Sometimes you run into a statistic that makes you realize that our continent as a whole is really not trying. We are not punching anywhere close to our deserved weight in so many areas, even in the commodity export we feel is our only source of edge.
Today I saw statistics about coffee production and export globally. Before today if you asked me, I believed, anecdotally that East Africa has to be among the top coffee producing regions on earth. And it sort of is. But tell me why Brazil, a single country across the ocean exports more roasted coffee into the European Union 🇪🇺, who are next door neighbors, than all African countries combined.
Brazil exports: 2.6m metric tons.
About 20 African countries’ exports: 1m metric tons.
Just in case this was only about roasted (ie slightly processed coffee) as opposed to just green coffee beans, I looked up stats for total coffee exports by dollar volume.
Brazil still leads the pack at $5bn, or 16% of all coffee exports. The whole Africa, I counted over 25 of them on the list, adds up to $1.9bn, led by Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya. Consider that coffee as a plant originated from Ethiopia and was introduced to Brazil by French settlers.
Everywhere you turn, the story is the same. The biggest palm oil companies are in Malaysia, not Nigeria. The biggest cocoa companies are European, not from Ghana. And so on.
Why are we not the number one players in even the areas where all you need is good policies, seriousness and a little ambition? I don’t know.
But I know it’s worth thinking about. No one gets to number 1 at anything by accident. We have work to do.