LOUD WHISPERS: Ten Reasons Why We Need A West African Jollof Rice Institute

The ‘Jollof Rice’ debate has been raging for quite some time now. This simple dish made with rice, tomatoes and spices, which can be found in several West African countries and the African Diaspora, has become the subject of hilarious rows. The controversy took an unexpected international turn last week when the  CNN anchor Richard Quest who was visiting Nigeria, asked the Nigerian Minister for Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who he thought had the best Jollof Rice. Now the two major contestants in this Jollof Rice debate have been Ghana and Nigeria. The age old rivalry between Ghana and Nigeria is nothing new. I lived and worked in Ghana for ten years, and in a way I still live there. The Ghanaians might have agreed to a Nigerian edge when it comes to money, entrepreneurship, film-making, assertiveness and so on, but they are not about to let Nigeria get away with the Jollof Rice one. When Minister Lai Mohammed gave his response to Richard Quest, he said Senegal had the best Jollof rice. Social media went into meltdown and the poor Minister found himself being deported virally to his new country, Senegal.

Senegal Jollof

The Senegalese have never really waded into the Jollof debate that much because not only are the origins of Jollof rice traceable to the Senegambia region, the Senegalese version of Jollof known locally as Thieboudienne or Benachin is somewhat different from the Ghanaian and Nigerian version. Confident in the originality and superiority of their own version of the dish, the Senegalese have left their West African brethren to continue fighting over whose Jollof is better. Their silence has been rewarded, voila – they have been declared winners of a competition they did not register for. I have eaten Jollof rice in Senegal, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Liberia, Ghana, and other West African countries. Let us just say the Jollof wars are real! Since this Jollof rice debate is not going away any time soon, in the interests of regional peace and security, I am hereby proposing a West African Jollof Rice Institute, probably to be located in ECOWAS.  I present below ten reasons why this Institute is needed.


Thousands of West African youth will be trained as Jollof Chefs. The Institute will have a faculty drawn from all the countries in the region that have Jollof rice as a local dish. The skills of the Jollof Chefs will be in high demand. As the institute develops its curriculum, they might be able to set up different units for ‘Gambian Jollof’, ‘Ghanaian Jollof’, ‘Nigerian Jollof’ , ‘Senegalese Jollof’ and so on.


You can’t win a Jollof rice war with no rice. Importing rice is unsustainable. The more local rice we grow the better we are at food security and we won’t have to worry about running out of rice to compete with. There will also be enhanced production of vegetables and spices. The Jollof Institute will play a key role in ensuring there is an unending supply of vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, and carrots and spices such as ginger and garlic. There will also be a huge demand for cooking oil. All this will create millions of jobs.  In addition, plantains are key to enjoying a good dish of Jollof Rice. Fried plantains known as ‘Dodo’ in Nigeria, ‘Kelewele in Ghana’ and ‘Acheke’ in Cameroon are such divine culinary pleasures.  Fishery will receive attention too because the Senegalese use fish for their Jollof. Scarcity of any or a combination of these ingredients will place the countries concerned at a disadvantage in the ‘Jollof Wars’.


Some of the challenges West African countries face with their open borders is the alarming rate of trafficking in persons, especially children. The Jollof Institute will have programs to ensure that trafficking is addressed, for example ensuring that no child labour is involved in the making of Jollof Rice. It will also be important to ensure that promising Jollof Chefs are not kidnapped to work in other countries. Another security concern in the West Africa region has been the flow of illicit small arms. The Jollof Institute will take steps to ensure that its brand is not affected by unscrupulous characters hiding weapons in trailers of rice or vegetables. Any country with an alarming rate of convicted criminals might be suspended from participating in the activities of the institute.


The Jollof Institute will aid in the fight against corruption in a number of ways. To start with it will highlight the importance of merit. You either know how to cook Jollof Rice or you don’t. You cannot gain admission into the Jollof Institute without passing the entry examination of cooking a Jollof Rice dish to determine your level of competence. You cannot serve as a Lecturer of the Institute if you cannot show your original certificate from the college you graduated from. This ensures that the academic standards of the Institute remain high. During competitions, there will be checks to ensure that money is not being laundered in bags of onions or rice. Every country’s Financial Crimes Unit will have a Jollof Rice Department to ensure that only local rice is used for competitions and that ingredients are purchased properly with transactions documented.


Many of our public and private schools in the English speaking countries of West Africa teach French. The Francophone countries teach English as well. We have no way of knowing how much French or English our children are really learning. Therefore, the Jollof Institute will hold an annual Jollof Rice Debate for West African Schools. The English speaking students will debate in French and the French speakers will debate in English. The debate topic will be straightforward, ‘Why my country’s Jollof Rice is the Best’. The debate will be broadcast live in our countries (thank you DSTV) and we can hear our children argue,The Jollof rice of Nigeria is full basket onions sweet salt’ and ‘In Senegal, Jollof kill carrot et lion hunger’.


The high profile of Jollof rice and the rate of consumption in the region might trigger an unprecedented level of obesity and lifestyle diseases. The Jollof Institute will run campaigns on healthy living. The Institute will also invest in awareness raising in local communities where people are in the habit of lynching ‘suspects’ who they claim have a hand in the sudden death of their prominent citizens.


Do you know that World Jollof Rice day is August 22nd? When we have our institute, this day will no longer be a fringe activity organized by dedicated foodies. Big corporate players will struggle to sponsor the event by camping Jollof Chef Teams from each country, hiring scores of ‘Consultants’, usually older women from Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria who have been cooking Jollof rice for decades. Chinese traders will manufacture thousands of T. Shirts for ‘Team Senegal’, ‘Team Nigeria’, ‘Team Ghana’ and so on. World Jollof Rice Day will be a public holiday in all West African countries. The Jollof Institute will also issue guidelines for non-African countries, individuals and entities taking part in World Jollof Day. There will be none of Jamie Oliver’s foolishness, remember his #Jollofgate of2014 when he recommended that coriander, parsley and lemon be added to Jollof Rice. The backlash was sufficiently swift and significant and he has wisely left our Jollof Rice alone.


In Eastern and Southern Africa, a lot of the cuisine is quite bland, and they have a limited capacity to deal with hot spices. There is however a new generation who are more adventurous. In order to spread the gospel of ‘Jollof Rice’ across the continent, there will be a Big Brother Jollof Reality Show. Participants from across Africa will be put in the house for one month to learn and teach each other how to make Jollof Rice. The public can vote for contestants of their choice. The winner will receive many great prizes.  For this reality show, nudity will be unnecessary and drinking might be dangerous since cooking gas, knives and hot pans will be in use most of the time. Participants might not be able to engage in nookie either, because there will be too much ginger and onions on people’s breath, and it is hard to get rid of the smell of cooking oil. This will please the moral police.


The Jollof Institute will develop partnerships with international bodies to further the interests of Jollof Rice. The United Nations will not only endorse World Jollof Day, all UN Agencies will set aside resources for research, training and capacity building on Jollof Rice issues. There will be collaborations with Michelin Star restaurants around the world, partnerships with hotel chains and Jollof Rice stands at strategic international cultural festivals. Any Michelin Star restaurant that wants to serve Jollof Rice must have a ‘Jollof Chef in Residence’, trained at the original Jollof Institute. Jollof rice will be on the menu at G8 meetings, and the World Economic Forum will commission a study on ‘The Global Competitiveness of Jollof Rice’. There will be discussions with WHO and regional blocs such as the EU about the amount of hot pepper that can go into Jollof rice for ‘other palates’. The World Trade Organisation, responsible for protecting copyrights, will be involved should countries like France and China decide to set up their own Jollof Institute.  It should however be noted that there will be no globalized standards for the calorie content of Jollof rice. That would be very difficult.


A Jollof Institute will mean a lot for governance and politics in West Africa and Africa as a whole. Politicians will have to demonstrate what they have learnt from the cooking of Jollof Rice. You cannot cook Jollof rice without a clear vision , a good plan, assembling and using top quality ingredients, learning from previous culinary disasters and mistakes, inter-generational skills exchange and time management.  Also, schools of Diplomacy, International Relations, Mass Communication and Public relations in West Africa had better add ‘The Delicate Issue of Culinary Patriotism’ to their curriculum.

These are my thoughts on a West African Jollof Rice Institute. I hope this gets taken up.  Back to the question of whose Jollof Rice is better. On graduation, the number of job offers the Jollof Chefs with the different specialties get, might be an indicator of whose Jollof is indeed better.


Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com


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18 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: Ten Reasons Why We Need A West African Jollof Rice Institute

  1. Femi Diipo May 1, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    LOL Jolof rice has become a serious business and must be addressed as such. There’s no institution will need more than this right now…

  2. Dom Dom May 1, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    This is so interesting as well as hilarious, fully embedded with series of sarcasm. Jolof rice is that important to us in this part of the world

  3. Afolabi Olagunju May 2, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    Chai! Seriously, this is a juicy writeup. I see jollof rice becoming a brand. Jollof interns too o. For those who cannot cook, there will be internship programmes to aid it.

  4. Olakunle Olajide May 2, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    Who doesn’t like Jollof Rice? This will surely foster unity within the West African countries. It is really funny on how you came up with this idea and i hope it gets a backing.

  5. Olushola Aderanti May 2, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    This is serious business. Mama don come again o. Institute of jollof rice, this what I call, seeing a castle out of a dughill. Who would have thought jollof rice can be broadened like this? I Support it though but there’s nothing, absolutely nothing like Nigeria’s Jollof rice.

  6. Lalekan May 2, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    This is deep. I am happy this was written because really there are different types of jollof rice o. I support the West africa jollof institute o. I mean, let Nigerians learn Senegalese Jollof and vice versa, It will help build friendship and acceptance.

  7. jerry Omole May 2, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    Big Brother Jollof reality Show, mehn! That one is loud o. Very loud! I can imagine, but women will be more on the show sha. Lol. I was pissed when Mr LAI made that statement, but that man just gets people angry though even to common jollof he got people annoyed. I don’t understand him sha

  8. Daramola Olatoye May 2, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Lol. Lai mohammed sha. I was irritated when he said that, I have always been irritated since he came on board but that comment he made irritated me more. Senegal lohun lohun.
    This jollof institute will create jobs and that’s the most important thing and let the Buka women be the chief chefs in the institute. Oh my! The experience will be solid.

  9. Samuel May 2, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    I guess Lai has his reasons for picking Senegalese Jollof Rice. Personally i have only tasted Nigerian Jollof Rice, so i am sincerely rooting for this “Institute” to get established. A quick question to everyone, how many country’s Jollof Rice have you eaten?

  10. Ebonychyqui2 May 2, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    Jesus jollof rice competition? It’s gonna be great anyways. I would like to be a part of that competition.

  11. Kathryn May 2, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    Waooooh, this is a nice one. I love it. Can’t wait to see that day bbn will camp great chef to cook jollof rice.

  12. gbemisola May 3, 2017 at 4:29 am

    Lol. Oh mY! The serious business called Jollof Rice. I love this writeup a lot. This is deep, creative and interesting.I hope they begin to process this into action.

  13. Maureen Adams May 3, 2017 at 4:32 am

    I was just smiling all through this aticle. This is beautiful. It’s so deep, so instead of the argument let’s do something productive out of it. I love and love this article sooooo much.

  14. Wilson Adefemi May 3, 2017 at 4:33 am

    The wonders of jollof rice. I look forward to the Jollof reality show though. It will make deep sense. Lol. But, in my opinion the headquarters of Jollof rice should be in Nigeria. We own it.

  15. Selina Phillips May 3, 2017 at 4:37 am

    Ghanians will never agree. We can’t share the glory of our rice, as stated in this interesting writeup, we have given Nigeria almost all titles but the Jollof title cannot be shared with anyone. @Wilson Adefemi, ECOWAS is the best place to head it because allowing Nigeria to own it is like giving away our treasure and for those who haven’t tasted our rice before, You can come for it.

  16. Itohan May 3, 2017 at 4:39 am

    I am blown away. This is a connotative article, basically extensive and it’s an avenue for great income if taken seriously. I love this.

  17. Oluwatosino May 6, 2017 at 9:08 am

    Oh my world… I was just smiling while reading this very interesting article. Jollof rice Institute. Have only eaten Nigeria jollof rice and am so sure same with many of us on this platform , so this jollof rice Institute will help us to taste other countries jollof rice and we would also learn how other countries cook their jollof rice especially Senegalese that our very own minister of information traded us for.
    Woah, this Institute will really be very productive if established o. It wil create job opportunities and will also help train lots of people to be a better cook. Am in for this….

  18. Princess May 6, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    We sure need Jollof rice Institute here in Nigeria, it would at least help increase the number of tourist coming into the country to see and feel the taste of the sumptuous meal. And this would in turn increase the GDP of the country.


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