On June 2, 2017, the broad food conversation in Africa, assumed a new direction as Brand Television Network,Btv; a lifestyle and entertainment television network, formally presented the African Jollof Rice Challenge.
The African Jollof Rice Challenge is a continental lifestyle and entertainment taste tour and cooking contest, that seeks to discover the country that has the best Jollof Rice in Africa, via a contest where representatives of different African countries will slug it out and aim at the $5000 Grand Prize money. According to Felix King, an Executive Producer at Btv, ‘’the argument on which country has the best Jollof Rice in Nigeria has inspired social network and street conversations across Africa, especially among the West African Countries, where Jollof Rice is most popular. This argument has grown into a very strong continental debate, which has dominated both conventional and social media spaces’’. This debate sprang up from a statement by Alhaji Lai Muhammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, that, “Senegalese Jollof Rice is the best and a counter claim by our Vice President, Yemi Osibajo that, “We all know that Nigerian Jollof Rice is the best anywhere. We beat the Ghanaians and Senegalese hands down.” Since then, Jollof Rice lovers have taken to all media platforms to present their perspectives on which country’s Jollof rice is the best in Africa. The argument gets fiercer with each passing day, with claims and counter claims on which country actually has the best Jollof Rice in Africa. King said, “There is no official position yet on which country has the best Jollof rice in Africa, hence, the Btv desire to unravel the mystery through this contest. None of the perspectives has proved convincing, despite Nigeria’s strong claims to the African cuisine. The different viewpoints on the streets have only generated more controversies and continuous placements of different points to back up individual claims,” In that development, Ororo Pattaya Otono, also an Executive Producer with Btv, said the challenge would start with an online recipe contest, where the best contestants will be selected for the live screening and then the Grand Finale. He said the programme would come to a spectacular climax at the Reward Night that will be used to mark the World Jollof Rice Day on Tuesday, August 22, 2017. Ororo also said that, “Jollof rice was born with controversy about its true origin, the best ingredients for cooking it and where the name itself was discovered.” In recent times, Nigeria and Ghana have laid major claims to the origin and ownership of Jollof, but some historians traced its origin to Senegambia, which was then ruled by the Jolof Empire. This argument about the origin of Jollof Rice has become a culturally-sensitive issue between Nigerians and Ghanaians. Whatever the arguments are, Jollof rice is one of the most common dishes in West Africa, consumed throughout the region, including Senegal, Gambia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Togo, Cameroon, Mali, and Ghana. There are several regional variations in the name and ingredients. According to Wikipedia, the name Jollof rice is derived from the name of the Wolof people, now called the ibou dienn or bena chin. In French-speaking areas, it is called riz au gras. Despite the variations, the dish is "mutually intelligible" across the region and has spread so wide to become the best-known African dish outside the continent. Just as we try to get used to the Jollof Rice story as it is, the new argument erupted, giving room to another controversy that has come to stay with us, because no one country in Africa will ever agree that its Jollof Rice is second to any. In the wake of these unending arguments, Brand Television Network, Btv, launched a lasting solution, via the African Jollof Rice Challenge, to the organizers, African Jollof Rice Challenge is more of an entertainment platform than a contest. It’s the positive and healthy exploration of the beauty of African entertainment that makes us one big continent. King describes the Grand Finale as a celebration of different African music, where African rhythm meets African Jollof Rice. In the words of Ororo, Jollof Rice is a strong unifying factor in Africa that brings us together to share great moments. Despite our differences, we have one major similarity, Jollof Rice. Hence the theme: One Africa, One Jollof Rice, and Different Recipes. Beyond entertainment and food values, the African Jollof Rice Challenge will serve as a veritable platform to promote tourism, cultural exchange among African countries and overall economic growth. The conversation continues on www.btvng.com.