Meet Nicola Kagoro, the chef who is pioneering a vegan movement in Africa

Founder of African Vegan on a Budget Nicola Kagoro, aka Chef Cola, is one to watch. Pictures: Supplied

Founder of African Vegan on a Budget Nicola Kagoro, aka Chef Cola, is one to watch. Pictures: Supplied

Published May 25, 2021


Founder of African Vegan on a Budget Nicola Kagoro, aka Chef Cola, is one to watch.

Kagoro is challenging the common misconception surrounding plant-based diets in Africa.

She is a hospitality management graduate whose path and the journey took her not only to veganism but also to be on the culinary front-lines of presenting vegan food and lifestyle in Africa and advocating its great benefits-both nutritional and environmental.

One of Kagoro’s primary aims through her work with African Vegan on a Budget is to spread awareness of vegan culture across Africa and give people the tools and knowledge to actively integrate plant-based eating into their lifestyles.

Her love for cooking started when she was 16 years old, and that is when she knew she wanted to be a chef.

“I had a passion for cooking for my family daily and experimenting with different ingredients.

“This led me to start looking into joining the hospitality industry in high school and finally studying hospitality management for three years.

“When I started working at the PLANT I had no clue what veganism was.

“As I started training as a vegan chef my interest in it grew further and I started understanding what the vegan lifestyle was about.

“I started to incorporate the vegan lifestyle into my own life at home while cooking,” said Kagoro.

Asked why spreading veganism is important to her and how is it changing people’s lifestyles, she said working alongside rural communities in Zimbabwe showed her that unfortunately, people do not have access to meat and fresh products as compared to city centre individuals.

Kagoro said the main reason that they do not have access is that basic necessities just like electricity are unavailable.

“If they keep wildlife stock they do not slaughter them for daily consumption and meat drying practices are not so common in the rural areas I work.

“I spread veganism because I present affordable - nutritional and tasty meals that everyone from all walks of life can practice to ensure they maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“It is important to me also because most diseases that people face are due to poor diets or can be managed well with a change to one's diet.

“This is a positive change to people's lifestyle.

“The vegan science in Africa is booming and is growing more and more.

“We still have a long way to go compared to other global markets and the way vegan brands are presented in the market but we are in a good space.

“More brands are coming out and introducing themselves in mainstream supermarkets and other channels of distribution.

“The scene can be better by adding more diversity to brand developers and market researchers who make the decisions.

“For example, chefs should be including in marketing vegan brands more.

“The faces behind the vegan brands who are presenting these products seem to have masks. More diversity is needed.

“I am changing veganism in Africa by making it more available to people of different cultures.

“My mission is to bridge the gap between rural and city individuals and show that vegan food can be affordable, tasty, and nutritional anywhere you eat it,” she said.

Another game-changer when it comes to the plant-based lifestyle is Kamini Pather.

Also taking interest in the technology surrounding the food we eat is Masterchef South Africa season two winner, Kamini Pather.

Pather recently launched a new predominantly plant-based food delivery service called Fudy, a first of its kind in South Africa.

She said Fudy is the solution to people who are committed to eating healthy but don’t have the time to cook.

“Each signature dish utilises carbs, fats, and protein (sources from plants and animals) to provide a well-balanced meal.

“The meals are interesting to the taste buds with elements such as black bean and quinoa bombs spiced with cumin and coriander seeds or the plant-based vegan made with cashew nut cream; coconut milk satay with fresh lemongrass, bay leaves, and soy.

“The difference is clear. This food is made with simple ingredients but made the conscious way,” said Pather.

Asked why she decided to go predominantly plant-based, she said besides being better for the environment, it has made her body feel lighter and function better.

“I am not 100% plant-based, I enjoy a piece of meat when I know how it has been raised and where it came from.

“Living a plant-based lifestyle has also challenged my cooking style and ability because one has to retrain the brain to think in vegetable terms.

“I’m a bit of a food need like – I enjoy the challenge.

“I hope that more people will eat better food that helps them achieve their goals.

“I hope that by providing this easy way to make better food choices that people do make those choices,” said Pather.

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