African cuisine does incorporate a lot of different grains and dried goods. This makes it easier than you might expect to cook African cuisine in the United States. While you can't always get the same fresh produce, meats, or seafood that they would use in Africa, you can usually find authentic dried goods at African stores across the U.S. Here are some specific ones to look for.
Millet is a grain that is commonly consumed across Africa. It is a tiny grain, with uncooked kernels measuring only a few millimeters in diameter. Millet is highly nutritious and a great source of various vitamins and minerals. It is used differently in different regions. In Namibia, it's often used to make porridge, and in Sahel, it is often ground into flour and used for baking. In an African store, you may find bags of dried millet, or you may find it being sold in bulk. It's worth buying and doing some experimenting with since it will last for years when stored in a cool, dry place.
Abalone is a type of sea snail that is commonly caught off the coast of Africa. They can also be dried and kept for long periods. It's the dried abalone that you're likely to find in African stores in the U.S. Sometimes, you'll find them sold still in their shells. You can re-hydrate and cook the snails and then keep their shells as decorations.
So many African dishes call for rice as a staple ingredient. And if you want authentic results, you really do need to use African rice. It is an entirely different species than Asian rice, which is more common around the world. African rice is brownish in color and is known for its nutty flavor. It retains its bite and firm texture well when cooked, which makes African dishes that much more satisfying. Definitely grab a bag if your local African store has it.
Maize is another grain commonly used in Africa. It can be ground into a meal and used to make breakfast dishes, or it can be cooked as whole grains and seasoned. Maize is basically a hard, ancient corn. It has a slightly sweet flavor and is a must-have if you plan on making fufu or ugali.
Look for these staples at your local African store, and don't forget to pick up some seasonings and spices, too. Tasty food awaits.