Where’s African Coffee Going: New Luxury, New Culture

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | July 30, 2016
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This is Starbucks Reserve Eastern DR Congo Lake Kivu. A premium coffee on sale in USA and Canada only, for a limited time. It is produced by a partnership between Starbucks and the Eastern Congo Initiative, a project linking 4500 small-holder farmers to the global marketplace. The Hollywood actor and director Ben Affleck who is a backer of the Initiative said: “This is not charity (…) this is good business”. Precisely.

Arabica coffees from Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and a handful of other African countries have seen their market value growing exponentially in recent years. They are now luxury products for which connoisseurs in Europe and America are ready to spend big, not only in terms of consumption but also in terms of premium merchandise and exclusive events. Additionally, mass consumers’ affinity for African coffees keeps on growing and has become a key driver of the robust health of the coffee industry. As a result, roasting and selling coffee entered this year’s Top 10 Ideas For Making Money according to various business press outlets.

But a number of analysts, among them participants to the 2016 World Coffee Conference, have lamented that premiumisation – the fact that African coffee becomes highly prized – creates yet another dependence of producers on exports and the subsequent volatility of international prices and demand. They have called for the development of coffee consumption at local level. The belief is that if African consumers drink more coffee and cultivate a strong coffee culture, producers will be enticed to produce more and better coffee.  A finding of my on-the-ground research is that a serious relationship between African consumers and coffee is exactly what’s happening.

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Java House, a coffee store chain created in 1999, prides itself for having “introduced coffee drinking and gourmet café culture to Kenya“. The company has now 34 stores in Kenya and 4 in Uganda and has generated a total revenue of $35 million in 2015. The annual sales grow rate is 30%.

 

From Casablanca and Nairobi to Johannesburg and Cairo, coffee drinking is on the rise and a coffee culture is gaining exposure and prominence (in Ethiopia, coffee drinking is already a well-established tradition). A most recent instance is the much publicized entry of the world’s largest coffee store chain Starbucks in South Africa in April. “The coffee market has been growing over the last five years and there’s been quite a big consumer education around premium specialised coffees” Carlo Gonzaga, the CEO of Taste, Starbucks’s partner in South Africa, told the Financial Times.

On the ground in Johannesburg, such establishments as Motherland Coffee and Doubleshot are thriving. At the Motherland store based in the upscale shopping district of Rosebank, there is sometimes not a single seat left. I find a special attention is being given to professionals on-the-go but I also find a strong community. Among many regulars, I met a fashion designer, an executive in the construction sector, various creatives; all use the store on a daily basis as a co-working space, a meeting room, even as a showroom (the fashion designer sometimes comes with samples of future collections). They all give the sense of space, the high quality of the espresso, the company’s longstanding dedication to African coffee as the reasons for their loyalty to the brand.

The coffee shop Doubleshot, located in the hot spot of Braamfontein, acts as another epicentre of the coffee culture. You can literally enjoy the aroma of the roasting coffee from outside the store as it pervades the air in the adjacent streets. Inside, coffee lovers find an array of incentives to embrace coffee as a ritual, an experience or a voyage, from the real roasting, blending, brewing of coffee beans to sitting at the bar counter offering a panoramic view on the action of Joburg’s inner city.

According to the coffee industry organization ICO, coffee drinking has also increased in countries such as Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Kenya and Uganda. In Kenya, for example, consumption has jumped 46 per cent in the four years to 2014.

While the volumes remain relatively low in comparison to other continents, all industry stakeholders express no doubt that, as the middle class keeps on growing, there is a real, tangible coming of African coffee aficionados. The question is now whether they will find enough coffee to satisfy their expectations, both in quantity and quality.

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The Eastern Congo Initiative. Photo: Courtesy of Starbucks
ACROSS AFRICA, FOOD & DRINKS

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What’s a Young Entrepreneur in Nairobi Kenya

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | July 27, 2016
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KENYA, TRAVEL

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What’s Shopping Outdoors in Nairobi Kenya

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | July 20, 2016
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KENYA, RETAIL

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Hot African Lifestyle Trends in 2016: Tattoos

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | July 16, 2016
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ACROSS AFRICA, TRENDS WATCH

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Hot African Lifestyle Trends in 2016: Tattoos

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | July 13, 2016
Dragon Tattoo, Pointe Noire

Tattoos are seriously entering Africa. I came face to face with a huge roaring dragon whose home is the back of a Congolese lady. I spotted the Brooklyn Bridge tattooed on the neck of a Marrakesh resident. I kept on meeting tattoos in 2016 from Johannesburg and Kigali to Kinshasa and Casablanca.

In the African context, can we see the tattoos and body painting as a reminiscence of the scars or scarification that used to define and distinguish various tribal groups, from the Congo to Ghana, from Mali to Ethiopia? For sure, tattoos look less dramatic than the scarification that entered my life decades ago. At the age of 8-10, I visited a couple of times an uncle who had the face fully covered with scarification. It was literally linear trenches dug into his skin. I used to stare at him at length while he was conversing with Dad. “He must have suffered atrociously as he had these scars put on his face. How can he smile and laugh with these painful things on his face?” I used to think. One day I dared to ask my father about scarification.

The Brooklyn Bridge Tattoo, Marrakesh
The Brooklyn Bridge Tattoo, Marrakesh

 

Dad said that scarification stood for both symbols of a high status in the social hierarchy in his tribe – like in other Bantu tribes – and for proof that the bearer had passed certain rites. “But that was long time ago” he concluded.

Today’s tattoos recurrently appear in the upper middle class and urban youth. They appear as a colourful coquetry or expensive accessories.  Almost all the tattooed women I met, live in megacities, they drink imported beer and Coke Light, they are well connected and live active professional and social lives. Tattoos are in social circles where they are accepted, valued, even sought after. So far, apart from certain pieces, they are small or medium, they are to be discrete and visible at the same time. They are on hips, wrists, ankles, breasts, forearms, necks. But just to be clear, they are regarded with suspicion, even banned in corporate, established, powerful social circles. I actually have yet to see a mature, middle-age man with a tattoo.

The force behind the growing tattoo trend is urban youth, particularly those aspiring to be influencers and personalities. Many rising stars of the modern Congolese, Ivorian, and Nigerian music proudly show and brag about their tattoos. Like hip hop artists in the USA, modern African artists and personalities are tolerated but seldom qualified as role models. It therefore remains to be seen whether tattoos will outlive the hype and go beyond strictly identified borders in societies.

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ACROSS AFRICA, TRENDS WATCH

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What African Millennials Want: in Bujumbura Burundi

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | July 8, 2016
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In this section, I normally explore how millennials through their digital prowess, high-energy entrepreneurship, insatiable hunger for innovation, extraordinary sense of navigation in both the informal networks and the corporate world are contributing to meeting the needs or changing the experience of today’s consumers across Africa. So in this third installment, I was on my way to introduce another proven and tested entrepreneur, influencer, innovator, but then I met Ange.

Ange Irankunda hails from Bujumbura, the capital city of Burundi. She has just finished her studies in financial banking and was thinking with no hurry about what’s next in her journey. Burundi is a small country, so professional career options are relatively predictable. Then, she received a phone call from nowhere.

Ange has been selected to participate in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. Launched by President Obama, the program aims at supporting and empowering future African leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators.  Ange is among 1000 selected fellows who will during 6 weeks on the American soil receive academic courses and leadership training and benefit from multiple networking opportunities. At some point during the program, the fellows will even meet with President Obama.

In addition to the program above, Ange has been selected as one of 100 fellows who will participate in a Professional Development Experience. That’s another six week for an internship at a US-based company, organisation or agency.

I was also impressed by what Ange has actually in mind for her future: she wants to be a farmer! I thought she was joking, she said “I am serious“. Organic, high quality, social change, consumer interests, economic development, sustainability are the areas she wants to commit herself to when she returns to Africa.

Ange’s endeavours and ambitions are truly fascinating. I look forward to offering you again tickets to more leadership and entrepreneurship stories as they unfold.

 

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BURUNDI, WHAT MILLENNIALS WANT

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What’s Travel in Kenya, Nairobi International Airport

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | July 5, 2016
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KENYA, TRAVEL

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