Why Innovations on African Tourism around Food is a must.

On June 16th, the world celebrated Father’s day. I wonder how many of us men even remember that father’s day does exist. As a matter of fact, it caught me by surprise when one of my dear female friends fired me well wishes for the day. That is when it dawned on me that it was my day. It was our day men!

A few quotes on who a father is went around social media as usual and I noted a discrepancy in relation to Women’s day. The messages were a little biased especially on absentee parenthood. That, however is a discussion of another day. The reason why I began this article on the grounds of celebratory days has to do with food. And it has to do with Tourism. How I wished some hospitable woman took me out on that day and bought me food to mark the enormous task that comes with fatherhood.

I am sure there are a number of men out there who like me, drained themselves in watching documentaries, others went to their local joints to enjoy the rare opportunity of meeting to celebrate fatherhood and world cup now that they happened to cohabit around the same time and drain their frustrations of being left out of the hook in relations to being taken out by their wives. Maybe it has something to do with us being African.

I am told that it is aptly wrong for our girl to take us out. That from experience they tend to build palaces out of such small acts whereas men can’t build even an anthill out of the many outings they take the women. I am not sure if it always happens and that could explain the reason why some innocent boys like me can’t be taken out to celebrate our day. I am still open for a day out girls, not to play, but enjoy good food. I mean a tasty African dish.

While watching a certain television show which I have followed for a couple of weeks now, I noted how other countries are creatively evolving their tourism around food. I was compelled to think how as a continent we can also innovate around food so that the age of substitutive tourism can pick up. I am sure we have heard a lot about the rapid decline in the tourist attraction animals in our parks. Then there is the mismanagement of the tourist attraction sites and as such, we are supposed to rethink our approach towards gaining the benefits that come with tourism all together. A few years down the line we won’t have animals unless we do something.

In the show, Be Happy Again, I have been programmed to follow it for the sake of cooking competitions being made to try and come with the best dishes that can make Korea a Tourism destination. What a smart thought! Food and Tourism. I have always wondered if we are really doing our best in regards to tourism. The show has other themes which include Family conflicts, Love and perhaps the effects of past mistakes which are on the flipside.

I am obliged to think that our current mistakes will be the greatest haunt in future now that we have encroached animal parks and reserves and are left with nothing to pride for ourselves. The story can change though if we conserve what we have left with and start innovating around food. We need to have the best of the best African dishes to promote to the world out there and make them understand why eating it at source is very cool. Our signature dishes should be mapped regionally to enable all year round in flow of visitors from the rest of the world.

In Korea for instance, there is food they call Kim chi which is like their identification card to the rest of the world. As a country, they are continually working very hard to make the best use of it together with their culture. Innovations around Kim Chi are encouraged to make sure it gets served with other foods which in way will entice tourists to make Korea their destination choice. I am not sure if we have any identity food as a country.

This Kim Chi – cabbage. And you are wondering that cabbage can look this delicious. Photo Courtesy of Diego Braghi.

Recently, as I might have written, I was treated to sumptuous dinner in a Chinese hotel and I got an opportunity to ask the Chinese friends of mine what food they attach pride with. Top on the list was the Chinese tea. Funny enough, it has no tea leaves, milk or even sugar. It is just water and some natural but medicinal shrubs. You can imagine how a lot of us here influx China to have a taste of their tea and then food so that we can understand how their tourism has been developed over time by food and culture. It is called futuristic thinking.

In all the above examples, authenticity and love for their own food is very key for the Chinese and Koreans. And so if we are to succeed in our quest to use the same approach, we better have original dishes and begin by loving them. We should not throw our culture off the window. No wonder there is always some unique aura when I read about Narok and their meat for the lovers of flesh every time a different person writes about it. It is the power of culture and originality in play.

I am really interested to see managu and saga become tourist attraction veggies as well as murenda, terere and the like. We only need to standardize our cooking first when it comes food preparation. I have managu and saga cooked by different people from across Kenya and the taste variation is as big as the height from the tip of Mt. Everest to its base. Even our friends from Western Kenya have not standardized their ingokho. I usually tell myself that Kentucky fried chicken couldn’t compare with our ingokho had we innovated around it early enough. The porridge from Meru on the other hand is another interesting food of reckon. For that drink, it is high time it found itself in mainstream markets.

In other words, we need to start building our tourism around African original dishes. What I saw in Mombasa recently cannot be thumped up, that I coudn’t find an original African dish in several hotels and restaurants is unimaginable. Dubai rose recently from the ashes to become the world leader in tourism. It has not banked on Lions and elephants and the like. It has built itself as a holiday destination of choice with it is renowned hotels, unique man-made islands, great architectural buildings and oceanic views.

We have had Elephants, Lions, Giraffes, Cheetahs and all other wildlife for long time now. It is time we innovated around their existence by becoming the food masters and ambassadors of what mother Africa has to offer to the rest of the world. It is never too late to turn your hobby of cooking to a great business empire. Remember that there is no such a thing as a small idea. Rise up and make things happen, the world is looking forward to your enterprise in being happy again by enjoying another unique dish from Africa.




Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege is the Editor and topical contributor for the Daily Focus. He writes in the areas of Science, Manufacturing, Technology, Innovation, Governance, Management and International Emerging Issues. For featuring, promotions or support, reach out to us at info@dailyfocus.co.ke
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