Andrew R

One pioneering entrepreneur in Uganda has decided to tackle the exploitation of African coffee beans from Western multinationals by setting up his own coffee company.

Nine years ago, Andrew Rugasira launched his own coffee company ‘Good African Coffee’ in a bid to transform the industry in his country and ensure that the profits from his countrymen’s coffee crop, were put back into the hands of Ugandan farmers.

By purchasing coffee beans at a premium directly from the farmers in Uganda, Rugasira was able to take over the branding, marketing and distribution of the products.

He spoke of his vision of empowering farmers in his native country by enabling them to produce and sell coffee direct to stores internationally.

In an interview with CNN, Rugasira said: “[It's] about empowerment and it’s also about ownership.

“It’s about owning the value chain, growing the coffee, processing it at source and it’s about exporting a finished product. So we retain the value, which means we can employ people, we can pay taxes, we can prosper our farmers and their communities. And that’s the only sustainable way in which societies have prospered – by moving from low-value agriculture into high-value manufacturing industrialization.”

He spoke of the importance of forming co-operative business partnerships in Africa, as an alternative to foreign “aid” which mostly ends up in the hands of dictators, who can then be more easily controlled by Western interests.

He added that no country has ever prospered from foreign aid.

“”Every society and economy that’s prospered has done it through their own hard work, ingenuity, dedication and commitment,” he said, “Not through charity, not through handouts, and I think that’s a powerful message and it’s a powerful model. It’s not new, but I think it’s one that I think resonates with consumers who are willing to interact with products like that.”

Uganda is one of the world’s second biggest exporters of coffee and produces over three million bags annually. But most of it is processed internationally and not in the country itself, which severely restricts the profits and competitiveness of the local farmers.

Rugasira is one of the true examples of Fair Trade – not given as a kind of charity gesture from the West but by African entrepreneurs insisting that they be given the opportunity to compete on a level playing field with the West.

He has previously written a book entitled: “A Good African Story” in which he spoke of all the barriers he and his enterprise faced – from gaining the trust of banking institutions to convincing foreign retailers about working directly with an African company.

Since it was founded in 2003, Good African Coffee has helped thousands of farmers earn a decent living, send their children to school, and escape a spiral of debt and dependence.

Over $1 trillion in aid has been given to the continent of Africa over the last 50 years and yet despite these huge inflows, the continent remains mired in poverty, disease, and systemic corruption.

Rugasira also discussed the barriers that currently prevent fair and equal trade between Africa and the rest of the world and sets out the arguments for building a sustainable trade framework and reducing dependency on handouts.

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