Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) has called for actualisation of policy prescriptions such as the action plan on Economic Diplomacy by the ministry of Foreign Affairs and ministry of Trade’s National Export Development Strategy to help more Ugandan firms expand business abroad.
These policies, UCDA’s market intelligence manager James Kizito, told Daily Monitor have a component of increasing Uganda’s exports with an emphasis on value added exports and service exports.
He says if the implementing agencies including Ugandan embassies abroad would coordinate, it would enhance business to business dialogue including linking entrepreneurs in the diaspora to their counterparts home.
“Exporting a finished product or a service export like Endiro is doing in USA, which is, establishing a coffee shop, is commendable and applauded. It means producers of high quality coffee would be linking with Endiro directly thus shortening the supply chain with subsequent increment in farm incomes,” Mr Kizito said.
He said: “It also means there would be consistent supply of high quality coffee to Endiro. That entails having strong farmer organisations/cooperatives capable of supplying high quality coffee to the US market. It also warrants an efficient system to transport coffee from origin to the final destination.”
Endiro Coffee, a Kampala-born café, in May this year opened a café in Aurora, a suburb of Chicago, in Illinois, and after reaching “breakeven pace in daily sales” by August its director Cody Lorance says in September “we began outside coffee sales (green and roasted) to other cafes and restaurants in the US.”
Mr Lorance says: “Opening a business in the USA is a very different matter than opening in Uganda. Regulations are strict, taxes pervasive, and costs high. We have definitely taken a massive risk in this venture, and perhaps that is why no Ugandan restaurant chain has tried this before. But, business has been increasing steadily each month by at least 10 percent.”
“Further, we have a tentative agreement with a property developer to open Endiro’s second US location by the beginning of 2018. Endiro’s primary reason for expanding to US, he said, was to create as big a market as possible for the network of 2,000 coffee farmers and with the many American coffee drinkers, Endiro hopes it can buy more coffee and put more money in the pockets of its farmers.
“We are very proud of our frugal corporate overhead which allows us to transform lives with every cup of coffee,” Mr Lorance notes. “We are not simply a Ugandan restaurant chain launching out into the highly-competitive American marketplace nor are we just another in a long list of new wave coffee shops entering a very crowded field.
According to UCDA, coffee is one of Uganda’s strategic commodities and currently earns about 15 percent of goods exports with $545 million (Shs1.9 trillion) in forex in 2016/2017, up from $326 million (Shs1.1 trillion) earned last year.
The authority says in the coffee year ending September, Uganda exported a total of 4.6 million kilogramme bags of coffee, up from 3.3 million bags it exported last year.
Endiro joins Good African Coffee, the first Ugandan outlet to sell processed coffee in UK and US stores.
“The general view around the world is that Ugandan coffee is not as good as Kenyan, Ethiopian, Rwandan and other coffees from the region,” Lorance says. “But after being open in the U.S.A. for the past few months, we are hearing Americans hail Ugandan coffee as some of the best they have tasted.”
Mr Kizito, asked what other interventions can be ensured to promote Uganda coffee abroad, cited other forums like the annual Uganda North American Association which established businesses such as Endiro can utilise to further showcase its brand.
Also, the Uganda Investment Authority annual Home is Best Investment Summits, is another platform where Ugandans from abroad come and share their experiences - for sharing experiences and lessons “to other Ugandans who wish to invest in those sensitive markets such as the one in US.”