The Rise of Kaba Girl
Mariama Jabang, a native of Kartong town in Kombo South is quickly becoming a household name at least in and around the Gambia’s bustling tourism and entertainment district of Senegambia thanks to her innovative business venture.
Mariama’s business identity Kaba Girl is also her business brand. Kaba, the local name for Saba Senegalensis is a tasty, sweet-sour fruit with yellow pulp when ripe. It’s from an indigenous climbing plant that belongs to the Apocynaceae family found in the wild of Sub-Saharan Africa countries including The Gambia, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Guinea Bissau.
Kaba is a popular fruit in The Gambia and thanks to that popularity, Mariama saw an opportunity to take its popularity to another level. Just a few years ago she was fetching and selling firewood and helping grandmother in commercial gardening back in Kartong.
She left Kartong for the commercial districts in search of greener pastures. She started selling oranges and mangoes just to survive. But her fortune changed when she conceived the idea of going into Kaba business.
Mariama realised that Kaba, though expensive compared to the other fruits sold in the country was very popular in commercial districts where slowly, she saw middle class people and Gambians from the Diaspora. The more her list of clients increased, the more she thought of expanding her business. Her breakthrough came when she successfully set up a wooden stall along Senegambia’s busy highway where her customers often queue to buy kaba prepared either as a juice or just raw.
“I’ve had a lot of customers since I started selling Kaba and I have very good relationships with my customers. When they come, they just don’t come for kaba but they also have fun. We crack jokes, laugh and have fun. I have a strong bond with my customers and that’s why they keep coming.”
Since Mariama branded her business Kaba Girl, she’s attracted a lot of social media publicity from Gambians who would write nice references of her and encourage others, especially Gambians heading home from the Diaspora for holiday to stop by her stall and buy kaba from her.
Today, Mariama has three other young women as employees and together, they package kaba in plastic bags (mashed with salt, pepper and jumbo) and send to Europe for sale. She even has representatives in the UK, Sweden, USA and other countries who serve as links between her and the customers.
A small cup of Mariama’s kaba goes for D150 and a big one costs D200
“People love my Kaba because of the way I mix it. Kaba is an appetizer and I believe this is what attracts many Gambians to it especially pregnant women. Most of my customers would stop by to buy in the morning on their way to work and would stop by again after work.”
“Sometimes, I have loyal customers who come and buy a small cup of Kaba worth just D150 for as much as D700 or sometimes up to D1000. They always appreciate my dedication and hard work.”
Mariama now plans to expand Kaba Girl into an international business and set up a kaba processing factory and employee people.