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New Chase Bank Ad with Michael B. Jordan Spotlights West African Jollof Rivalry

Despite the campaign's goal of promoting the "Unity Jollof," it will not do much to settle the ongoing debate over who reigns supreme in the jollof contest. If anything at all, it has drawn the battle line for Ghana and Nigeria.

It often begins on social media and lasts for days, taking over all trends, but with no clear winner. The West African Jollof war will never end, at least not in this lifetime, and for as long as Ghana and Nigeria continue to exist on the same map.

And just when we thought the dust had settled for a minute on this battle, a new Chase Sapphire campaign film has reignited it by putting the most popular West African cuisine, Jollof, in the global spotlight again.

Featuring Michael B. Jordan and popular Nigerian Chef, Tolu Eros, the new campaign “A Taste of West Africa,” directed by Academy Award-nominated cinematographer, Bradford Young, was released on Monday, April 8, on social media and YouTube.

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Alongside Michael B. Jordan, the film features high-profile and notable West African personalities including ESPN analyst and WNBA player Chiney Ogwumike, former NBA player Pops Mensah-Bonsu, musician and producer Sarz, actor and DJ Tony Okungbowa, actor Michael Oloyede, creative executive Ugo Mozie II, and stylist Mobolaji Dawodu.

In the film, the debate begins when Chef Eros presents a bowl of jollof as part of the courses on the menu for an evening celebration, prompting Jordan to ask the age-old question of who makes the best jollof rice in West Africa.

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After the usual debate, Chef Eros, who decided not to pick a side, offered a unique version that he has named the “unity jollof”. He indicates later that the new version is an ambitious recipe that bridges cultural gaps and combines the different things that make the jollof rice from each country unique.

In an interview with Cuisinenoirmag, Chef Eros said he created the ‘unity jollof” for the West African culture as he was constantly asked which jollof rice he had on the menu in his private Hollywood dining room in Los Angeles.

“I found that to be hugely distracting and also dividing. As such, we created the unity jollof rice. We fused the best of the three main jollof worlds: The Ghanaian with their fragrant rice (jasmine or basmati), the Senegalese with the use of vegetable stock and plantains, and the Nigerian with the infusion of smoke, burnt bits, and spice,” Chef Eros said.

But will “unity jollof” end the jollof battle?

The comments under various posts of the campaign on social media platforms provide a better answer to this question. Simply, no.

“Nigeria and Ghana can fight for the 2nd place cuz the 1st place comes for Senegal,” an Instagram user wrote.

Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal all consider their version of jollof to be the best. In fact, the debate has largely been between Ghana and Nigeria, often leaving out Senegal which has been recognized by UNESCO as the originator of the recipe.

Last year, the UN cultural organization listed the dish in its representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity, suggesting how Senegalese jollof may have influenced every other variant of jollof rice, including those of Ghana and Nigeria. Contrary to the expectations of people outside of West Africa, this did not end the debate.

Jollof rice has become part of the way of life of many West Africans. It will almost be considered rude to not serve it at your weddings or funerals in Ghana.

Why now, Chase? And Why Jollof?

To use jollof rice in a campaign is definitely part of a strategic move by Chase Bank to position its brand to target a certain category of people and towards building stronger connections within the African diaspora.

This is also true for several other brands. More than a month ago, the NFL released its 2024 Super Bowl commercial that was filmed in Ghana’s largest city market at the Super Bowl game LVIII. The commercial ‘“Born to Play” featured three of the league’s top stars. Subsequent reports said prices of flight tickets to Ghana soared days after the commercial was released.

CNN reports that in a poll of over 160,000 conducted by USA Today, “Born to Play” ranked fifth of the 59 commercials shown during Super Bowl LVIII.

Available data suggests that Africa is one of the fastest-growing consumer markets in the world. This means that several international corporations are beginning to strategically align with the continent. Campaigns like this usually become the first steps to making other big moves.

Will “Unity Jollof” End the Jollof War?

Despite the campaign’s goal of promoting the “Unity Jollof,” it will not do much to settle the ongoing debate over who reigns supreme in the jollof contest. If anything at all, it has drawn the battle line for Ghana and Nigeria.

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