Essays, poems and Stories of an African-American

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Thomas Rogers Muyunga Mukasa highlights the need for Commercialization of African Indegeneity; Food industrialization for Africa with two cases from Uganda and addendum from San Francisco, CA, USA

Quick review:
This article is comparing the trends food preparation and catering is taking on the continent of Africa. The examples are from Uganda. Particularly from the Central region where there is rapid urbanization and propensity for rapid modernization. The terms "Ttoninyira," "Kafunda," Kikomando," and "Gadafi," are used in the hope that they will soon be the culinary lexicon that will be in vogue. See glossary at end of this write up

Nope, I am not here to talk about the recent efforts to push for patented foods, legumes and cereals. They have been talked about in various fora. Am not here to demean the term ‘GMO.’

As a scientist, I know that one generation of crops modifies itself to produce offsprings in a subsequent generation. That is logical and for many who have read further, it is also Huxleyian or Darwinian commonsense. Plants, animals and humans have for millennia mutated and modified themselves to adapt and “move with the times.”

This article will only mention something that benefitted Africans and at the same time provided seeds or cereals that continued to be bred for years to come (i.e. the beans). This kind of GMO that feeds so many thousands is what is mentioned in this article.

Africa, can be seen in the light of a benefactor continent. A continent that feeds it's people and the spare foods are shared at the tables outside of it. Indeed, it is easier for, say, Americans to name an exotic dish from a one day visit to,say, China or Mexico, but not one from Africa! Although, they will have gone to China, Mexico or even Africa under the auspices of the most borrowed word from Africa: ‘safari.’

Before we talk about food and its industrialization as a means of getting Africa back on an industrialization track. we need to know the kind of continent we are dealing with.

Based on the projected population by the year 2050 and the previous population, the population in Africa is estimated to reach 1.069 billion people in the year 2014. As a result, it still remains the second most populous continent in the world, but it makes up around 15% of the entire world. There are sixty-two nations and territories in the geographical region of Africa. Some of these countries are under the jurisdiction of European nations, but they are in the region of Africa. The country with the largest population in Africa is Nigeria, which was estimated to be just over 170 million in 2012. The country with the smallest population in Africa is Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, which is a territory under the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom. As of 2012, this territory had just over 7,700 people. The territory is also the smallest in land area, totaling 420 square kilometers. Lastly, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has the largest total land area of African countries, totaling around 2,345,410 square kilometers (

Africa has existing potential in form of: catering, hospitality, tourism, ideology, entertainment, social-political organization, urbanization, rural development, poetry, cinema, sports, science, norms, fork-lore, sexism, gender roles, cuisine, music, literature, Art, nutrition, medicine, home-steading, agriculture, lifestyles, religion, relationships, education, pastoralism, governance, war, peace-making, skills development and initiation rites. Investments can be made in these social domains, many people can be trained to manage the different domains professionally. These domains can be elevated to both formal and informal levels. For the sake of this article we shall talk about examples in the food industry and a small town in Uganda serves as our case study.

African dishes are mostly organic and during growing or harvesting there are literally no chemicals used. The foods are cultural and have been part of African forklore..."luwombo," "mashaza," "nyamachoma," "Injera"......come to mind. Local nomenclature may perhaps be the reason why they remain on the shelf and not make it to the “exotic travel lexicon." Many may be dismissive, after all Africa itself is an exotic lexicon for many travelers from say, USA!

America and Mexico are facing an obesity epidemic on their plates (excuse pan). African dishes are the solution! African or American investors should package these foods. Pop-commercializing African foods like: Dunkin Donut, Denny’s, Starbuck, Peet's, Macdonald,  KFC, ...have done is the way to go.

In Uganda, the "kikommando" is a meal that is the outcome of combining locally grown foods and preparing them as quick foods. This kikomando is like a Mexican burrito but this time it is not made with Pinto beans but "Kamenyamiggo" beans that grow well in the Equatorial-Tropical climate of Uganda. A flat flour bread called chapati (itself a relative from one in Middle East and Asia) is rolled together with beans, spices, various recipes and salads. This is baked until ready. It is mouth watering and holds together, not to mention it is a whole food. There can be a Vegetarian or Fish or Meat or Smashed Irish Potato of Green  edible leaves version too.

The "Gadafi" is a sandwich with hotdogs, bacon, or a pancake or a chapati marinated with spices and eggs. A name like Gadafi may take long to be liked in USA! But, it is popular in this African country, Uganda.

These two food kinds are so popular in a town called Wandegeya which is part the Kampala Capital City Authority-KCCA. Food preparation, sale and catering make up a very big industry in this small town that reaches a population of 200,000 people during day time. Wandegeya is a neighbourhood of Kampala which is also in the most populous division called Kawempe. It is bordered by the Bombo Road/Gayaza Road Roundabout to the north, mulago Hill to the northeast, Kamwokya to the east, Nakasero Hill to the south east and to the south, and the main campus of Makerere University (has a population of 5,000-15,000 students) to the west and northwest. This location is approximately 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi), by road, north of Kampala's Central Business District. There are about 150 food serving points from tiny one table and 4 bench establishments called “Kafunda,” or "Ttoninyira" to medium size restaurants, a large shopping mall and 1 star hotels. In the evenings, prepared hot food is wheeled in on wheel barrows, mobile food canteens and ovens are seen sizzling managed by males and females in white uniforms. This place feeds about 100, 000 a day. The orders vary. It is an economy that has thrived steadily since early 1980’s.

There are lessons to learn from this scenario:

  1. African countries can empower those in the food industry to develop machinery, culinary skills and standards reflecting professionalism as far as food is concerned. In turn those from the production to consumer side of the chain will benefit in form of assured markets. There will be more opportunities for young and energetic people to engage in this industry.
  2. It is possible to reproduce this kind of activity over a large number of towns in Africa. Each town can use appropriate tools, raw materials and influence the demand of foods.
  3. As tourism is increasingly integrating social activities, Africa will see more tourists coming to sample foods. If the services can be regulated and information on recipes provided, it will make their consumption easy and popular.
  4. With food preservation techniques, it will be possible to package African foods for export. This will increase on demand and number of people involved in the food production.

Africa must popularize its dishes on the continent before others hijack them like many local African articles have met with the same fate e.g., Kikoyi to Lubugo (bark cloth) that have patents in a country outside Africa!

1. Ttoninyira: A small room, where clients avoid stepping on toes of each other as they look for places to sit to be served: fruits, tea, food, beer, sodas...
2. Kafunda: Means small. Also it means a place without so much fuzzing and hassle.
3. Kikomando: All in one food. A cocktail of foods. The idea took root after the famous commando films or one-person army.
4. Gadafi: A brand of quick foods that are Halal. Muslims agree with them.
5. Safari: To make a journey or to go on a journey.
6. luwombo: A dish prepared in green banana leaves. This is one of way of cooking  edible white ants or grasshoppers.
7. Mashaza: cowpeas or beans mixed with ghee.
8. Nyamachoma: Roasted meat.
9. Injera: Ethiopian bread.

Comparisons with San Francisco

Food is a mainstay in the culture of going out, eating out and running food preparation businesses in San Francisco. But, in order to understand food in San Francisco we have to understand San Francisco. San Francisco is officially the City and County of San Francisco. It is the cultural center and a leading financial hub of the San Francisco Bay Area. The population is 833,447. There are Hispanic, Non Hispanic White, African Americans, Chinese, Burmese, Japanese, Asian Indians, Vietnamese, Laotian, Indonesians, Thais, Cambodians, Mongolians, Koreans, Pacific Islanders, Jamaicans, Filipinos and Africans. These people are thriving in their communities and have established food preparation and services around their own cultures. Very many people eat out in San Francisco. The 24th Street& Mission has over 50 eateries and restaurants. These open from 10 am and close at 12 midnight with some serving all night!

These pictures show how one small street in San Francisco ( 24th Street and Mission) is organized to provide very good atmosphere for food services. Africa should copy these models.