With preparations ahead, one does not have to worry about any of the packing.

How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)? Please take us through this experience…

I usually function on a travel budget and no matter what happens, I always find my way to enjoy a nice getaway. I developed this habit at a very young age and I shall gladly pass on this knowledge to the next generations. In my case, I come from a very large family so I am privileged in a sense where I could afford any destination in the world with any of my siblings so preparing ahead truly helps me in my case. I am also fortunate enough to save money on accommodation as I specifically make sure to visit only countries where I have family members and friends and having people I cherish around make the journey even more interesting. Travelling is one of my passions and I will encourage anyone to fund their own trips and open their minds to new worlds.

With all the projects I have developed, all over the years, I now have the opportunity to work and travel at the same time and which sometimes leads me to places I would never imagined to visit even in my wildest dreams. I feel very fortunate to be living my dreams at the same time!


What is the first trip you remember taking a trip to Africa and what are your favourite memories?

My first trip to Africa happened long time ago and I was just 8 years old at the time. I remember visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo with my Mum and sister and we decided to only visit the capital, Kinshasa, and stayed at a family state in Bandundu/Kikwit. I also had the chance to visit my father’s village where I was heartily welcomed. I really enjoyed my time back home, especially after meeting my cousins from the United States for the very first time. I really have great memories of these 2 splendid months surrounding ourselves with family members and new friends. My entire family has really benefitted from this trip and this is one of the unforgettable moments we have had as a family in the Congo.


Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?

My first trip to Congo at 8 years old was an eye opener. I could never believe what I saw after seeing a bad image being portrayed, on a daily basis, about my homeland on TV. I was so shocked, back in the days, when they used to tell us at school that people in Africa live like some kind of monkeys. My parents, then, took it as their personal mission to change things around and allow us the opportunity to take the trip to Africa, see for ourselves and come back to Europe with the truth in mind. That’s exactly what they did and we were all very surprised to experience a totally different Africa filled with beautiful people who are well organized and proud of their roots. I had a breakthrough moment and my vision of Congo or Africa changed immediately and I became an Ambassadress of the continent. From that day, I decided to make up my mind about all the negativity around our people, developed an open mind and embarked on a daily mission to challenge every person who will fortuity criticize the African culture with no proper reasons.


Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling the African continent?

I have had only one very bad experience that actually left me very traumatized after visiting the city of Nairobi. In this Kenyan city, people just cross the road anywhere they want and as we were leaving the airport to reach our hotel, we entered the highway and saw people trying to cross the road by zigzagging between cars. One of the pedestrians was not lucky and got hit by the car. The driver didn’t even bother to stop neither our taxi driver. He later explained to us when we arrived at the hotel that it was very dangerous to stop at the accident scene and the better way to help is to simply call the police office. I respect the way things are done in Kenya but it was a bad feeling to be kept in the dark and not know if the man survived…

Do you have any funny/interesting travel stories to share with our readers?

I am quite a maniac with my passport. I love visa stamps and I hate it when, crossing borders, officials stamp on a previously used page when they should stamp on a new one. One day, when entering Tanzania through Kenya, I almost yelled at the customs official because one of them was about to use a “used page” yet I still had free pages available in my passport. And you know what, everybody froze. I think I was very close to spend the night in some kind of prison to teach me a lesson on behaviours and so forth (laughs)! Nevertheless, everywhere I go, I always meet someone I know that is not supposed to be there, in the street or wherever. And, the famous saying “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” doesn’t apply to me as I always have a witness every time I need one! J


The media portrays the African continent as a no-go-zone. How do you feel about this label and how will you rate the African tourism system based on your personal experiences?

The media portrays Africa as a no-go-zone and, at the same time, the West multiplies their attempts to work inside Africa. The Africa Union had decreed the African Diaspora as the 6th region of Africa and, in my view, I think there are real opportunities in Africa and the media/western governments use these platforms to prevent the Diaspora to enter their home countries and change the system. The system is vicious in a way that even a single African travelling to an African country pays enormous amounts of money for their flight tickets when we have all the possibilities to reduce these costs.

Even though all these agencies and organizations are giving Africa a bad name, African people should look beyond these challenges. However, some African countries are more developed than other and blessed with great infrastructure and tourism industry, others still have to a huge improvement to make on everything. In the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo, people are starting to see the potential in the main cities and are acting to develop as many opportunities as possible to make it valuable and I would rate tourism in the DRC as average and score it 6/10. I would like to see more development in this industry and believe in the young generation to making these changes happen.


Where is your favourite place in the world and what makes it so interesting for other visitors to discover?

Tanzania is my ultimate place to be in the world. Among the high-rated activities for tourists, I enjoy climbing the mountain (Kilimanjaro), enjoy artistic open markets and the atmosphere in Arusha and Dares Salam, swimming at beautiful beaches and at the same learning more about history the history of Zanzibar which is a former centre of the spice and slave trades. Present-day Zanzibar is infused with African, Arabic, European and Indian influences. And, if you love nature, you can go on a safari trip in one of the most beautiful parks in the country (Serengeti) or simply enjoy cocktails in local resorts/lodges usually located in a middle of nowhere. And have I mentioned the food? Out of this world; go ahead and book yourself a trip!

Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?

I am not sure if I have ever had a bucket list but my goal is to visit every sub-Saharan country with our islands on top of my list. I am in love with the natural beauty in Cabo Verde, Comoros, Madagascar and Sao Tome y Principe. I am always on the look for new destinations and I look forward to relating more to African traditions, languages, way of living and so much more.


If you were not travelling, what would you be doing instead?

I cannot imagine my life without travelling as I wouldn’t be as open minded and curious as I am today. As Augustine of Hippo once said: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

So why should I stay I one place for several months? My work needs me and if it requires me to travel the world, I will gladly say ‘yes’ and welcome the opportunity. Travelling is more than a passion to me, I have come to realize, it is an experience that each one of us should cherish. There is nothing else I would be doing instead!

Take us through your daily activities and let us know how you still find time to juggle your professional career and travelling?

I am a planner and event architect; that’s what I do for a living. Because I multitask a lot, I do not have a specific routine that I follow. I have to be able to organize events, write articles, host both radio and television shows on a daily basis and these are very demanding jobs. My leitmotiv is to promote black culture across borders and thanks to all the new social media platforms such as Skype that make my work much easier; plus I have the luxury of working from anywhere in the world as long as I have my laptop and my cell phone with me. Of course sometimes, I have to physically meet with clients and partners in Belgium but I can always rely on my good team.


Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers and/or Government officials?

To all aspiring travellers: be open-minded and ready to learn something new and do not allow yourself to be consumed with media critics towards the African continent. I find the experience rewarding for any person living in the western world.

For government officials, please preserve our nature and develop our eco-tourism industry. There is not much to do and it not an impossible dream for Africa to become the 1st eco-tourism destination because we have all the potential; preserve the African traditions and let’s all learn to live in harmony with nature. That’s the best legacy we can leave our children with and which will boost our economy.

Quick fire questions:

Favourite airline? KLM

Favourite African city/country? Arusha? No, I think Libreville.

Favourite beach? Definitely Zanzibar.

Favourite food? Chikwange served with sardine and cassava leaves is my favourite Congolese delicacy.

Favourite language/dialect? Swahili

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