Nigerian Food Revolution – Hakeem Jimo – Sentientism Ep:196

Find our Sentientist Conversation here on the Sentientism YouTube and here on the Sentientism Podcast.

Hakeem Jimo is co-founder and CEO of Veggie Victory, Nigeria’s first plant-based food tech company. Hakeem and his partner, Bola Adeyanju, also founded Nigeria’s first vegan restaurant, V Café, and now run the VChunks meat alternative product company – designed to help veganise Nigerian cuisine. Hakeem is also country director for ProVeg Nigeria.

In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”

Sentientism is “evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” In addition to the YouTube video above the audio is on our Podcast here on Apple & here on all the other platforms.

00:00 Clips!

00:36 Welcome

01:59 Hakeem’s Intro

– Nigerian father, German mother, growing up in Germany, now in Nigeria

– 10 years of veganism and vegan entrepreneurship

– Establishing ProVeg Nigeria

03:45 What’s Real?

– Not much supernatural thinking in small-town Germany “there were more cows than humans”

– Lutheran evangelical protestant society but “we went to church twice a year… it was not a very religious background”

– Nigeria: “A completely different ballgame… the spiritual, religious world plays a much bigger role in Africa… religion is everywhere here… and I like it… In Africa I started to pray… you don’t have that sense of control.”

– Christianity, Islam as well as natural / traditional religions from the pre-colonial era

08:33 What Matters?

– “Every day I see these two sides”, Germany (enlightenment, studying philosophy) and Nigeria (travelling as a journalist in W.Africa: “a completely different way people see the world”)

– Only recently exploring the Bible (via podcasts) “just to understand historically”

– Finding references to treatment of animals in the Old and New Testaments

– Nigeria: “Religion is much more taken… by the letter” vs. the German way “it’s just a parable”

– “If you’re coming from a western background you just shape your belief system” vs. “people are handing over authority to another level”

– “How do we actually convince people… whether I’m in Germany or Nigeria?”

– “I walk through the streets here… it’s funny… even though everybody is black and in Germany everybody is white I see features… very similar behaviours”

– “I see really the universal parts… that’s where things come together… trying to change the world and not just a few enlightened people”

13:16 Who Matters?

– Step-father in Germany was a farmer “neighbours got together and bought a pig… the butcher coming to the farm”

– Hearing stories about factory farming “they were using nicotine to disinfect the chickens… there’s something wrong here”… overfishing… foot and mouth disease

– “Nobody in rural Germany was talking about #sentientism or #veganism “

– University in Hamburg “there was an alternative meal in the canteen”… a vegetarian partner aware of history of US colonialist animal agriculture

– Travelling to West Africa and eating #streetfood “when I’m on a #vegetarian diet I don’t get sick!” vs. getting typhoid fever from a road-side meat barbecue

– “You start learning… what’s the implications… I realised… this is good… let me become vegetarian”

– “It took me almost 20 years to realise that leaving out dairy is another huge step… the #dairy industry is completely insane… even worse!”

– Animal ethics mostly came in later

– Patterns of diet. Eating animal products every day is a recent invention “the first and the last generation that eats so much meat”

– “In Africa… if you talk to elderly people… in the villages… they don’t each much meat”

– But with factory farming availability “suddenly you have chicken wings for lunch”

– “If we would come back to the old days… where meat was consumed on special occasions… that would be a big step forward”

– “I live in Africa now I have to be pragmatic… because I want to see results”

– “We don’t want to talk about world peace in 2100 but what can we do now?”

– An upcoming #GreenIslam summit thinking of declaring factory farming #haram “that is much more pragmatic than saying ‘eating animals’”

– “Hopefully we’ll get to 100% leaving animals out… but we need to get the big wins now… if we can stop factory farming that’s a big step… then we get to the last 20%”

24:35 A Better Future?

– Consumption of animal products in Nigeria is ~10% of that in the west

– “The average African is eating 6kg of chicken in a year… the American is eating 120kg”

– “The consumption of animals is actually very low on the African continent… we are very plant-forward eating… we have to acknowledge that”

– “The western world has to reduce meat but we have to prevent it”

– Facing challenges of malnutrition issues and protein deficiency (~60% of children)

– “You can’t… say ‘let’s reduce animal products’… you have to give alternatives”

– “The continent’s population is insanely increasing… doubling in the next 20 years from 1.2 billion people to 2.5”

– “We have numbers that animal protein will increase by 300% in the next couple of decades”

– The western world animal industries “they will start shipping it to this place”

– “You might still have the same factory farms but they will ship the meat into new markets”

– “The message has to be different”

– Animal products as “a very aspirational thing… if you eat meat 3 times a year it is almost a luxury product”

– “You can get people with the health message”

– “Western culture has been so powerful in transporting that material desire”

– “It’s hard to tell people that never experienced it (cars, meat…) come with the moderation message…” vs. “we haven’t even started – let’s enjoy it!”

– “Going down that [animal agriculture] road will ultimately damage society… if you kill animals… what goes around comes around… maybe in that spiritual way”

– “You look at children… we are wired in the same way… whether you grew up in the US or Liberia… let children play with animals… then say you want to cook it this weekend… every human child will react the same way”

– “If we want to advance human societies… there’s a lot of injustice in the world…” The film “They’re Trying to Kill Us

– “Non-whites are the global majority… we have to really think about how can we get better societies without copying the western growth… it has its own problems… environmental… social fabric…”

– “The big motivator is actually a better society… that starts with how you treat others… it includes animals.”

– Violence against non-human animals and violence against human animals

– Animal sacrifices during religious festivals “the streets are literally in blood”

– ProVeg Nigeria

– The relevance of environmental/climate concerns “I think the most effective way is talking about health… human nature is very greedy”

– “It would be very noble to talk about animal rights or environmental rights but at the end of the day most people are driven by selfish reasons”

– Human rights issues in Africa “the majority of humans still live under authoritarian regimes… you want to approach them with animal rights while they have human rights issues?… it’s an issue”

– “But people realise the environmental degradation, they see the climate change, they’re connecting the dots… deforestation… desertification” – driving conflict and “horrible massacres”

– “The people in the urban cities don’t really care about the people in the rural… but health is everybody’s issue”

– Veggie Victory and VChunks “Someone has to start and we were the first mover”

– “You feel good that you don’t do harm – so let me share it with others”

– Craving vegan suya

– “You need to give people economic opportunities to follow you… you can’t just come and say ‘stop eating this’”

– The VChunks meat substitute “really works with the way we cook in Africa… we don’t need burgers here… we need our own local champion meat substitutes”

– 6 food outlets, over 30 employees

– “You need to hook people emotionally… not just coming with a rational thing”

– Helping people make good choices even for selfish or emotional reasons… cooking events… food outlets

– “If I make an advert ‘eat vegan’ you will not get much response but if they pass by a vegan food outlet… ‘Oh this is nice… let me try it’”

– “We always knew we have to reach immediately price parity or even come under”

– “You are getting double the value compared to chicken or beef”

– “People need to try the food”… the chance to overcome the prejudice

– Challenges of supply chains

– “I’m hopeful… the mindset is there…”

– People seeing health issues in later life and realising the links with animal products

– “Mindset change has to work on different levels… and also exchange from different cultural reasons”

48:41 Follow Hakeem


– “We are winning with the veggies!”


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Thanks to Graham for the post-production and to Tarabella and Denise for helping to fund this episode via our Sentientism Patreon.

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