Akabanga translates to “little secret” in Kinyarwanda, but it’s far from a secret in Rwanda. Here’s the story of Rwanda’s crazy-popular chili oil:
Meet the inventor: Sina Gérard
In 1983, Sina Gérard opened a roadside food stall on Highway RN4 in the village of Nyirangarama. He sold mandazi, sweet fried dough that originated on the Swahili coast and has since spread all around the African Great Lakes region. Mandazi is everywhere; to differentiate his offerings, Sina began serving it with his own special condiment: chili oil pressed from the ripe flesh of the yellow peppers grown by the farmers nearby.
Soon, customers began coming for the chili oil alone. Sina named it Akabanga. “It means something like ‘the little secret’,” he says. “If you put it on your food, you will understand the secret.”
Akabanga in the US
In January 2019, I had the privilege of visiting Rwanda. The country is beautiful — from the landscapes to the culture and people. Everywhere we went, from the fanciest restaurants to kitchen tables, Akabanga was a fixture. Before we left we stopped at the Simba grocery store to pick up our own bottles.
Upon our return, it was snowing in Seattle, but the heat of Akabanga kept bringing me back to the tropics. I reached out to Sina about bringing Akabanga in the US; while some East African specialty stores carried it, I believe it has the potential to be mainstream (a la a small brand of rooster sauce🤞). A few months later (and after some fun with FDA labeling rules and nutrition testing), you can now buy Akabanga for your table with fast, free shipping right here.
Each bottle is made in Rwanda and supports good jobs in the Rwandan economy. On top of that, 20% of net profits from Akabanga USA LLC are donated to the Aegis Trust to support peace education in Rwanda and prevent genocide. Let’s make some good while enjoying some delicious sauce.
Creating opportunity for Rwandans
Rwanda has made truly amazing progress in the 20 years since the 1994 genocide, lifting millions out of extreme poverty. But the reality of life for many in the densely-populated East African nation remains subsistence farming. Every bottle of Akabanga supports well-paying jobs for Rwandans to earn money and help drive the economy forward. On top of that, 20% of net profits from Akabanga USA are donated to the Aegis Trust to support peace education in Rwanda and prevent genocide.