A News Analysis by Mike Mbonye
Most Nigerians may not know that broth such as ora, okro, egusi, bitter leaf, nsala, stew garnished with pomo (cow skin), among other Nigeria’s varieties of soup, can showcase the uniqueness of Nigerian food that can attract tourists.
For instance, most residents of South Africa agree that Nigerian cuisines are unique and they desire to be in Nigeria to have a taste of the varieties from where they originate.
“South Africans love Nigerian food; my restaurant serves Nigerian delicacies such as rice, beans, plantain, yam, vegetable, ora ,okro, egusi, bitter leaf, nsala, okazi (scent leaf) soups, yam pottage and pepper soup.
“I attend to an average of 200 customers daily except on Sunday and half of them are South Africans.
“Others are from Ghana, Congo, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Kenya. They are in love with Nigerian dishes and it is my duty to satisfy their needs,’’ a South African based food vendor, Mr Eze Amara from Enugu State said.
Also Mr Sigabonle Tau, a 28-year old South African who works as store keeper in Pretoria, said “am in love with Nigerian delicacies.
“I love the pepper soup with white rice or with pap (semovita). The preparation of the food is excellent and I always go to Nigerian food restaurant to eat.
“I also buy and take it home for dinner. My family loves other Nigerian dishes such as Jollof rice, bitter leaf and okro soup,’’.
Another South African, Mr Emmanuel Khumalo, who owns a barber shop, expressed similar sentiments about Nigerian food.
“I was introduced to Nigerian food by a Nigerian customer who shaves in my shop in 2010 and since then, I have been eating beans and yam with stew. There is this special meat called pomo, garnished with the stew.
“It is very delicious. I have also introduced customers from other countries to Nigerian food and they are in love with them,’’ Khumalo said.
In the suburb-Pretoria Sunnyside, there are other food shops where people from different part of the world identify with Nigerian bisque.
“I have customers from South Africa, Somalia, Ethiopia, Pakistan, India, Cameroon and Ghana. In fact, these nationalities compete with Nigerians on who buys more food in my shop.
“Apart from xenophobic attacks, Nigerians and other nationalities live peacefully in Sunnyside. My food shop is like a meeting point. They come for breakfast, lunch and dinner and sometimes, before 6.00 p.m, the food is exhausted,’’ Mrs Joy Okeke, a restaurant owner in Sunnyside, said.
Corroborating Okeke’s claim, Mr Roger Ebongue, a 30-year old Cameroonian, said he was convenient with Nigerian food.
“Each time I eat Nigerian food, it reminds me of home. Though, there are some Cameroonian food shops in town, I prefer Nigerian food because virtually all soups are rich in vegetable.
“The food is also well garnished with dry or smoked fish, stock fish and more importantly, crayfish. I have started preparing some of the food at home,’’ he said.
In the same vein, Miss Alice Kabila, 26 year old citizen of DR Congo, said “I love egusi soup and Nigerian Jollof rice.
“I own a hairdressing saloon in Pretoria; I enjoy Nigerian soup, especially egusi soup with pap. It is delicious; my friends and I eat the food for lunch daily,’’.
Mr Kayode Idowu, a Nigerian in Pretoria also attested to this, saying “my colleagues always book for Nigerian food because of the taste and its uniqueness, among others.
“A few years back, we (Nigerians) were the only ones eating the food. Now, if you do not book for it, South Africans and other nationals will finish it before we go for it.
“It is amazing how Nigerian food suddenly became popular here. Nigerian restaurant owners are in good business,’’.
To popularise Nigerian food more and attract tourist back home, Abia State Union in South Africa, held a Nigerian food festival in Johannesburg last November.
Mr Chima Umealo, President of the Union, said Nigerian delicacies had become popular in that country, hence, the need to showcase it to the world.
“After the festival, we have received several inquiries on Nigerian food from South Africans and other nationalities.
“This is also an opportunity for the Federal Government to begin exportation of Nigerian food to South Africa.
“I believe that if well coordinated, government and Nigerian business community will make money from the venture because the acceptability of our food elsewhere is very impressive,’’ he observed.
Also, at the African Day held in Johannesburg in May, the Nigerian stand attracted huge participants because of assorted food delicacies on display.
Mr Ikechukwu Anyene, President, Nigeria Union, South Africa, said the acceptability of Nigerian food was impressive.
“I wish to commend Amara and others in the business for being good ambassadors of Nigeria in food business.
“This is a testimony that some Nigerians are doing well, contributing positively to the South African economy and boosting the image of Nigeria. I am impressed with what I have seen,’’ he said.
Analysts, therefore, suggest that government should liaise with its South African counterpart to open avenues to export Nigerian food and to attract tourists to Nigeria.
According to them, this will enable government and the business community to earn revenue and create more opportunities for Nigerians resident in South Africa.(NAN Features)