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African Food in Finland: Hard to Find, Hard to Sell

African restaurants find it difficult to get a foothold in Finland. Even though food from African countries is often tipped to be the next fashion after Asian cuisine, some of the— rather few—restaurants that open cannot make it on the Finnish market.

Ihmisiä festivaalin ruokakojulla.
Maailma kylässä -festivaaleilla tarjolla oli lukuisten eri Afrikan maiden ja alueiden ruokia. Image: Yle

At the World Village Festival in Helsinki this past weekend, African food was in abundance. However, it is difficult to find it elsewhere.

There are ethnic food restaurants in Finland—for example, quite a few Nepalese eateries have opened along with the well-established Chinese and kebab places. Every sixth restaurant owner in Finland has a foreign background. In the Helsinki metropolitan area, this statistic goes up to every fourth restaurant owner. Most of these places are pizzerias, but ethnic cuisine is also a feature of Finland’s restaurant scene.

However, African food restaurants are few and far in between—and even so, a couple of them have already closed.

“In Finland, people tend to avoid places where you have good number of Africans sitting inside,” says Humphrey Kalanje, former chair of the Finnish-Tanzanian Association.

Most arrivals from Africa are not entrepreneurs, but rather students or asylum seekers, which makes the task of running a restaurant more difficult. What they lack in experience, they make up for in enthusiasm, though.

“Of course I would like to establish my own restaurant,” says Linge Ayubah Ndambangha, a student from Cameroon. “Many Cameroonians believe we are tall because of our Cameroonian food. Why not bring that kind of food in Finland and try it for people to also get that kind of experience?”

Visitors at the World Village Festival said they enjoyed African food. Those bringing exotic food returned the favour—Mulki Mölsä from Somalia said that all Somalis like Finland’s Karelian hot-pot, beef and onion stew.

World Village Festival Draws Crowds (siirryt toiseen palveluun)

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