Culture & LifeEditors Choice

How Africa’s entrepreneurs can innovate and invest to put African cuisine on the world stage

Over the past six months, I have engaged in a simple experiment. In packed rooms in Europe and the United States, I have asked, “What is your favorite African dish?”
Usually, the answer is blank stares.

In contrast, when I’ve asked, “What is your favorite Asian dish?” the list from the audience has been long, often including sushi, pad thai and samosas. I also gauged the audience’s recognition of Africa’s role in the global food industry, asking about commodities such as cocoa, cashews, yam, coffee and tea, to more niche products such as rooibos, moringa or fonio. Typically, awareness has been extremely low—everyone loves chocolate, but most do not realize that 70% of the world’s cocoa is sourced from West Africa or that rooibos tea is grown in the hills of South Africa.

My informal polling tallies with the sparse survey results on global preferences for food which often excludes food from African countries, or gives the entire continent the lowest ratings—categorized as one type of food, instead of the diversity of 54 countries. Sadly, this global perception is seeping into the continent as well, with young Africans opting for fast food from international chains like KFC, Dominos and even Krispy Creme, which are making significant inroads into major African cities. What this means is the world is missing out on the extremely diverse cuisine from across Africa, which is also highly nutritious. More importantly, it means we are limiting opportunities to foster greater global awareness about the culture and rich heritage of countries in Africa, and to promote cross-cultural learning.
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*The views of the above article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Africa Speaks 4 Africa or its editorial team.

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