The Organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market, Ikechi Uko has expressed excitement over the level of acceptance of Nigerian Jollof rice globally, as he has consistently marketed the cuisine over years using his various platforms. Uko told the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos that the hosting of jollof rice contest during the yearly travel market was to establish a West African tourism product.
He said that unlike East Africa with rich wildlife, West Africa had no common tourism product.
According to him, a niche needs to be carved for West Africa with the jollof rice contest, as a way of ensuring that the region has a common tourism product. He recalled that popular US rapper, Cardi B, who visited the country in December, expressed her love for Nigerian Jollof rice.
“The jollof rice contest, since it started in 2017, has been fruitful to Nigeria as many international tourists’ attention have been drawn to Nigerian cuisines.
“The popular US rapper, Cardi B, who visited the country last December and expressed her thirst for Nigerian jollof rice, is a successful report of the Nigerian cuisines gaining recognition globally.
“For an international celebrity to have come out openly to declare her craving for jollof rice is a positive development.
“The contest has been very successful because first time visitors want to sample either Nigerian or Ghanaian jollof rice; celebrity visitors also joined in the contest and have helped us drive the message,” he said.
Uko said that he started a jollof rice contest between Nigeria and other West African countries during the annual Akwaaba market in 2017.
He said that this was after realising that the West African sub-region had not developed a common and unique tourism product to showcase to the world like the East Africa’s wildlife offering.
According to him, the first edition of the contest in 2017 had 30 chefs from Nigeria, Gambia and Ghana, with judges from East and Southern Africa.
He appreciated the media for their assistance in projecting Nigerian and West African jollof rice to the world, which had helped it to gain huge recognition.
Uko said that in addition to the success recorded in projecting West African tourism product in culinary tourism (jollof rice), Akwaaba had also recorded success in wooing Africans from the diaspora to the continent.
He said at the 2019 edition of Akwaaba, some 15 Africans who had never come home were made to retrace their steps to their root with the help of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation.
”I am glad because l am beginning to be fulfilled as most of my vision for creating Akwaaba is coming to fruition. We are connecting the dots already,” he said.
NAN reported that Cardi B expressed her cravings for Nigerian jollof rice on her Instagram handle on Dec. 6, 2019. She talked about not wanting to eat just any hotel food, but the real Nigerian jollof rice.