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Last Updated: Friday, 21 November, 2003, 16:57 GMT
Is Western food colonising Africa?
Fast food restaurant
Fast food restaurants are spreading across Africa
Is fast food the latest form of cultural imperialism to hit Africa?

When Beatrice Ayacko left Kenya for a three-week stay in Italy, she was not about to be impressed by the food of a country that is commonly considered to have one of the world's finest cuisines.

She packed her case with maize flour so that she could cook her beloved ugali, and pined for sukuma wiki - Kenyan greens prepared with onion and garlic.

But there are signs that the loyalty to African food exemplified by Beatrice is being eroded.

Western food, and, in particular fast food like burgers, is gaining popularity in Africa. In many African cities it is considered sophisticated to eat at one of the increasing number of fast food joints.

In Accra's main commercial street, Osu, Nandos, Steers and the local fried chicken restaurant, Papaye, are full of mostly young people every night of the week.

Arriving in Blantyre, Malawi, a British visitor recently wanted to sample the local food.

She says she was taken from one fried chicken shop to the next.

"It was as though my Malawian host thought that only this fatty fast food was good enough to offer his guest".

Are Africans succumbing to a new form of culinary imperialism?

What is Western fast food doing to our health and our waistlines? Is it killing off the continent's rich and varied cuisine? Or, should we accept that life is too short to pound fufu (cassava flour)?

Write to us with your views on this subject which we are debating on Africa Live on Wednesday 26 November at 1630 and 1830 GMT.

Use the form on the right to send us your comments, some of which will be published below.

If you would like to take part in the radio discussion, e-mail us with your telephone number, which will not be published.


Your comments:


It would be a pity if local foods lost out to Western fast foods. Travel would no longer mean being exposed to new and exciting dishes. It will happen only if the local market demands it. Without customers, the Western fast food will not succeed. It is a matter of individual choice, is it not?
Jerome E. Pasela, U.S.A.

Is Beatrice Ayacko's beloved ugali not made from cassava, which comes from Brazil? Is maize from which the Southern African staple pap/putu/sadza/nshima, not from America? Is Jollof rice not originally from Asia? And is an English cuppa tea not something from China or Sri Lanka? Really, Africa must stamp out all forms of imperialism dating back to the beginnings of time. Let's ring fence the continent and become one almighty game reserve and fly the flag of isolationists such as Ian Smith and Robert Mugabe.
Guy, SA

Well, I think people just need to experience change but we should not forget about our good food rich in minerals and variety. I will tell you that a week does not pass without me eating nsima (Chichewa name for ugali in Swahili). Come on people, let us take pride in our food and culture.
Lynda, Australia

Africans are just excited about trying some new dishes, especially Western dishes that they see in movies and magazines. But soon they'll realize that African food is still the best for us, keeps us healthy and strong.
Dennis Maypole, Tanzania

I think that it's important to recognize that none of the restaurants mentioned in this article are American- or British-owned. All of these are locally owned restaurants and chains that offer foreign food.
David Gordon, Atlanta, GA

It is the very worst enemy of Africa who declares this to be "cultural imperialism" and in so doing, entrenches the victim mentality. Fast foods are the hit everywhere in the world and they're in Africa because of African consumer choice. They'll only disappear when Africans decide for themselves that they're the cause of ill health and the very same outlets will then cater for the next trend, be it healthier food with global or specifically African origins.
Get a life, Johannesburg, South Africa

As an American living in Albany NY I have so many options. I can purchase Caribbean, African, Russian, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Mexican, and Chinese food without even travelling one mile. Westerners are not destroying local food, they are offering western food to locals. It tastes good, and people eat it. Quality cuisine will survive despite McDonalds showing up.
Rob NY, USA

Firstly I'm not sure what class of people you're talking about who consider eating a burger as "sophisticated"! Definitely not the many Africans I know and have met around the world!! At the moment in Zambia there is actually a very big craze for Zambian food outlets. By the way fried chicken is not Western - it's very universal! EVEN TRADITIONALLY!
Martha Banda, Zambia

Oh please! Food is food! Here in Canada, my friends and I go to different types of restaurants, whether they are fast food, Chinese or Indian. It does not matter as long as we get to taste and enjoy the delicacies. Some people's taste buds may demand a certain type or food while others crave for variety. Do not get food mixed up with some sort of a ┐cultural imperialism┐ conspiracy.
Sitar, Canada

Ed from Ghana is right that cooking half the day is unproductive and we all save time with fast foods. However, burgers and fries don't have to be the only fast foods! In Boston there are a lot of places where I can buy Chinese or Indian or Mexican or Greek food quickly (and one of the Chinese places sells fried plantains too). Perhaps fast African dishes would sell well too?
Liz, USA

Yes, unfortunately people in Africa think it is hip to eat at such places. Aside from diseases and the waist-lines, the cost is higher than that of African foods which are more organic and well prepared. Most African food contains less saturated fat and less meat. African foods consist of more greens and fish. Africa needs a lot of help to save its people from cultural imperialism.
Alberta Darko, United States

With globalisation, it is inevitable that tastes in music, fashion, and eating, will cross cultural issues. There is nothing wrong with 'fast foods'. We have to devise ways of making our local foods 'fast' to meet the demands of our modern economy. And that means harnessing technology. In my country Ghana, we still prepare fufu the way our ancestors did 300 years ago - laborious pounding using pestle and mortar. What a waste!!
Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng, Ghanaian in UK

It is a shame.....as Africans western food to some extent is colonising the weak "wanna be white" black Africans. You will never see a food outlet selling African food in the West. The root cause of the problem is the politicians.
Tonderai, Zimbabwe

Among other reasons, the increased popularity of Western food in Africa portrays the inadequacy or the failure of the restaurant and food industry to effectively develop new cuisines and improved current food offerings in the market place. In this day and age, "fast food cultural imperialism" may happen only because local entrepreneurs are not able, or fail, to meet the challenges or opportunities in the market place.
Albert Lutterodt, USA

I 'd rather feast on sukuma wiki and ugali rather than enter a fast food eatery. I believe that there are Africans - (in and outside of Africa) who have succumbed to the American form of culinary imperialism.
Mercy Nyeri, Scotland

Are Africans succumbing to a new form of culinary imperialism? No, they are not. If there is any form of imperialism to which Africans are succumbing, it is an economic form of imperialism. Most African countries have started liberalising their economies. With such open markets come increased disposable income and cultural integration. Both of these have a significant effect of presenting a wider choice to a population regarding their lifestyles, including the choice of basic home products like food. This is what is happening not just in Africa but also in a number of other developing nations.
Given Chansa, United Kingdom

Well maybe it is, maybe it is not. Either way it is a choice made by people. I think it is very misleading to describe a free choice by young people as "cultural Imperialism". London has African restaurants, African music and African culture. No one describes that as imperialism.
Nigel, Taiwan

I agree that many African city dwellers think eating fast food is "cool". But I am confident that African cuisine will prevail. Ethiopian food, for example, has invaded many western countries. Most Ethiopians in the Diaspora eat "Injera", an Ethiopian flat bread that will eventually take its place in western dictionaries. I hope other African countries will introduce their delicious cuisine to foreign countries.
Kilfle, Ethiopian, USA

The advent of fast food chains in Africa should serve as a challenge to local restaurants to step up their game. It's all a matter of economics and choice. The fast food joints have broken onto the scene with glass and chrome settings. Of course people would be attracted - especially the youth - but I honestly do not think that they are necessarily a threat to local independent caterers
Kobby, USA/Ghana

This should surprise no one.....as we learn to be more productive, we must necessarily change certain habits - in particular those that take most of our time. Clearly, a family that spends half of their day cooking cannot be productive. As more women are enter the labour force, who will be doing the cooking at home. The African man? I don't see it in my lifetime. We all save time with fast foods.
Ed, Ghana

Africa is not the first or the last nation to come under food "colonialism". It is just very sad that western food is considered to be a better and cooler alternative to ethnic food in so many countries, when it almost certainly is not.
Ishani Banerji, India

I feel it is unfair to say that all of these fast food places are serving American food. Fried chicken is sold at the local market and on the streets by the same women that sell fried yams. Do you think that American fast food is more unhealthy than fried yams or Red (fried plantains and beans cooked in oil)? Is diet full of starch and oil that much better than one full of oil and meat?
Beth, USA/Ghana

In most restaurants, they offer burgers and fried chicken which are spicy and good tasting...that's what most people go for over lunch and may be on Sundays after church because they do not have the time to cook. But for dinner in most African homes, traditional food is what is served.
Esther, Kenya

Just like toxic waste and tobacco, Western multinationals see Africa as an easy dumping ground where the people are worth less than their white counterparts in the West. It is a sign of the cynicism of capitalism and the greed imposed ignorance of politicians in both the African and western nations that they are unwilling to confront these dollar vultures.
Owen Llewellyn, England

There is always a tendency in most African countries to impress Western visitors by showing them how modern we are. But most Africans living in West have overcome this and instead have developed better appreciation of the richness of our local African dishes, which are mostly unprocessed, and rich in complex carbohydrates. This is evident in the number of African restaurants springing up everywhere in major cities with large African populations in the US.
Ralph Dema, Nigeria/USA

Its been like that for years - deep fried chicken and burgers were very popular amongst African university students many years ago! We in the Diaspora struggle to find the right ingredients to make good African food! (Yellow maize meal is not "right", and semolina does not cook as well).
Joe Mandebvu, Australia




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