A story about Rice and Senegal on World Food Day

Sunday 16 October is World Food Day.

To celebrate the efforts and achievements of farmers, suppliers, processors, distributors and retailers (from field to fork) as well as to highlight the ongoing challenges to meet demand, access and affordability, raise nutition content and reduce waste, we are pleased to bring you a guest blog from Victoria Crandall, who runs a research consultancy focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa's agriculture and soft commodites.

Here Victoria gives her personal story about a recent visit to Senegal, West Africa, discussing local food habits, the legacy and economics of imported food against home-grown, and the associated food security risks across much of the region.  


"During a visit to Dakar, I was on a mission to eat one last tchep before dashing off to the airport. Thieboudienne, or tchep as it is commonly called, is the Senegalese national dish: a simple pairing of fish, rice, and vegetables.

I spotted a tiny hole-in-the wall where I ordered tchep rouge, called red for the tomato paste flavored rice.

I happily tucked into the dish between sips of spicy ginger juice. A fiery and tangy red sauce gave the dish an irresistible bite. But, as I fell into a refined carbohydrate-induced stupor, I regretted polishing off the compact mound of starchy rice. I staggered out of the restaurant, kicking myself for not accepting the complementary mint tea, which would have revived me for the airport.

Senegal is a glutton of the starchy grain

Like many West African dishes, the Senegalese tchep is an excuse to eat copious amounts of rice. Although West Africans are large rice consumers, Senegal is truly a glutton of the grain, with the region’s highest per capita consumption rate of an estimated 90 kg. The starchy grain is filling, relatively inexpensive and easy to prepare, making it a staple food of urban Senegalese.

Rice is the perfect sauce delivery vehicle and provider of calories for the majority of the population who cannot afford costly animal protein. The centrality of rice in the Senegalese diet is apparent in its most famous dishes – tchep, poulet yassa, and mafé – which all consist of a small portion of chicken or fish accompanied by large amounts of white rice. These dishes are renowned for their standout sauces, using local ingredients for truly unique flavors.

Watch out rice traders: Senegalese prefer broken rice

The white rice in Senegal is particular. The grain is finely broken, resembling couscous. According to an almost apocryphal story, the French introduced broken rice (riz brisé) to the Senegalese during the colonial period. French merchants struggled to sell large stocks of Vietnamese rice because the grains had been broken during the milling process. Considered to be of poor quality, the small grain rice was not even fit for human consumption, and was sold as animal feed.

But, enterprising French traders dumped the stocks in Senegal where it found a market due to its low cost. Over time, broken rice gained the favor of the local population. Rice traders that are new to the region struggle to sell long-grain white rice; the grain needs to have a large percentage of “brokens” or it will sit in the warehouse, untouched. Local wholesalers won’t buy it. Cautionary tales abound of clueless traders, stuck with cargos of gleaming polished long-grained rice since they were ignorant of local consumer preferences.

Continue reading A story about Rice and Senegal on World Food Day

Consultant mandate with the African Development Bank

Wyn River founder Nigel Davies has won a competitive bid from the African Development Bank to act as a consultant to their newly formed Special Operations Unit. The Special Operations Unit manages non-performing loans and equity investments across the AfDB's Non-Sovereign portfolio, which is mostly in the private sector.  

Nigel has relocated to AfDB's head office in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, from where he will support the Bank's restructuring and recovery efforts across the continent.  Africa offers significant growth investment opportunities but is currently exposed to a downturn in both commodity/natural resource prices and associated local currency devaluations. 

While the AfDB portfolio will require Nigel's full attention, the rest of Wyn River's associates and network resources remain available in advisory and interim executive roles to address the corporate finance, project finance and restructuring needs of our clients.

Business Culture in Kazakhstan

Business Culture in Kazakhstan

This guest blog is from Ben Godwin, the founder of innovative trading/exporting platform Export Tree, which provides access to customers and local representatives in the markets of Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. You can read the original post and others at the Export Tree Blog. Ben originally started working in Kazakhstan in 2009 when he formed Capital Group, covering corporate training and consultancy services to private and public entities in sectors such as mining, oil and gas and finance. Ben Godwin is Wyn River's associate in Kazakhstan supporting our clients with local and regional contacts to facilitate trade and investment activity.

Every market has its own business culture. Here are ten tips to start you off in Kazakhstan based on our seven years experience in the field. 

1. Confirm meetings on the day: The Kazakhstan work day can be somewhat chaotic. So, no matter how much confirmation you receive ahead of time always confirm your meeting on the day. This will save embarrassment all round. 

2. Use a local representative: Your local representative can liaise with partners to organise meetings, give you good insight and advise on the questions you should be asking. Most importantly, however, they can follow up once you have returned home. Use the Export Tree database to find a local partner in your sector or use our consultancy services to plan your entry. 

3. Be formal: Kazakhstanis tend to wear expensive suits, have the latest iPhone and be keen on trading fancy business cards. Often meetings are run in large conference rooms by a senior figure surrounded by people that never say anything. Be prepared to meet this level of formality in order to win the respect of your partner. 

4. Don’t confuse friendliness with familiarity: In a cringeworthy scene one of our associates witnessed a British visitor try to take a selfie with a government official after a meeting. While Kazakhstanis tend to be very friendly it is important to remember that they value a respectful distance. 

5. All meetings are positive: Business meetings in Kazakhstan are often more like diplomatic affairs where ‘cooperation’ is discussed at length and memorandums - non-binding - are signed. While this all sounds positive don’t let it distract you from asking the questions you need answers to

6. Start with a meeting at their premises: While the international community is comfortable with the practice of business lunches and dinners in Kazakhstan this comes at a later stage in negotiations in Kazakhstan. Usually some trust has to be built first.

7. Plans change rapidly: When you are given information on plans for an upcoming project expect them to change - or not happen at all. This is very much the case with government bodies and state-owned enterprises. To establish how far down the road your partners have got we advise asking these key questions

8. Decision-making stays at the top: While heads of department or managing directors and may seem authoritative figures decision-making is often made right at the highest levels of the organisation. Don’t be afraid to ask who the decision makers are and about budgeting.

9. Don’t expect follow up: Kazakhstanis are famously bad at follow up. This is often due to an aversion to email and a lack of clarity about plans. It is almost impossible to to this at a distance. This is why Export Tree handles follow up locally or advises clients to appoint local representatives to do so. 

10. Email and telephone conversations are not binding: According to most Kazakhstani contracts only official correspondence is binding. This is usually official letter or fax. Email, telephone conversations and meetings that are not minuted do not count. So while you may receive promises verbally or by email do expect them to be considered binding. 

If you want further assistance planning your visit to Kazakhstan drop us a quick line here and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours. Or why not check out our Kazakhstan country profile or our tips on exporting to Kazakhstan?

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