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Watch: The love for ugali inspired a Burundian trader to relocate to Kenya

By Sammy Waweru February 19th, 2024 2 min read

On the bustling streets of Nairobi’s Roysambu suburb, among the crowds of shoe vendors, one figure stands out – Vincent Ndayishemeze. The 25-year-old Burundian has found his place in Kenya, and it all started with a simple meal: ugali.

Ugali, a mixture of maize flour and water, when well-cooked, becomes one of the most sought-after delicacies in Kenya. The dish is often enjoyed with vegetables, and some prefer it with meat.

A staple of Kenyan cuisine, ugali has a special meaning for Ndayishemeze.

“Before I start my day’s work, I never miss a few bites to give me the energy to sell shoes,” he told Nairobi News, emphasising the important role the dish plays in fueling his entrepreneurial spirit.

Also read: Eliud Kipchoge’s simple diet: Mursik, ugali and beans

He particularly enjoys ugali when served with meat, especially goat, fish, and omena, complemented by a side of nutritious vegetables such as kale and other traditional varieties of greens.

Ndayishemeze’s journey to Kenya began eight years ago when he ventured into the shoe trade in Burundi.

Today, he continues his passion on the streets of Nairobi, selling stylish second-hand men’s shoes.

Though he has not fully realised his goals, he is grateful for the progress he has made and hopes to own a wholesale shop someday.

He reveals that it cost him Sh3,000 (equivalent to BIF 60, 000 Burundian money) to start selling shoes, a journey that led him to Kenya through a wholesale plastic goods trader.

With his prices ranging from Sh1,000 to Sh5,000, he typically sells up to three pairs of shoes a day, although on slower days, he may only sell one.

“When sales are good, I can move up to seven pairs,” he remarks, acknowledging the variability of his business. His main clientele consists of patrons from clubs and bars, particularly during the evenings.

Despite the challenges of the trade, Ndayishemeze’s cheerful demeanour, respect and business acumen have endeared him to his customers.

His love for ugali reflects his love for Kenya itself.

“Kenyan ugali captivates me and sustains me in the hectic pace of making ends meet,” he explains.

Also read: Kindly, buy me ugali, your honour! Guard leaves court in stitches

President William Ruto’s announcement that Kenya will be a visa-free country by 2023 is fueling Ndayishemeze’s aspirations. Hoping to expand his business and attract more investors, he sees a brighter future ahead.

Reflecting on his journey, Ndayishemeze encourages young people to relentlessly pursue their dreams.

“Get to work, even if it is in a field like mine,” he advises. Through hard work and determination, he has carved out a niche for himself in the bustling streets of Nairobi, proving that success knows no boundaries.