"I have had to fight to get to where I am"

Business savvy restaurateur, 'Mama Dady' started a restaurant in a refugee settlement in Angola. Here, she whets appetites with tasty dishes from her native DR Congo.

Mama Dady has put her entrepreneurial skills to good use in Lóvua, Angola where she runs a thriving restaurant.
© UNHCR/Omotola Akindipe

My name is Dady Ndaia, but people call me ‘Mama Dady’. I am the owner of Chez Maman Dady – a restaurant in Lóvua refugee settlement in Angola.

I fled my country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, two years ago due to the fighting that broke out in the Kasai region.

I used to live in Kamako town with my husband and three children. I had my own shop where I sold various goods like sugar, salt and biscuits. My husband, also a trader, used to travel from Kamako to Dundo to buy goods and sell them along the DRC-Angola border, so we already had a connection to Angola before we came here. Life was good and business was good.

But do not misunderstand me - nothing in life is easy. I have had to struggle and fight to get to where I am.

"Nothing in life is easy. I have had to struggle and fight to get to where I am."

When I was relocated to Lóvua settlement, I noticed that people here were not eating well. There was a gap in terms of where one could eat affordable, wholesome food. I did what I knew best – business. Using the savings I brought with me, I opened Chez Maman Dady in August 2017.

Business boomed from the start and we expanded the space and the menu. We mostly serve fufu (pounded cassava flour) with accompaniments like fish, chicken and cassava leaves which are very popular. 

Nowadays, business is a bit slow because people do not have as much money as they did two years ago. But I still have a steady stream of clients, mostly workers from humanitarian organisations and also refugees and people from this area.

One of my most memorable moments was when I received a catering request from Norwegian Church Aid. They were organising a training for 80 participants in the settlement and needed food. I woke up at 3am that morning and cooked alone for five hours! My hard work paid off because they loved the food. Since then I have received requests from other organisations such as Medicos del Mundo.

I am quite clear about what I want in the future – I want my restaurant to be even better than restaurants in the capital, Luanda. I want people to say, “I need to go to Mama Dady’s restaurant in Lóvua otherwise it won’t feel like I ate in Lunda Norte province”. My business has grown and I am sure that I can achieve my goal.

“Have courage! ... keep going even when things are tough.”

For women who want to set up businesses but are unsure, I say to them, “Have courage! You should keep going even when things are tough. Do not let other people discourage you. But make sure you know who you are and know your business. If you know these things, no one can stop you.”

Since 2017, the conflict in the DRC has displaced over 1.4 million people within the country and forced 35,000 others across the border into Angola’s Lunda Norte Province. Dady is among some 20,000 Congolese refugees living in Lóvua settlement.