Trade Forum Features

Enhancing the world’s taste for African coffee

24 December 2014
ITC News

When the African Fine Coffees Association (AFCA) was formed in 2000, its founders had a vision that they would be able to provide the African coffee industry – which had undergone two severe depressions – with a new direction.

To achieve this goal, AFCA developed a strategy that set out a number of goals. The association would seek to bring together stakeholders to collectively pursue business opportunities; it would promote the finest coffees from across Africa; it would develop skills through regional capacity building; it would lobby for the best interest for the African continent; and it would facilitate debate on how to best develop the African coffee industry.

Several years of focused work has since resulted in AFCA’s flagship event, the annual African Fine Coffees Conference and Exhibition. What started out as a small camp-fire meeting a decade ago has since grown 10-fold and is now recognized as among the world’s top coffee-related events. While today the event attracts more than 1,000 participants, it retains an intimate atmosphere where it is easy to meet people and establish new business connections.

Combining quality products with expanded exposure continues to be an enormous challenge for African coffee producers. In response to this AFCA developed the Africa Taste of Harvest Competition, which has successfully raised the visibility of fine coffees from across Africa since it began six years ago. In fact, the Taste of Harvest logo, which winners can use to promote their coffee, has become a quality mark for international buyers.

However, AFCA is about more than conferences and competitions. A recent survey among AFCA members found there was a huge demand for more capacity building and skills development. As a result, AFCA is planning to establish the AFCA Coffee Institute, an organization which will be able to deliver 30 training seminars each year across the continent. The institute’s focus will be to provide knowledge from the lower end of the value REPORTchain to the top end, from producer to barista. A particular focus of the institute will be to ensure that a greater focus is placed on inclusiveness, to ensure that women and youths become more active and play more prominent roles in the coffee sector.

AFCA has for several years put much attention on women and youth in the industry. For example, the Women In Coffee Program seeks to empower women coffee farmers, who are responsible for at least three-quarters of the work carried out on coffee plantations. Over the years this project has expanded to cover youths as it became apparent that family owned and operated coffee farms face dying out without involving young people.

Growing and improving the African coffee industry is critical for countries across the continent. Enhancing it is good news not only for those men and women working in the coffee value chain, but also for lovers of quality coffee around the world.