Great African Ideas and Good Coffee

a boy with a thumps up outdoors in AfricaThere’s a lot of great things happening in sub-Saharan Africa and we’re seeing more and more positive news in past months as others see it too. It’s been called one of the most strategic parts of the world in several newspapers and a recent New York Times article covers an inspiring idea that came from one Ugandan man who wanted to see his community and nation profit from its rich resources. Andrew Rugasira started a coffee company in his hometown of Kampala, Uganda. His pride, determination, and resilience kept him going as he turned his idea into action—a story we hear often at Firelight from community leaders with an idea and a dream. Rugasira started Good African Coffee in 2004 and this year alone he expects to sell $2 million worth of coffee. His company has improved farmer's techniques and increased their revenue. He also started a village-run savings and loan to help farmers to invest in their children’s education and improve their living conditions.

Here's Rugasira's story of how he started and where he's going next...

Can Coffee Kick-Start an Economy? By DANIEL BERGNER, New York Times

When he set out to wedge his coffee onto supermarket shelves in England and America, Andrew Rugasira didn’t start by making phone calls from his home in Kampala, Uganda. He didn’t begin by sending e-mails. The distance seemed too great for that. At one end of his business were farmers who, until he came along, thought their beans were purchased and carried off to make gunpowder. At the other were buyers at the corporate headquarters of chains like Waitrose and Sainsbury’s, Whole Foods and Wal-Mart. If he was going to succeed, he felt he would have to do it physically; it was as if he believed he could stretch himself to span the divide between the two worlds. So he got on a plane to London, without trying any advance contact.

He checked into a London hotel, and from there he called and sent e-mails to the companies. Rugasira is a tall, tireless 43-year-old with an angular face and slightly prominent ears and a smile that rearranges everything. Armed with a laptop that held a PowerPoint presentation about his coffee, he intended to pull off a kind of revolution. No longer would his country merely sell its unroasted beans to exporters who supplied the European and American coffee kings, from Nestlé to Starbucks; no longer would his nation just provide the raw material for someone else’s riches. In the stores, his roasts would take their place beside the high-end brands.

He was bursting with the pitch he would deliver as soon as he met his first British buyer. “We as a new generation of African entrepreneurs believe that we can bring quality products to the global market. We believe we have what the consumer in the North Atlantic market is looking for in coffee; we believe we have the capacity to design the packaging to make it attractive; we believe. . . .”

Click here to read the entire story.