Feature: Namibian entrepreneur harnesses traditional cuisine to drive business growth


  • World
  • Thursday, 07 Dec 2023

WINDHOEK, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- A Namibian enterprise is promoting the art of culinary expertise to grow business amid the country's burgeoning tourism industry.

Three years ago, Dalene Stephanus established Food Lab to cater to corporate events and functions in Swakopmund, a coastal city in Namibia. Through extensive research, she identified a culinary culture gap spurred by the growing demand for immersive traditional cuisine among residents and international tourists visiting the coastal area, which serves as a major tourism hub.

Statistics from Simonis Storm, a local research and investment firm, show that Namibia's coastal region achieved a hotel occupancy rate of 71.9 percent in October 2023, a record high.

"Today's culinary landscape is evolving, with a rising appreciation for new dining experiences and a keen interest among locals to explore our culinary heritage," Stephanus said Wednesday.

In response to this demand, Food Lab has expanded its services, now offering cooking lessons and distinctive culinary experiences for individuals eager to learn the art of preparing traditional Namibian and other regional dishes.

"Instead of simply going to a restaurant and ordering food, we offer a unique experience. We teach you how to cook and still serve you your meal," Stephanus said.

This shift has steered the enterprise toward a positive trajectory. Their clientele includes urban locals seeking to delve deeper into traditional meal preparation, a practice less exposed in urban settings. Sessions are priced starting at a minimum of 350 Namibian dollars (about 19 U.S. dollars), varying based on ingredients, a branded apron and specific requests.

Stephanus also collaborates with Aveshe Food Products, a local company specializing in adding value to traditional items. This partnership enables clients to witness the journey of traditional food production firsthand, from harvesting staple crops like pearl millet to the dining table.

"We aim to show people the origins and processes behind their meals," she said, noting that the initiative has already trained 100 individuals since its inception in October.

These sessions are not restricted to Namibian or regional recipes alone. "We recently provided training to a couple on preparing traditional Chinese cuisine," she added.

Furthermore, Stephanus collaborates with photographers to explore additional business opportunities. Presently, the venture employs three people, with plans to hire a permanent chef.

She hopes to utilize culinary art to foster growth by establishing an educational department at the studio, imparting skills and mentorship to address Namibia's 34 percent unemployment rate, according to the Namibia Labor Force Survey.

Romeo Muyunda, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, emphasized the significant role tourism plays in the country's gross domestic product, job creation, foreign exchange and poverty reduction.

In the near term, Stephanus aspires to tackle the challenges posed by the tourism sector's seasonal fluctuations. "With adaptability and creativity, the business is positioning itself as a significant player in the tourism industry, crucial for the country's economy," she said.

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