Records have it that about 45 million African Americans live in the United States of America. That is about 14 percent of the population of the biggest economy in the world and with African American purchasing power of about one trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000), the market for yams, fufu, cassava, garri and palm oil plus African soup condiments like pepper, okra, melon seed etc can not be over emphasized.
If you add the equally burgeoning size of Africans in Canada to the number in the USA, then you see a potential ‘gold mine’ in food export business waiting to be tapped.
Beyond the Americas, Africans also abound in reasonable population size in the Caribbean and therefore a veritable market for Nigerian food export too.
Europe is another remarkable home to a large chunk of African population due to colonial affinity and therefore a vital market.
The European market’s attractiveness is reflected particularly in the UK where Nigerians of mixed parentage have risen to the top echelon of the political architecture. Amongst many others, George Ummuna, a member of the shadow parliament who recently narrowly missed being elected chairman of the Labour Party.
The critical mass of Africans present in Europe estimated by the BBC to be about 4.6 million in 2007 (Immigration Policy Institute actually believes they are about 7-8 million) is in part due to the close proximity of the two continents and of course owing to the fact that Europe colonized Africa over a long period of time after the deal to partition Africa amongst European countries was sealed during the Berlin, Germany conference of 1822.
Over the years and with the advent of industrial revolution in Europe which entails less reliance on man and more on machine in the 1930s, the Africans who had been drawn by forces of demand and supply into the labor force remained in Europe, having been assimilated and thus began raising families which boosted African population over there.
Although, these Africans in diasporas have broadly imbibed western cultures such as European and American lifestyles, their craving for African identity as reflected in African food has been undying.
That demand has remained largely unmet as there has not been any conscious efforts by Nigerian authorities or the private sector to promote Nigerian food abroad.
The Chinese introduced Chinese food restaurants and the rest of Asia presented noodles to the world; the Italians made pizza popular globally and the English are famous for fish and chips while the French are renown for the French toast and cheese just as nobody can ignore American burgers.
Apart from the Western world, the Indians have put their curry on the global stage and Lebanese food especially humus and shawarma from the Arab stable are widely accepted as snacks internationally.
For lack of a better nomenclature, l would like to refer to the introduction of foods from the different countries and races catalogued above into the global palette as the Food Race- mimicking human race. At this juncture, the question that would agitate the mind of any keen reader is: where is Africa in the Food Race and indeed, where is Nigeria?
According to HORIZON 2020,(a European Union Framework Programme for Research and Innovation) Benin Republic, Cameroun, Egypt, Madagascar, Senegal, Ghana and South Africa are collaborating with AFTER which is acronym for African Food Tradition Revisited by Research-to improve 10 foods and drinks from Africa based on local knowledge in Europe.
Unlike the aforementioned countries, Nigeria, the acclaimed giant of Africa has not officially done much to extend some of her exciting food and drinks ensemble to her diaspora population.
Yes, there has been private sector efforts in trying to extend Nigerian cuisine overseas, which can’t be discountenanced because l am aware of efforts made by some local food retailers like Sweet Sensation, Mama Cass and Tastee to establish restaurants in London, UK but the concept has not flourished.
Nevertheless , when you visit most cities in the world, you would almost certainly find a Nigerian kitchen(as opposed to high brow restaurants) serving piping hot fufu, amala, tuwo with bitter leaf, ewedu and Mia kuka soups.
In Washington DC, for instance, there is an area called Adams Morgan featuring a long array of restaurants serving African cuisines, including Nigerian. From Maryland, Atlanta, Houston to Miami and Los Angeles, Nigerian restaurants abound but usually not in organized fashion like the Chinese, English or Indian.
On one occasion when l was staying in Beverly Hills hotel in Los Angeles, my friends and l ordered Nigerian meals from one of the many ‘bukaterias’ in the city. Jollof rice, semovita, okra soup, dodo (fried plantain) and moi-moi (bean pudding) were on the menu that was brought to us by a Nigerian food entrepreneur.
While we’re busy dishing for ourselves, one of our white guests unknowingly dished some Jollof rice, a bit of semovita, moi-moi and dodo into his plate. Before we knew it, he had a mouth full of a combination of the food he picked and commented that it was delicious before l promptly informed him that the combination was wrong. Perhaps he was being gratuitous or polite hence his complimentary comment, but the point is that a white foreigner was willing to give Nigerian food a try and he seemed to have liked it.
In this period of paucity of foreign exchange earnings for Nigeria, owing to about 60 percent crash in international oil/gas price, is this not a wakeup call for Nigerians to stretch their business acumen beyond oil/ gas trade to exportation of a vast array of Nigerian foods to a burgeoning African diasporas population?
Kenya with a similar climate to Jos in Plateau state, exports freshly cut flowers to Europe on a daily basis and generates huge FX from the trade. On a trip abroad on Virgin Nigeria (before its demise) a couple of years ago, the peanuts served on board was made in Ghana, not Nigeria.
Most countries in Africa including those earlier listed are collaborators with the EU, (AFTER project-aimed at packaging African food and drinks for Europe) invest time and energy to export agricultural products but not so for Nigeria. Our policy makers probably don’t realize that, in international trade, according to World Trade Organization ,WTO, agriculture is the only sector that Africa and indeed Nigeria has comparative advantage, not oil/gas as most of us are wont to believe.
Michael Adeyeye, Mayor of Brent, London and one of the three councillors in London, in company of the former Lord Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, on a visit to the immediate past governor of Lagos state, Babatunde Fashola, remarked that more than one million Nigerians live in London. Is that market size not huge enough for our food entrepreneurs to target?
With a population in excess of 170 million, one of every five Africans is believed to be a Nigerian, so we should be leading the pack in the export of African food to the diasporas.


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