A Good African Story: How a Small Company Built a Global Coffee Brand by Andrew Rugasira
|A Good African Story: How a Small Company Built a Global Coffee Brand by Andrew Rugasira|
|Category: Politics and Society|
|Reviewer: Trish Simpson-Davis|
|Summary: Trade not Aid is the start point for African entrepreneur Andrew Rugasira’s account of a Ugandan coffee company start-up. Interesting polemic against international aid and for the creation of wealth and employment opportunies by the private sector, to solve Africa’s immense problems.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: January 2014|
|External links: [www.goodafrican.com Author's website]|
There are few billionaire black African entrepreneurs. As Andrew Rugasira points out in A Good African Story, the people who make money from African exports are virtually always white Westerners. Even Fair Trade participants remain skewed by the status quo of trade barriers which discriminate against Third World countries.
This post-Colonial state of affairs, in his view, is the result of more than fifty years of foreign aid, which he sees as a stumbling block to progress. Donor countries are basically self-interested, and their aid is conditional. Aid programmes lessen individual and national accountability and lead to chronic dependency in the population.
His solution, in 2004, was to look to private enterprise to generate wealth in his home country of Uganda. His business mantra was logical and irresistible: Trade not Aid.
Rugasira set out to change coffee exporting from Uganda. The common practice was for the husked beans to leave the country at an early stage in the production process. They were shipped abroad, which means that high-value revenue after roasting was lost to the country of origin. The lowest tier in the coffee chain, the farmers, therefore remained enmeshed in the poverty trap. Rugasira decided to move the entire production process back to Uganda, allowing far more of the profitable revenue to accrue to his local company. He needed cash flow in Uganda to pay farmers fairly (at roughly double the previous price); to educate them in agriculture and commercial practices and to fund the development of local co-operatives. In theory.
On the way, he battled to change perceptions in the West (that Africans can’t produce high-quality coffee) and of the farmers (that they wouldn’t ever get a fair price for their beans from greedy buyers) and financial backers (that a black African can’t be taken seriously). The venture nearly foundered when he failed to raise sufficient afordable long-term capital for his business operation. But Rugasira, a committed Christian, believed in persistence and determination work, and gathered round him a hard-working team equally committed to the project, even when there wasn’t enough money for salaries to be paid.
Visiting South Africa, the UK and USA, his persistence paid off, and 'Good African Coffee' was eventually stocked in three UK supermarkets. He was surprised, I think, by the difficulty of breaking into the market. Surprised, too, by the personal support he garnered from within many organisations, including such unlikely sources as Tesco Stores in the UK. The US was a harder nut to crack and the coffee is now supplied to the US market from a website. I’ve never seen the product in my local supermarket, but it’s good to know that Tesco do stock it.
As I’ve indicated in the summary, this book is a polemic in three parts rather than a more approachable chronological, memoir style. I wasn’t left with a clear idea of where the company is now, which is a pity. However, the book has generated some interesting comment from international development websites which you might also like to browse.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this book.
I’d recommend both Enough: Why the World's Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty by Scott Kilman and Roger Thurow and Aid and Other Dirty Business: How Good Intentions Have Failed the World's Poor by Giles Bolton, both published in 2008.
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You can read more book reviews or buy A Good African Story: How a Small Company Built a Global Coffee Brand by Andrew Rugasira at Amazon.com.
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