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VIPs, fried chicken and sexist polemic: Senegal’s first KFC

By Manon Laplace, in Dakar
Posted on Wednesday, 9 October 2019 10:18

Babacar Ngom cuts the ribbon of the "First Lady Store" on October 4, 2019 in Dakar. To his right, Trade Minister Aminata Assome Diatta, to his left, Amy Holman of the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, and Youssou N'Dour. © Manon Laplace for JAMG

Senegal's first Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurant officially opened its doors on Saturday, October 5, against the backdrop of a heated controversy on social networks over the fastfood restaurant's exclusively female team.

National franchise agreement

Sedima, Senegal’s leading poultry production group, founded in 1976 by Babacar Ngom, has obtained a national franchise agreement with KFC, becoming the exclusive depositary of the brand in Senegal.

“It’s a dream come true for the little girl who always made sure, when her parents came back from a trip, that they hadn’t forgotten to bring her a KFC bucket,” said Anta Babacar Ngom Diack, Sedima’s CEO and Ngom’s daughter, as she was illuminated by the neon lights on three giant screens in the brand’s colours of red and white colours.

  • The brand hopes to open two new restaurants by the end of 2019, and another one in 2020.
  • Sedima, whose slaughterhouse in Thies already produces 4,000 chickens per hour, could significantly increase its production if KFC’s Senegalese ambitions are realised.

Starstruck over fried chicken

Fireworks and a balloon release split the stormy sky in the western cornice of Dakar on Friday evening, October 4, as some 300 guests, including ministers, diplomatic representatives, a former director of the Basketball Federation, President Macky Sall’s son, footballer El Hadji Diouf, fashionistas, businessmen, and even international singing star Youssou N’Dour, showed up.

Dressed in their brightest and most elegant evening clothes, they were the first to taste the world-famous KFC bucket – filled with fried chicken drumsticks.

  • KFC, which is owned by the American group Yum!, claims eight million consumers a day in its 21,000 restaurants around the world.

Local starlets and presidential advisers were treated to hundreds of trays of fried chicken, burgers and milkshakes, under the envious gaze of passers-by held behind a gate guarded by an army of security.

  • The inauguration, estimated to have cost some 20 million CFA francs (more than 30,000 euros), highlighted Senegal’s ability to meet global standards.
  • “That Senegal can meet high standards like those of KFC and be attractive to international channels is proof that the country is growing and developing,” said Diack.

An exclusively female service

Under the eyes of a visibly intrigued N’Dour, the restaurant team sang “We are the ladies of KFC”, to the tune of the famous charity anthem “We are the world”.

This week, as customers stopped by to enjoy the luxury of a KFC bucket, which costs between 11,000 and 22,000 CFA francs (17 to 33 euros), they have been served exclusively by women.

  • While the KFC Senegal team is mixed, the restaurant’s team, composed of about 60 people, are exclusively female.
  • “There are ongoing forums to discuss how to value women. At Sedima, we decided to be actors in this,” said Diack of the decision.

But some believe that it reduces women to essentially subordinate tasks, while others, on the contrary, called for anti-male sexism. “We must dare to say it: what KFC does is false feminism, it’s sexism,” wrote one male.

Reactions “reveal the prevailing sexism in Senegalese society”, according to Ndeye Fatou Kane, a feminist essayist who deplores the “staggering reactions on Twitter”. “While some were talking about the clashes that were about to happen because, as we all know, women do not get along, others were talking about seduction attempts that could lead to a negative work atmosphere.”

“As if women were only good at being confined to the domestic sphere, and that everything to do with management would be inaccessible to them,” said Kane, who believes that KFC’s strategy is driven more by capitalist, rather than feminist, tendencies.

“The arguments against our appointments refer to the management of several [possible] cases of maternity leave, to women’s domestic commitments… Stigmatising elements, which suggest that a woman is less able to commit to work than a man,” said Rama Ndiaye, the restaurant manager.

Surfing on this controversy, the “First Lady Store” officially welcomed its first customer on Saturday morning, October 5 — a young man who camped out overnight, waiting for the doors to open.

Bottom line: Despite the controversy over the staffing, hundreds of customers followed him throughout the day, many of whom were ready to queue for several hours, even if it meant being fried under a blazing sun.

 

This article first appeared in Jeune Afrique.

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