The startup dedicated to catering wins the first ‘Social Entrepreneurship Award 2020‘ awarded by Barcelona Activa.
Abarka Catering was born and has been growing by identifying needs. When Khady and Malamine were preparing their wedding in 2016, they saw how there was no possibility of hiring a catering service that included traditional Senegalese dishes. This lack of supply in the market remained imprinted in their memory and when they started the Dunia Kato Foundation, dedicated to international cooperation through co-development, they decided to create Abarka as a source of funding for the association.
The entrepreneur explains that “we don’t just make food, we also do outreach”.
Against cultural categorizations
“We don’t just do food, we also do outreach,” says Drame. This is one of the fundamental pillars on which Abarka’s activity is built. As they themselves state on their website, they do not want to label themselves as food from a specific country, but as African food, since the origin of current African gastronomy does not come from their countries drawn on colonial logics detached from the reality of the environment. It is born from the peoples who live and expand outside these borders, they explain. Drame exemplifies this with maafe, a traditional stew: “It is a dish that you can find in Senegal, Gambia, Mali and further down. So you can’t say it’s a Senegalese dish, but rather that it’s typical of the Mandinka people, who now and before expanded without being limited by colonial borders”, explains the young entrepreneur; “it’s a way of denouncing these borders that have divided peoples that used to be one”.
The company explains that “we want to give a quality, positive image, to break with stereotypes of Africa and towards black people.”
It is these kinds of explanations and lessons that accompany the entire Abarka service, which want to break down old categorizations and the absurd Western reductionism regarding African cultures and their members. “We want to give a quality, positive image, to break with stereotypes of Africa and black people,” Drame assures.
Home delivery service, cooperativism and occupation.
They have been active since February 2019, but the pandemic has made them put the brakes on their activity, since their main public were fairs, events or conventions. Members of Abarka during the confinement joined various volunteer tasks, as is the case in Soly. “Through his volunteer work with Open Arms, he saw how there were many people who spent the day out, but couldn’t go to any restaurants so we started working to provide individual menus,” Drame recalls.
Once again, the identification of an urgent need has marked Abarka’s next steps. The menus they started making in the midst of the Covid crisis are the ones they plan to offer at home. Drame recognizes that there are some hurdles to overcome. On the one hand, they are working on the way in which to include their informative task in the home delivery orders. On the other hand, they do not want to give up the social values that underpin their project to facilitate “We do not want to depend on companies like Glovo or Deliveroo because they totally break with our values. We will work with companies that respect them, such as Las Mercedes,” says the founder.
“Our idea is to make job placement for migrants without paper and it is something that people value very much.”
Even so, this is not her only short-term project. Abarka Càtering will become a non-profit cooperative, which they hope will grow to fulfill another function that its members consider vital: to generate employment. “Our idea is to provide job placement for migrants without paper and it is something that people value very much, especially because a project that is born from the same community that organizes itself to move forward,” explains Drame.