The story behind Mama Ashanti serving West African dishes in Nairobi

Mama Ashanti
Mama Ashanti Restaurant in Kenya. [Photo: Courtesy]

You probably have had about the popular Mama Ashanti Restaurant in Lavington, Nairobi serving delicious West African dishes.

It is a case of four Nigerians venturing into business to sell their culture and feed their people working in Kenya. Three families from West Africa living in Kenya are behind this massive investment in one of Nairobi’s suburbs.

The signature dish here is West African goat stew served with yams. The yams are shipped from West Africa to Kenya, Afum Matta, one of the directors of Mama Ashanti explains. She, together with her husband Hawas Matta are the popular faces that welcome you to this restaurant.

Hawas is the husband to Afum who is a director of Mama Ashanti Restaurant. Hawas told Daring Abroad that the thought to start the restaurant in Kenya was borne by Mama Ashanti in Uganda.

“When we were in Uganda because we lived in Uganda for two years before moving here (Kenya) my wife and I were invited to having lunch at what was then Mama Ashanti in Uganda,” he recalls.

The food was amazing and when he moved to Kenya in January 2011, he scouted for places offering West African dishes but they were few with inconsistencies.

This is when he talked to his other partners and they settled on offering West African in Nairobi.

His wife Afum is a lawyer by profession who has practices law in Nigeria for 16 years but now runs Mama Ashanti Restaurant in Nairobi. She has given the place a new feeling and structures that keep customers going back.

“What makes Mama Ashanti cuisine stand out in Kenya is the authenticity. We have put measure in place to ensure that the food you’re getting in Mama Ashanti is home food, it is like the food you get in Nigeria, in Ghana or any other place in East Africa,” Afum says.

Hawas who is the board chair for Mama Ashanti Restaurant Kenya adds that a majority of the clients – 60% – are Kenyans while 30 % are West Africans.

Further, there is only one chef of West African descent at the restaurant’s kitchen while the rest are Kenyans with their speciality being West African dishes.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, Mama Ashanti focused on deliveries whose uptake is relatively high.