By TJ Strydom for The Times
Coffee is big business. About two billion cups of the good stuff are consumed every day. Without that grind, most officeworkers come to a halt before lunch. And consumers are willing to pay good money or walk an extra block for a good cup.
But for many decades those who produce coffee – farmers in developing countries – have received very little of the spoils. Instead, the roasters and the retailers have been raking it in, while the farmers toil the soil for generations.
A Good African Story is an account of Andrew Rugasira’s attempt to change this.
He is a Ugandan entrepreneur who claims to have built a global coffee brand, Good African, based on profit-sharing and skills transfer aimed at empowering farmers in his own country.
Rugasira went to the source, won the farmers’ trust and then struggled for years to wedge open difficult Western markets (South Africa among them) for an unknown brand.
Though Rugasira waxes lyrical about Good African and its success, it seems a bit premature. And his definition of “global” is a bit ambitious – the planet is bigger than the US, Britain and South Africa.
Unfortunately, the book shows too much of Uganda’s sad colonial (and post-colonial) past, and too little of Rugasira’s entrepreneurial story. It could have been a decent in-depth feature article in a good magazine, not a book on its own.
But the story is a hopeful one and does show the first glimpses of how “trade not aid” should transform our continent.