Helping African Brands Enter the Chinese Market
It is no secret that coffee has exploded in popularity in China, despite being a traditionally tea drinking country. Although most coffee consumed in China comes from Vietnam and Malaysia, as well as China itself, African coffee is becoming increasingly popular amongst Chinese consumers. For example, the volume of Ethiopia’s coffee exports to China is growing annually at 16% year on year and the number of Ugandan coffee bags exported to China have increased by 50 thousand between 2018 to 2020 from 33,000 to 83,000. Africa is famous amongst coffee connoisseurs for having some of the richest coffee flavours in the world. Ugandan coffee, in particular, is known for having some of the tastiest coffee in Africa due to its floral, fruity, nutty, and chocolaty aromas.
One company that is putting Ugandan coffee on the map in China is Kangumamu AGRO. Kangumamu AGRO is a coffee trading company and coffee farmers collective that was founded in 1994 by Kangumamu William to ensure that smallholder coffee farmers in Sheema District – a region in Uganda that is famous for its high-quality Robusta and Arabica coffee – received fairer prices for their coffee beans.
Kangumamu William had grown tired of the middlemen who travelled over 300 kilometres from the capital, Kampala, to buy coffee beans at cheap prices from smallholder farmers in Sheema District and then made their living by reselling the beans at much higher prices to companies in Kampala who then shipped the beans to Europe and Asia for roasting. Instead, William decided to gather a group of smallholder farmers together, started collecting their coffee and selling it directly to roasteries and trading companies in Kampala.
Today, Kangumamu AGRO has become one of the leading coffee trading companies in Uganda whilst still remaining a family run company. Now led by Frandan Tumukunde, a social entrepreneur who grew up in a smallholder coffee growing family in Sheema District, Kangumamu AGRO has now built enough relationships to source coffee from almost every coffee-growing region in Uganda, which is then sold directly to coffee roasteries and trading companies in both Uganda and internationally to ensure smallholder coffee farmers across Uganda receive a fair wage for their work.
Tumukunde, like William, became passionate about helping smallholder coffee farmers because he grew up watching his parents struggling to run their coffee farm because of the low prices they received for their tireless work. For this reason, Tumukunde cultivated and strengthened Kangumamu AGRO’s strong sense of social responsibility. Kangumamu now also works directly with smallholder farmers across Uganda to provide coffee growing training, micro loans for inputs and equipment, has rolled out a quality control process across the country to ensure Uganda’s coffee is recognized and sought after globally for its high-quality, pays education fees up to university for some farmers’ children, as well as continuing to create a link between the growers and the coffee roasters and trading companies.
After getting the opportunity to work in China, Tumukunde became focused on increasing Uganda’s coffee exports to the region. Tumukunde was keenly aware of the fact that coffee exports are Uganda’s most valuable agricultural export commodity, generating around 20-30% of foreign exchange earnings over the past twenty years, with 95% of Uganda’s coffee production exported. An estimated 12 million people in Uganda rely on the coffee industry in some form, with over 11.9 million of these being farmers.
Frandan Tumukunde in China. Source: https://businessfocus.co.ug/interview-ugandan-entrepreneur-shares-his-experience-lessons-from-exporting-coffee-to-china/
China’s growing demand for foreign-origin coffee, especially for unique coffee blends only available outside of Asia, presented a huge market opportunity for Uganda’s coffee growers. Coffee is now widely favored by young people. The fact that young people are the main consumers of coffee is inseparable from the fact that modern young people are paying more and more attention to the quality of consumption, and how the moderate consumption of coffee can help maintain a healthy lifestyle. In addition, consumer demand for richer varieties of coffee, such as African coffee, has increased, as well as the purchasing of coffee from both online and offline channels.
Tumukunde showcased Uganda’s distinctive blends of Robusta and Arabica coffee beans at expos in Shanghai and Guangzhou. Both were huge hits, which allowed Tumukunde to grow his client base across China and Asia from Shanghai to Seoul! Kangumamu was also displayed in the Africa Reimagined booth at the 2021 China-Africa Economic and Trade expo where it attracted attention from Chinese coffee distributors and wholesalers.
Kangumamu AGRO has also been supported by the Ugandan government and the Ugandan Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) with entering the Chinese market. The UCDA has developed a five-year ‘coffee roadmap’, which aims to establish cooperative partnerships with China to drive demand for Ugandan coffee and to develop Uganda’s value-added capacity to increase our coffee value by up to 15%.
Significant progress has been made on increasing awareness of Ugandan coffee in China. In partnership with the Ugandan consulate in Guangzhou, the UCDA has hosted promotional events, expos and partnerships with Chinese coffee stakeholders. As a result, single-origin Ugandan coffee is becoming more reputable and is being sold to wholesalers, cafes, and retailers across China.
Further, in September 2019, the Ugandan government and the coffee regulatory authority initiated a partnership with China’s Yunnan Coffee Exchange (YCE). The YCE aims to support Uganda in improving coffee export quality to meet international and Chinese export standards, alongside helping promote Uganda’s coffee in China through its distribution channels. Like many other coffee-exporting African countries, such as Rwanda and Ethiopia, the Ugandan consulate in Guangzhou has tapped into is Chinese e-commerce platforms, which are increasingly used to purchase coffee products and forged ties with Alibaba and WeChat to increase online sales in China.
Tumukunde’s dream is to one day run coffee shops across China where Chinese people will come to enjoy the uniqueness of Uganda’s coffee. He also hopes that through cooperation with China, Ugandan farmers can earn more profits and produce more value-added coffee to help Ugandan coffee become known worldwide. But for this to be a reality requires further cooperation between both China and Uganda.
Kangumamu AGRO is continuing to sell its coffee in China with the support of Africa Reimagined. Kangumamu was also showcased and sold at the 2021 China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo in the Africa Reimagined booth.
Africa Reimagined is a China market entry service program and consultancy for premium African brands. All the brands we work with are sustainable and keep their entire supply chains within Africa to keep the value added within the continent. Africa Reimagined is dedicated to reducing the trade imbalance of value-added profits between Africa and China by supporting African brands with entering the Chinese market.
Trevor Lwere is a Research and Coordination analyst at Development Reimagined with a background in Economics and Global Affairs. His interests include geopolitics, geoeconomics and economic development. He holds a Masters’ degree in Global Affairs fro Tsinghua University and a BA Economics from the University of Notre Dame.
Yuejie Shi is a Research and Data Analyst at Development Reimagined with a special focus on Global Trade and China-Africa Trade.
Sena Voncujovi is a research and policy analyst at Development Reimagined. Voncujovi specializes in global health issues, Japan-Africa relations, and China-Africa relations. He served as the Editor-in-chief of Peking University’s Africa Think Tank (PATT) during his master’s in International Relations & Politics as a Yenching Scholar. Voncujovi previously advised the Ghanaian government for the 2019 TICAD 7 Conference held in Yokohama. He is the co-founder of Jaspora, Tokyo’s largest community of African diasporan diplomats, changemakers, professionals, students, and business people.
Rugare is an economist at Development Reimagined, providing economic and data analysis support across projects.
Yixin is a Junior Research Analyst and her focus areas is on public-private partnership and entrepreneurship. She has over three years of working experience in both private and public sectors in Ethiopia. She was the China Liaison Officer for project ‘Partnership for Investment and Growth in Africa’ at International Trade Centre, where she accumulated rich experience in investment and trade promotion.
Ivory is a Kenyan lawyer with experience in policy research and analysis. She also supports the communications team through liaising with African brands, creating graphic content and other external outputs at AR. Ivory speaks English, Swahili and French
Huiyi Chen is a Research and Coordination Analyst on China-Africa cooperation and leading the engagement with Chinese stakeholders at Development Reimagined.
Jinyu is a dual-degree Master’s student at Sciences Po & Peking University. At Africa Reimagined, Jinyu produces research to foster better mutual understanding between African clients and Chinese consumers.
Yike Fu is a Policy Analyst and has been responsible for leading numerous areas of work, including on debt analysis in Africa and beyond, and China-Africa trade and investment logistics and analysis. She is the co-author of “African Debt Guide”, in which she challenged the narrative that Africa is in the midst of a new debt crisis by analysing data back to the 1970s and adopting new metrics to present the real story behind the data. She also developed a benchmark to compare the financial distribution of development partners such as the UK, US, Japan, France and China in Africa. Prior to her role at DR she worked at the International Finance Corporation and African Union Representational Mission to the US. She holds a Masters in International Affairs from George Washington University.
Rosie is the Project Manager of Africa Reimagined (AR) at Development Reimagined (DR) where she supports high-end African brands with entering the Chinese market by operating services such as trademark protection, Chinese market research, Chinese partnership building, and Africa to China logistical support and import/export services. Rosie has worked with DR for over two years now with proven success in helping high-end African brands navigate the Chinese market. She is extremely passionate about her work because more African brands selling in the Chinese marketplace means African countries can export MORE value-added goods, create MORE jobs and foster MORE innovation in African countries.
Leah Lynch is Deputy Director of Development Reimagined (DR), and head of the China office. Leah has over 10 years of experience in development and has lived in China for over 8 years. Leah has also travelled extensively around Asia and Africa for research. Leah supports the strategic direction of the team across China, with a mission to deliver high quality research on sustainable development and poverty reduction. Leah is also Chair of the Sustainability Forum at the British Chamber of Commerce in China, providing direction on sustainability initiatives for British and Chinese business. Leah has also consulted on various evaluations on UK aid (ICAI) and is a specialist on development cooperation from the UK and China. Leah has also consulted on various UN projects, including providing support to the UN China team during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Prior to DR, Leah was at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China, supporting the UN’s portfolio on communication strategies, China’s South- South Cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Before UNDP, Leah lived and worked in Kenya developing sustainable water policies for the Kenyan government.
Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE’s International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.
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