Getting together over coffee in Mombasa
Four days of insightful panels, inspiring ideas with eyes on the future and lots of good coffee ended on 14 February 2020, in Mombasa, Kenya with the conclusion of the East African Community (EAC) Coffee Business Forum.
The forum saw policymakers, representatives of trade support institutions, coffee producers and buyers renewing their commitment to not only advocating but also taking real steps towards increased coffee exports from East African countries.
Ms. Dorothy Tembo, acting Executive Director of the International Trade Centre speaking to participants at the opening session, said the forum would help drill down on issues that stand in the way of small and mudium-sized enterprises (SMEs) moving up the value chain.
Improving access to finance, meeting quality standards, marketing, and branding would help increase their competitiveness, Ms. Tembo said. She also emphasized that such initiatives highlight the potential for greater intra-regional and cross border trade to markets such as the European Union.
The forum offered an opportunity for participants to learn from each other’s experiences through engagement and interaction. For example, many pertinent questions were raised at a session on access to finance about how SMEs could improve their working capital in order to expand.
A ‘coffee cupping’ (tasting) session was followed by an auction where buyers sampled good quality coffee as well as identifying ways to improve trade ties with producers.
A new ITC study, exploring ways for East Africa coffee farmers to bring in higher returns, from better sales in local markets to setting up innovative partnerships, was also launched during the forum.
Walk-in business clinics provided mentorship to coffee exporters to help them take advantage of trade and investment opportunities to achieve commercial success. Quality compliance, value addition, packaging and branding were also in the spotlight.
High-level officials and representatives from the EAC Secretariat, governments of EAC partner countries and the African Fine Coffee Association as well as investors, corporations and institutions attended the forum.
Under the ITC’s MARKUP initiative, the EAC Coffee Business Forum brought together – for the very first time – public and private sector representatives to identify concrete solutions to boost trade and investment opportunities for coffee exporters in East African countries.