World of Coffee Dubai is a promising space for African coffee

31 January 2023
ITC News

ITC's Alliances for Action partners exhibited at World of Coffee Dubai 2023 to build commercial spaces for its global coffee network. 

Specialty coffee is growing in the Middle East, positioning Dubai as a rising hub for African coffee. At a crossroads between Africa and Europe, Dubai has capital to invest and a fast-growing regional coffee consumption.

According to industry reports, the Middle East and Africa coffee market is projected to grow by 7.5% a year through 2027.

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), tastes are shifting from traditional coffee shops to modern specialty spaces that appeal to a new generation of coffee drinkers.

Gold Coast Roasters (GCR) is a rising Ghanaian specialty brand, one of many new African brands seeking to own, elevate and commercialize local coffee on their own terms.

For Hannah Quashie, director of GCR, attending World of Coffee in Dubai was a strategic step.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to reach a greater market without compromising on quality and African brand messaging. At WOC Dubai, we identified potential partnerships with UK and Saudi-based business who are keen to stock coffee from the continent and project African brands,” she said.

Coffee professionals from the Middle East and beyond came together for the second edition of World of Coffee Dubai. Over 12,000 visitors representing 48 countries attended the show, where over 180 exhibitors presented their latest products and services.

The event included cupping sessions, a Brew Bar, Roaster Village lectures, workshops, and the Specialty Coffee Association UAE’s National Barista Championship.

Leveraging partnerships to create opportunities

ITC selected 10 participants from four African countries from across its Alliances for Action sustainable agribusiness projects to take part in the event.

These included Eswatini Coffee from Eswatini; Asili Coffee, Gold Coast Roasters and Kawa Moka from Ghana; and five Ethiopian coffee farmer cooperatives: Bench Maji, Limu Inara, Oromia, Torban Anfillo and Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers' Cooperative Union.

They were guided by a UAE sales advisor and Q-grader Cecilia Sanada who also led coffee cuppings and provided expert brewing services. Q-graders like Sanada are licensed professionals who score the quality of coffees. The top-notch coffees were served with state-of-the-art machines, through partnerships with cutting-edge equipment brands Tone Swiss, La Marzocco and Specialty Batch.

ITC-Alliances for Action’s close partner CLAC-Fairtrade shared the stand to jointly promote Golden Cup coffees, an award for the finest quality Fairtrade certified coffee producers. Winning coffees from Latin America, including Brazil and Peru, were available for sampling.

The ITC stand stood out at the event as the main platform that directly represented producers from across countries in two continents.

Three days of jam-packed activities

The event was buzzing with activity and the ITC stand was no exception. Cupping sessions and business meetings allowed African and Latin American producers to connect with potential buyers and others in the industry.

The exchange went both ways, as the coffee producers walked participants through their coffees, but also garnered some valuable feedback.

“I learned that power in coffee is quantity. If you want to supply the world, you must have good quality coffee, but also the capacity to produce at scale. In Eswatini, farmers must unite for coffee production,” said Patrick Du Pont from Eswatini Coffee.

For the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union, the take-away was that roasters tend to source their coffees from importers, rather than directly from producers, which will have a big effect on their networking strategy.

Lectures and workshops were in abundance on diverse themes.  Emi-Beth Quantson from Kawa Moka and John Francois from Asili Coffee spoke at a panel on revamping Ghana’s Robusta coffee sector – a session that proved very popular at the show. A podcast on this topic, featuring Emi-Beth, is now available in the Green Coffee Summit Resource Library.

The stand was also a strategic space to promote ITC’s popular Coffee Guide, 4th Edition – an industry reference tool that is now available in four languages (English, French, Portuguese and Spanish).

Beyond the show floor

In Dubai, ITC took participants on a market tour to visit top UAE roasters and coffee businesses, an opportunity to connect with the local market and also to learn from some of the best.

The Coffee Lab, Specialty Batch Roastery, Black Coffee by Café Younes and the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre were some of the trip’s highlights.

Participants returned home feeling inspired, motivated and ready to scale up and strategize in 2023.

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.

The 'Eswatini: Promoting growth through competitive alliances' programme, funded by the EU, supports job creation for small farmers, entrepreneurs and artisans. Eswatini offers the global market unique organic produce, artisan roasted coffee, handmade cultural creations and gourmet condiment lines. ITC works closely with smallholder farmers, agro-processors and artisans in Eswatini to support them in ways that are sustainable and benefit both people and the planet. In this way, ITC fosters and preserves cultural heritage, and draws on artisan skills and concepts of green growth.