It was a solemn moment, the US Ambassador gave a similar speech, the invited guests applauded, the uninvited joined the queue to grab a piece of pizza. A few days ago opened the first Pizza Hut branch in Ethiopia, it was a social event that also reminded a little of the year 1990 when the first opened McDonald’s on Moscow’s Gorky Street. It was like the final end of communism and the beginning of the consumption revolution.
In Ethiopia, the symbolism is now a similar one. It’s not so much that in the capital Addis Ababa you can now buy pizza with an astonishing amount of cheese, you could do that before. Pizza Hut is the first Western fast food chain to settle in the country that has the second largest population in Africa – and many associate this with the famine of the 1980s. The arrival of Pizza Hut also means a new normal: we are now also part of it – nothing is withheld from us anymore.
If you ignore South Africa, then the big fast-food companies for decades have made a bow to sub-Saharan Africa. Industry critics considered this a godsend. But for many Africans, it was rather a judgment on the backwardness of a continent on which you can not even roast meatballs.
The longing for the symbols of the West therefore often takes adventurous forms: in Nigeria, the arrival of McDonald’s is expected and longed for years. In many major African cities, some just started making their own McDonald’s outlets, or a replica Pizza Hut. Also in Addis Ababa there is not far from the first real branch a more or less successful imitation, it must first stand still.
More stores are soon to follow, including a Halal variant for the Muslim part of the population. About 400 people want to employ the chain once in Addis, that’s not very much in a country with 100 million inhabitants. However, US Ambassador Michael Raynor said in his speech that “Pizza Hut’s presence is also a signal to other investors that there are good business opportunities in Ethiopia.” The pizza as a door opener. The local licensee of the fast-food chain intends to open a production of the Korean carmaker Kia soon. That would be the first car factory in the country.
For some years, Ethiopia’s economy has been growing at double-digit rates, and in the capital Addis Ababa, a tram is being used. In the suburbs, H & M and Tchibo are sewing their clothes. A pizza in the new restaurant is still not affordable for many Ethiopians, three euros are more than the average daily wage.
Some Ethiopians are quite right, they fear for the culinary tradition of the country. “Pizza Hut will pervert eating habits,” Cook Yohannes Hailemariam told the BBC.
Obesity is hardly a problem in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian cuisine is one of the best on the continent, the staple food is Injera, a leavened flatbread, which is eaten with meat ragout, for example. A special delicacy is thin slices of raw beef, which are available at many street stalls.
All this can not be found on the Pizza Hut menu. Because the chain imports most of the ingredients from abroad.