Harnessing regional trade to grow African fine coffee markets
At an expo in Rwanda, ITC's Alliances for Action partners showed how Africa can earn more from its coffee.
“We all know that most African coffee producers live below the minimum subsistence income,” said Enselme Gouthon, president of the African and Malagasy Robusta Coffee Agency, “so it’s crucial to find an innovative model to capture more value from the first processing stage.”
He was speaking to the World Coffee Producers’ Forum in Kigali, Rwanda, where no one needed the reminder. Most in attendance are actively seeking to change that reality, by finding ways to add value to coffee in the countries where it’s grown.
A few days later, 955 people from around the world gathered to explore solutions, products and trends at Africa’s largest coffee trade platform, the African Fine Coffees Conference & Exhibition (AFCA).
Regional and international coffee roasters, traders, producers and entrepreneurs gathered to share knowledge and make new connections.
ITC’s sustainable agribusiness initiative, Alliances for Action, traveled to Kigali with African coffee entrepreneurs from across its programmes to showcase fine Ethiopian coffees and bring the topics of value addition at origin and regional trade to AFCA’s audience.
It was also a fitting opportunity to share ITC’s seminal Coffee Guide, 4th Edition – a go-to resource for many in the coffee industry.
Ethiopia shares the value of roasting at origin
African producers at AFCA tend to export green coffee. This year, ITC and its partners went against the grain by bringing five Ethiopian fine coffee producers. Four of them process and sell their own roasted coffee – a rarity on the continent.
Ethiopia consumes roughly half of the coffee it produces. That’s a great model for other African countries now seeking to take ownership of their product by processing and drinking more coffee in-country.
“Ethiopia could take the lead on teaching other African countries about internal consumption, and how to adopt coffee drinking as a culture,” said Minilik Habtu Endale from Ethiopian brand Typica Specialty Coffee Exporter.
ITC’s programme participants shared their products and best practices on integrating coffee farming and roasting.
Their sustainable agroforestry models also drew attention. Some importers expressed interest in their other product ranges, like honey.
What does the African Continental Free Trade Area mean for African coffee?
The opening panel looked at how free trade within Africa can help coffee producers, especially those seeking to add value at origin.
ITC’s Coffee Guide Network Coordinator, Katherine Oglietti, moderated the panel that included Vanusia Nogueira, Executive Director of the International Coffee Organisation (ICO); Ambassador Solomon Rutega, Secretary General of IACO; and Minilik Habtu Endale from Typica Specialty Coffee.
Panelists discussed the possibility of lifting tariffs on coffee for African intra-regional trade. Oglietti presented recent ITC and ICO data on green, soluble, and roasted coffees for Africa to highlight the potential for intra-regional trade.
Nogueira, a key contributor to the Coffee Guide, was enthusiastic but cautious.
“Optimizing the industrialization processes through a continental plan can bring new flavours and fair prices to new consumer segments, which is great. However, Africa must first address its challenges in logistics before it can take plans forward successfully,” she said.
She also referenced the Coffee Guide as a top knowledge and data resource as value-added coffee products get developed and traded within Africa.
The Coffee Guide takes centre stage
ITC-Alliances for Action partnered with Vuna Coffee School to launch the first in-person “Coffee Champions League” quiz, as a side event to AFCA. African coffee producers, exporters, and businesses participated.
“We believe that coffee education and trading have one trait in common: tools and resources are not equally available and accessible to all value chain players, and need to be more inclusive” said Sara Morrocchi, founder and CEO of Vuna Coffee School.
With lively music playing, teams worked together to answer questions based on Coffee Guide content. Topics ranged from coffee market, quality and trading to sustainability.
The winning team took home roasted fine African coffee and a coveted hard copy of ITC’s Coffee Guide, 4th Edition.
About the projects
The ACP Business-Friendly programme is funded by the European Union and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and jointly implemented by ITC’s Alliances for Action, the World Bank and UNIDO. It seeks to improve the ability of agribusiness firms in ACP countries to compete, grow and prosper in domestic, regional and international markets. Through the Alliances for Action approach, it promotes inclusive and sustainable agricultural value chains that value all stakeholders from farm to shelf.
The Netherlands Trust Fund V (NTF) (July 2021 – June 2025) is based on a partnership between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands and the International Trade Centre. The programme supports MSMEs in the digital technologies through its EcomConnect programme and agribusiness sectors through its Alliances for Action programme. Its ambition is two-fold: to contribute to an inclusive and sustainable transformation of food systems, partially through digital solutions, and drive the internationalization of tech start-ups and export of IT&BPO companies in selected Sub-Saharan African countries.