At least 21,000 Africa-focused businesses have now set up shops in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Remi Sussan Oyebanji is one those virtuous Africans who own an enterprise in the Middle East.
Remi runs Westside African Restaurant in Abu Dhabi City, Abu Dhabi, UAE. The restaurant is one of the top African cafeterias in the UAE.
Remi, from Awe town in Oyo State, South-West Nigeria, is also a blooded Ghanaian (by virtue of her mother). She lived and schooled in both countries at different times.
The ebony beauty has been in the UAE with her husband and children for over three years. In that country that has become an increasing tourist power, she has been taking Africans back home through food.
In this chat with AllNews’ Ridwan Yusuf, Remi touched on Westside African Restaurant, socialite cum fraudster Hushpuppi and the jollof wars.
What inspired your business idea?
Cooking to me, has always been a hobby. Getting to Abu Dhabi, I met Africans who were newbies like I was. They complained of eating Indian rice all the time, and missed ‘home food’. So I started cooking home for a few people daily till I got a space two years ago.
What sort of cuisines do your make?
We serve Nigerian and Ghanaian dishes.
Can you give a rundown of some of the West African dishes you prepare?
The regular Nigerian delicacies we prepare at Westside African Restaurant include eba, amala, poundo yam, semo, wheat, jollof rice and white rice.
Others are egunsi, vegetable, okro, bitter leaf, ogbono, beef, cow leg, goat meat, chicken, fresh fish and assorted.
On demand, our eatery makes yam and egg stew; indomie and fried egg; and beans and plantain.
Ghanaian eat-in menus at Westside African Restaurant are: banku, fufu, kokonte, jollof rice, plain rice, rice ball (omo tuo), kenkey, palm nut soup, groundnut soup, light soup, okro stew, egusi, beef, cowleg, chicken, fried fish, fresh fish, grilled fish and assorted.
Ampesi; yam and cabbage stew; and waakye can be gotten on-demand.
What are the challenges of doing business in Abu Dhabi, such as the one you are operating?
One, getting food stuff from Nigeria or Ghana. Prices are always changing, or sometimes certain food item becomes very scarce.
Two, remember there is the global pandemic – coronavirus. Businesses like mine rely mostly on tourists, and unfortunately tourism has been very low this year, especially in Abu Dhabi, because of the government’s laws to curb Corona.
Following the arrest of Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, popularly known as Hushpuppi, in June 2020, Nigerians in the UAE now fear ‘blacklisting’. Are you worried too?
The UAE government’s relationship with law-abiding and hardworking residents (irrespective of nationality) is that of mutual respect.
The government, constantly deploy resources to ensure that setting up and running a business in the country is stress-free and even maintain a posture of support, to facilitate growth of small and medium-sized businesses like mine. As such, we do not, in any way, feel any apprehension towards being blacklisted. The country is a perfect haven for businesses, business owners and every law-abiding residents and visitors.
There’s this lingering debate about Nigerian jollof rice and Ghana’s. You should be in a better position to give a verdict. Which is the best?
‘Half-half’ like me shouldn’t have an opinion on the jollof rice debate. I would rather be the honourable timekeeper [grins].
What we are committed to doing at Westside African Restaurant is ensure that both Ghanaian and Nigerian jollof lovers are equally and well catered for.
Thank you very much for your time.
Thank you for the opportunity, Ridwan.