WINDHOEK – An innovative idea by two business-minded individuals to commercialise kapana, a local delicacy of grilled meat often sold at an open market by small time business people, has sparked quite a stir on social media.
Conservatives objected to the idea of a white person, who would ordinarily be deemed well-off, is crawling into the space dominated since time immemorial by blacks.
However, small and medium enterprise expert Danny Meyer, director at SMEs Compete, has applauded the initiative, saying it just shows that entrepreneurship bears no skin colour.
Called ‘Dolce & Kapana’, which is a clever pun of the famous fashion brand Dolce & Gabbana, the innovative business was started by local businessmen Hanso Diehl and Nabil Robiati. The pair said they liked Kapana but complained that it was not always easily accessible.
This is when they decided to target a new demographic for the traditional cuisine by opening a mobile kitchen that grilles the meat over a gas fire. “We use gas to keep the level of smoke down because our target market is office workers who don’t all want to go back to the job smelling like smoke,” said Diehl.
Diehl added that he has not been fazed by the barrage of negative comments at all, noting that the encouraging comments actually outweigh those of pessimists.
“I think Kapana does not belong to a handful of people or to a specific tribe. I think it is a national dish that belongs to the whole of Namibia and we are not trying to compete with anyone,” he said.
“Kapana is like a trademark for Namibia, very much like pizza is a trade mark for Italy and today pizza is made all over the world but people know that it originated in Italy. We have a target market that we think is unexplored and we are not trying to compete with the guys at Single Quarters,” Diehl explained.
He added that his business instead wants to compete with traditional fast food outlets like Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Nando’s. “We see this as the beginning of a major franchise,” Diehl added.
SMEs Compete’s Meyer applauded the initiative, saying Namibia is a free market economy. “If anyone sees anything wrong with this then there is nothing stopping them from starting a similar or better business themselves. The creativity from these two young men is a pleasant surprise and who knows, they might actually identify new products or market segments as they expand their business,” said Meyer.
Kapana is defined by Wikipedia as “a way of preparing raw meat, typically beef in Namibia, by grilling it on open fire. The grilled meat is often sold at open market by young and small business people; it is cut into small pieces and grilled and sold while it’s cooking.”
Local language expert Ignatius Nambundunga says that apart from the common definition of ‘roasted meat’, Kapana actually refers to any type of food sold in an open market setting.
Much of the uproar on social media has been taking place on Twitter. Despite many tweets encouraging the initiative and many asking for the location of the mobile kitchen, some are playing the race card in objection.
“Kapana was created by black people from informal settlements who were responding to the economic harshness that they faced during apartheid. That is the reason why we can’t let white people profit from it,” tweeted Samuel Ndungula on the subject.
And, some die-hard Kapana consumers were also not impressed. Marianna Shikongo from Havana, who says she grew up eating Kapana, said: “My issue is not the business as such but it is using the Kapana name which is traditionally an Oshiwambo term. It is almost like copyright infringement because it is not really Kapana”.
Another self-proclaimed Kapana connoisseur, Elroy Bougard from Dorado Park in Windhoek, who claims to eat Kapana at least once a week, called the initiative ‘unoriginal’. “The mere fact that they are grilling the meat on gas already means that it is not Kapana. They are just grilling strips of meat on gas. It will not take customers away from Single Quarters because Kapana is meant to be eaten next to the fire in the smoke,” proclaimed Bougard.