Ange Kumasi

last updated Fri, Feb 17, 2023 2:44 PM

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3 mins read

In Abidjan, buffets on wheels say goodbye to restaurants

By Ange Kumasi
| Updated 14:44 17/02/2023
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In a busy street in Abidjan, Lady Kouadio's bright yellow food trolley stands out from the crowd. The colour is eye-catching, but it's not only the colour that attracts the eye. There's also a buzz around it, as the intense activity at the cart - and the great smells wafting down the street - draw in customers.

In one of the four built-in frying pans, Kouadio fries plantain; in another, potato with chicken; in another, panini bread; the last is for chawarma. The cart also has a washbasin area for dishes, a built-in gas burner, and condiment trays.

"I bought this trolley from Karomoko Fadiga. I like it because it is very efficient. I used it at an event, and after that, I bought another one. You can cook several things at the same time while moving," she said.

Fadiga, the brains behind the mobile trolleys, is a former finance and accounts officer and would-be restauranteur. He started producing the carts two years ago with his company, Carnot Engineering, out of pure frustration, as the 30-year-old explained. 

"I was employed in a company for four years and decided to resign to devote myself full-time to my passion, which is entrepreneurship. My wife and I wanted to get into the restaurant business, but we were really frustrated by the huge cost of renting shop space."

"That's why I decided to look into the issue of metalwork to produce mobile carts that would allow people who couldn't afford shop space to go into the mobile restaurant business easily," he said.

Before he launched the mobile carts, Fadiga spoke with potential food vendors who expressed interest in his innovation. Satisfied with his 'market research', he started the work.

"When I did the research, I didn't expect much interest. But we had clients who had been dreaming of this for years. There were lots of pre-orders," he said.

He currently receives about eight monthly orders for his "workshop" in the commune of Cocody.

Fadiga's mobile trolleys are equipped with frying trays; plancha (hot plates); panini and chawarma bread presses; washbasin areas for dishes; built-in gas burners; and condiment trays. 

Suggested meals prepared using the trolleys include Fried Ignam, Alloco (fried plantain), Attiéké fish (manioc millet), Garba (tuna fish with Attiéké), meat and chicken chutneys, and breaded chicken. Vendors can also set up a cooler to sell fruit juice and water. 

The trolley prices range from the local equivalent of US$600 to US$900, with the carts designed in several models and colours, with the possibility of adding a logo to represent the seller's business.

"Our prices vary according to customer requests, and one customer may have a specific request different from another. We started officially marketing the carts about six months ago, and we are at over fifty carts sold on the Ivorian territory", said Fadiga.

Once clients order and choose the design they want, they make a first deposit payment. After this, the production team, composed of four people, takes over.

Over at the workshop, machinist Assamoa Christian explained the process.

"I am in charge of cutting. I trace the dimensions, take the measurements and make the cuts for the different parts and we work on the assembly and welding. Then there are the adjustments and checks. After that, the trolley is sent to the paint shop to be finished," Assamoa explained.

The customer pays the second deposit instalment when the order is delivered, and the whole process takes less than 20 days, according to Fadiga. And even though the trolleys have proved popular with vendors, the entrepreneur is already working on an upgraded version.

"We are working on motorising the trolleys so that the customer can have the possibility to ride around with their trolley on a motorbike," he said.

The locally designed trolleys are more popular than imported versions from China. 

"With us, you tell us what you want, and we tailor it to your preference. The advantage of a local product is that if there is a problem with the device, we are here with you, and that makes it easier to get service. This is not possible with a product imported from China, for example," Fadiga explained.

Carnot Engineering's progress was honoured with an award during the 2022 edition of the annual Bicom Agence Top Enterprises, organised in collaboration with the Club des Journalistes Economiques of Côte d'Ivoire. Fadiga's enterprise won the Best Company Award in the industrial innovation category.

"It is a source of pride for the whole team to receive such an award. And we also hope that other young people will be able to make Africa move and bring Africa to be industrialised," Fadiga said.


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