Last week, Presidents, Uhuru Kenyatta, Yoweri Museveni and South Sudan’s Salva Kiir joined President Paul Kagame in Kigali for talks on the future of the East African Community. They particularly talked about infrastructure projects aimed at easing on what is generally referred to as the Northern Corridor.
This was quickly followed by the Transform Africa Summit that attracted more African leaders and tech enthusiasts.
Rwanda served not only as a good host but also a good example of a country with a clear and fast moving ICT agenda. I hope in the years to come we shall stop talking about how Africa has so many mobile phones and start talking about how many life transforming apps and technologies have been developed by Africans for Africans.
Away from the conferences and summits your columnist spent an evening at one of Kigali’s popular clubs that gives a new meaning to the whole regional integration debate. If you have been following this column by now you would know that I am always moved by the small things that we can do to achieve the bigger ones.
Almost no city in the region is complete without an Indian (at least 10 of them), an Ethiopian or Chinese restaurant. There are also Japanese, Korean and Italian restaurants. Kigali even has a Greek restaurant.
My question therefore is where are the Ugandan, Kenyan, Tanzanian, Burundian or Rwandan restaurants? For the record my evening was spent at a place known as Carwash Executive Club. It has a car washing facility but more importantly it offers one the closest experience to a real Kenyan pub.
Even if you want Nyama Choma and Ugali served with some sukuma wiki they have it. While there I listened to a Luhya song followed by a Kikuyu song then a Luo song rounding up the session with a gospel song from Ukambani.
Off people’s lips you will hear more Swahili than Kinyarwanda and in the parking you cannot miss seeing Kenyan registered vehicles. I am sure it is easier for most Kenyans in Rwanda to locate this place than the Kenyan High Commission or their High Commissioner’s residence.
There is also another place known as Murisanga Restaurant. Interestingly even those who go there just know it as “Ewa Mama Jackie.” Apart from the funny-accented Kinyarwanda you may encounter while here, the place can easily pass for any restaurant in the Katwe or Ndeeba suburbs of Kampala.
At Mama Jackie’s the food is so Ugandan and at exactly 7:00pm East African Time (6pm in Kigali) patrons observe silence to follow NTV Uganda’s Akawungezi (Luganda news bulletin). Don’t be surprised if you find the people here talking more about what Erias Lukwago, the Kampala mayor, is doing than the new public transport arrangement in Kigali.
Both places mentioned above do offer that home away from home experience. What I do not understand is why they are never clearly branded as Kenyan or Ugandan restaurants the same way the Indians or Ethiopians do it.
I would love to see a clearly branded Rwandan restaurant in Nairobi or Kampala with everything in there so Rwandan that if one wanted to learn a thing or two about Rwanda that would be the place to go. I know a place where you can get a cold Primus in Wandegeya (Kampala) but it is not called a Rwandan Pub.
I am talking about a place where one who is homesick can go to and soothe their soul. I am referring to a place where you can take your friend of a different nationality in a bid to teach them something about another East African country.
One may argue that some progress is being made in the numerous nights that some nightclubs organise these days. In Kampala you are sure to hear of a Rwandan night while in Kigali I have heard of Mugithi (Kikuyu music) nights and I think Ramogi (Luo music) nights. On Friday, some Burundian music stars were in Kigali for the Burundi Night.
Why should someone brag about lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant and not at a Burundian restaurant complete with Burundian music, food and ambience? Such small initiatives can go a long way in helping East Africans to learn about each other while having fun. There you go investors; I just gave you a business plan.