“The future is about creativity and innovation, so we shall continue to invent new things that will propel us into the future, fully conscious that God has been faithful in the past, and so we are committing our future to him.”
These were the words of Jolly Twebaze Ngabirano as her coffee shop Café PAP marked its 10th anniversary in 2014.
She needed six more years to celebrate 20 years in business. Ngabirano succumbed to cancer in her late 50s on Thursday afternoon while in Germany, where she had gone for treatment last week.
When Café PAP opened its doors at 13B Parliament Avenue on 23rd April 2004, no one could imagine a woman at the helm of a small family business that would usher coffee consumption into the lifestyle of many people in Kampala and elsewhere in the country.
The freshly-roasted and brewed coffee, experienced baristas, compounded by professional staff with skills in selling coffee, relaxing ambience, have all enabled Café PAP soar as one of the finest coffee shops in town.
Café PAP growth
Fourteen years later, Ngabirano had grown Café PAP and it expanded from one location to three locations; 13B Parliament Avenue, Garden City shopping mall, and Shell Bukoto (Ntinda) with a vast range of products such as macchiato, cappuccino,and affogato.
She attributed the success story to the glorification of God as her team serve customers, care for associates, suppliers, and community.
“Coffee is the lynchpin of our business and its quality remains our top priority, several other attributes, especially ambience, experience, convenience and partnerships take centre stage in our operations,” said Ngabirano.
It is because of her favourable results that during Café PAP’s 10th anniversary in 2014, the president of the Uganda Coffee Federation (UCF), Mr David Barry, referred to the 10 years as a decade of excellence.
“Pioneers like the Ngabirano family are part of the Uganda success story and the impact on Uganda’s nascent coffee culture is both immense and vital,” he wrote.
On May 1 2012, Ngabirano opened doors of another hospitality business. The MUK political science graduate began to run a mid-range safari lodge on the shores of Lake George in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Three years later, the lodge received the International Quality Summit Award in the Gold Category at the Business Initiative Directions (BID) Quality Convention in New York, for its commitment to the QC100 TQM Model which helps strengthen customer satisfaction and cost efficiency across all areas of operation.
The award came as a surprise to “Mama Coffee”, a moniker she would later learn to laugh at.
“Even though we are committed to high standards at Ihamba, this award was still a surprise considering the global competition we faced,” she said.
A year later, the eco-friendly facility also won a 2016 Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor in honour of hospitality businesses such as accommodations, airlines, eateries and attractions that deliver consistently great service.
The recipient of the pioneer award from the Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited (UWEAL) proved to the Uganda tourism sector that she was a shrewd businesswoman.
She became a mentor and role model in the hospitality trade with a valued voice and sought-after opinion in accommodation and café operations.
Besides one of her favourite biblical quotes Colossians w3:2 and the mandatory Tuesday fellowship with staff after work, it is most likely that her husband, Mr Henry Ngabirano, a former managing director of Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) and head of the International Coffee Council (2010/2011), was another inspiration.
They together became trade partners at Heritage Coffee Company Limited, a multi-million company that owns Café PAP, Ihamba and Bulago 5900, an in-house specially roasted arabica coffee grown on Mt Elgon.
In a survey organised by KPMG and the Nation Media Group, Heritage Coffee was recognised as one of the Top 100 fast-growing small scale medium-sized companies three times in a row: 2010/2011,2011/2012 and 2012/2013 in recognition of the contribution towards business sustainability outlook, job creation, talent development policies , involvement in corporate social responsibility, among others.
During her 14 years of dedication to the hospitality industry, Ngabirano had touched lives of stakeholders along the coffee production and value addition chain, especially coffee farmers around Mount Elgon.
Through trainings, she emphasised best practices of enhancing quality and the subsequent monetary value. She used her business ventures to support the education sponsorship scheme of Watoto Childcare Ministries and support ethical institutions such as Family Life Network . The enterprising Ngabirano mentored women in business under Technoserve Uganda, an organisation aimed at growing strong markets that create opportunities for enterprising people in the developing world.
In 2017, she received a UCDA award as a coffee personality during the 25 years of UCDA.
She was a respected and influential woman employing more than 140 Ugandans.
“When one looks at Café PAP, you see it beyond the borders of Uganda to East Africa and Africa. Jolly Ngabirano has never compromised on her standards. So I think she needs to begin releasing café PAP as a franchise. Of course, the franchise has to first spread through main towns like Mbarara,” said Mr Charles Ocici, the executive director of Enterprise Uganda.
Birth: Ngabirano was born in May 21, 1961 in Nyakiju Village in Rukungiri District.
Education: She studied a bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Makerere University from 1982-1985.
Family: Jolly Ngabirano, a sister of fallen former Internal Affairs minister, Gen Aronda Nyakairima, is survived by her husband and three children: Phyllis, Abraham and Philippa. Their names are the P.A.P in Café PAP.