By Christy Anyanwu
From April 29 to May 1, a leading financial institution in Nigeria, Guaranty Trust Holding Company (GTHC), gathered a retinue of food vendors and lovers from various countries in Africa to its sixth annual food and drink festival. It was three days of joy and fun as guests were treated to various African delicacies by different food vendors and chefs.
The array of dishes ranged from traditional Nigerian staple food, or what is popularly called the street food, such as boli and groundnut, corn and coconut, abacha, ugba, amala, small chops, ewa agoyin, fried yam and dodo and suya, among others, to continental and inter-continental dishes. It was, indeed, a celebration of culinary prowess, characterized by music, wining and dining, as well as sales, plus, of course, the master classes.
According to the group managing director of GTCO, Mr. Segun Agbaje, the festival is constantly expanding its capacity by creating opportunities for more businesses, as well as increasing its highly coveted vendor stalls from 142 to 204. He noted that the event equally offers more innovative and assiduous business owners the chance not only to showcase their businesses to the over 250,000 food vendors and lovers in attendance, but also engages with their customer base and learns from a confluence of other great-minded food entrepreneurs.
The yearly event, which featured three premier disc jockeys (DJs), who set the tone for a weekend of celebration, dance, food, drink and togetherness, is aimed at boosting small and medium enterprises. It has become an event to look out for every year since the last six years that it kicked off. As usual, this year had in attendance 12 renowned world-class chefs, who handled the master classes that showcased an array of culinary skills to food vendors and lovers, who in turn asked questions and even tasted the chefs’ menu.
On why the bank founded the festival, Agbaje said: “The main objective remains to promote the small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) at no cost. And, from our perspective, we believe that objective has been met.
“We expose them to a lot of people. We leave them to sell what they have, in terms of goods and services, and create awareness. If you look around, you will see that we don’t have large corporations; we don’t have large distribution. We have people who are owners of small businesses.
“So, we don’t really worry whether they become customers. However, I would love them to become customers, but that is not the objective. The idea is to give back to society.”
He noted that food is something that connects everybody – rich, poor, black or white.
“Food is one thing that everybody respects. Despite your economic status, tribe or where you come from, food connects all of us, and one of the happiest moments we have as human beings is when we eat with family, friends and people we love,” he said.
One of those who benefitted from the master classes, Ify Orji, described the festival as very educational. She said she learnt a lot from the master classes, and that she was looking forward to learning more in the coming years.
“This is not my first time at GTCO Food & Drink Festival but it is the first time I actually attended many of the classes. Of all the classes I have attended, Chef Ralph Duntoye’s class was the best,” she stated.
Another beneficiary, Funmi Gbadebo, said the event was top-notch, having attended three classes on April 29: “I learnt a whole lot. This is a good idea from the bank. It’s a great job they are doing.”
A food entrepreneur and director of Lere Foods, Mrs. Oladoye Mosunmola, expressed gratitude to GTCO for the wonderful opportunity given to small enterprises, saying: “I like the fact that it was so well organized, and having an experienced manager was a very thoughtful one. They did a lot of publicity to help the vendors, and we didn’t have to do much. It was 100 per cent good. It was a very huge experience for my brand. It was my first time exhibiting or attending GTCO Food & Drink Festival. I didn’t have the full knowledge of how big it was or what to expect.
“We did massive production of over 20 snacks in anticipation of what would happen if we didn’t make sales, but, surprisingly, we sold out all the snacks. It gave my business visibility and a lot more. I am glad to have been part of the GTCO Food & Drink Festival 2023.”
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