When you think of things being sold on the so-called “black market,” what sorts of things do you envision? Drugs and alcohol no doubt. Valuables like poached ivory and blood diamonds. Things only criminals and misfits would need or want to buy, right?
Not so fast. The black market, though an underground economy for illegal goods, doesn’t necessarily only sell tainted wares. The items on the black market are things that can’t be sold in the regular market, which is supported by the government in power. While here in the United States we have a fairly stable economy and government, that’s not always true elsewhere.
Sometimes the sale of goods is shut down because of huge shortages, such as during times of war. Sometimes the government is corrupt or there is a monopoly on an industry that allows for unfair pricing. Doubtless, many of the things sold on the black market are illegal for a good reason—but not always.
In the Gaza strip, the hottest new commodity on the black market is KFC. That’s right—Kentucky Fried Chicken. The extremely tight Israel-Gaza blockade has made it necessary for Palestinians to smuggle every manner of goods across the border—fuel, cars, and, apparently, KFC. Yamama (“pidgeon”), a delivery service based in Gaza, sends motorcycled delivery drivers to the border to pick up goods and then bring them back to residents.
After Hamas took control of the coastal area in 2007, it has been incredibly hard for citizens to get ahold of anything outside of the country—and there are no KFCs in Gaza. Residents can call into Yamama’s office to put an order in, or even go online to the group’s website or Facebook page to place next-day orders. The price is steep and it takes about four hours to deliver, but it seems people are willing to pay the extra money to get their fast-food fix—even if it is cold by the time it arrives.
Western-style fast food has long been creeping into countries all over the world. In Saudi Arabia, for example, fast food chain Kudu has meals that look like any typical American fast food restaurant might—fries, Coca-Cola, fried chicken, waffle fries, and more.
The chain has been extremely successful, and is currently being bid on by big-time companies like KKR, run by private equity leaders Henry Kravis and George Roberts. That’s no surprise, considering Coca-Cola recently paid $980 million for a 50% stake in Aujan Industries, a major beverage company in the Middle East. Similarly, Citigroup recently purchased a majority stake in Al-Raya For Foodstuff Co, a Saudi Arabian supermarket chain, for $100 million.
Black market or not, it seems fast food is here to stay.