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How Akwaaba African Travel Market helped Make Jollof Rice a Tourism Product

Which nation makes the best jollof rice? This simple question has grown into a fierce debate in some West African countries, where jollof rice is a national delicacy.
The celebrated dish is hugely popular in countries such as Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cameroon. And the debate doesn’t only find an audience amongst rice lovers or food bloggers, but even politicians, business tycoons and celebrities have entered the fray at their peril.

That is why the organizers of Akwaaba Africa Travel Market introduced a jollof rice competition tagged ‘JollofRiceWar’. The culinary event is aimed at promoting tourism in Nigeria by showcasing the best of Nigeria to an international audience. These activities were created purposely to bring out the best in West Africa in terms of rice production and promoting the outlook of culinary tourism and local delicacies to foreigners thereby promoting indigenous hospitality and style.

The Jollof Rice War which made its debut at Akwaaba African Travel Market 2017 with 30 chefs from Nigeria and Ghana, have since gone on to be one of the most anticipated events at Akwaaba. According to the organizer Akwaaba African Travel Market, Ikechi Uko, on his Facebook had this to say about the origin of the Jollof Rice war in West Africa.

Cardi B,Nigeria and the Jollof Rice Tourism
“Before the cool blacks were the Jamaicans but now it is the Nigerians”, Rozan Ahmed, Sudanese African Cultural Promoter at Akwaaba African Travel Market Diaspora conference 2019.
“Nigeria holds the Original Gene pool of the African DNA”, Late John Mugo, Former Manager Kenya Airways In Nigeria 1999.
“Any African that has not Eaten Nigerian Jollof is not Black enough” Ikechi Uko tonight Lagos 2019.
Sometime in 2016 I called a Strategy meeting at Akwaaba and told the team that we will start a Jollof Rice war between Nigeria and other West African countries at Akwaaba. We will scrap a sponsored event we hold and replace it with the contest. Why do we have to give up a paid project for a cost centre? I told them that West Africa has no Common Tourism Product unlike East Africa with its rich Wildlife and we needed to create one. We approached the Ghana Chef association and the Ghana Tourism Authority and they agreed to join in the project. We had meetings with the Nigerian Chefs and approached Eko Hotels management to allow us use their Kitchen.
30 chefs from Nigeria and Ghana took part in the first edition in 2017. With Judges from East Africa and Southern Africa we rolled off the project of using Jollof Rice to brand West Africa Ubongabasi Nseobot And the Southern Sun team helped with Accommodation.

After 4 years we had a post Mortem at the 5th Accra Weizo in Ghana this year. All agreed that the #jollofricewar has been very successful as every first time visitor wanted to Sample Jollof Rice either Nigerian or Ghana. Celebrity Visitors joined the contest and helped us drive the message. Today all visitors want to Sample our famous Jollof Rice. We did not start the controversy but we provided the channels to make a Tourism Product out of Jollof Rice. We need to acknowledge OLAM Ade Adefeko and his team who later supplied made in Nigeria Rice Last year. Travel Lab and Bboog Travels sponsored the prizes this year. Akwesi Agyeman and Roberta from GTA, Chef Isaac and team from Ghana Chef Sleek and team from Nigeria, Gambia Tourism Board and Ida Cham, Gbechoevi Benoit. The Akwaaba team deserve applause for what they have achieved.

Reading all about Cardi B and her desire to indulge in Everything Nigeria I know the Touch and follow in Nigerian urban Culture and our Jollof Rice is at Work. We are attracting Visitors with entertainment and Food. Outside the Very successful Year of Return YoR project by Ghana this Year nothing has worked better than our famous #jollofricewar. I want to put it on Record that Nigerian Party Jollof is still the best food in the world. I hope my GH peeps are reading this. To our media partners thanks for making this project a success in just 4 years.”

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg wisely chose to be diplomatic when he sampled the local jollof on a visit to Nigeria in August 2016. Speaking at an event in Lagos, the well-briefed billionaire declared: “Yesterday, I had jollof rice and shrimp. It was delicious, fantastic. I was told not to compare Nigeria’s jollof rice to that from other neighbouring countries.”

Popular American rapper Cardi B who recently visited Nigeria also had her share of Nigerian jollof. The rapper took to her Instagram page on Friday, December 6, 2019, where she posted a series of videos from her hotel room in Nigeria. She went on to talk about not wanting to have the hotel food, rather she would love to eat the real Nigerian Jollof rice.

The success story of the jollof rice competition at Akwaaba African Travel Market will not be complete with mentioning the support of (OLAM), who provided made in Nigeria rice during the inaugural food event. While this year had the support of Travel Lab and Bboog Travels as they provided the prizes for the winners.

The 4th edition of the #jollofricewar will hold in Lagos on the 20th of September 2020 at the 16th Akwaaba Travel Market. Past Winners of the #jollofricewar are: Chef Michael Jide Idowu from Nigeria (2017)
Chef Ida Cham from The Gambia (2018)
Chef Folashade Shoyombo from Nigeria (2019)

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