Lonrho Column

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I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’m dependent on BlackBerry connectivity and a regular fix of great African-origin coffee, wherever I am. The need to remain connected, even when we’re travelling to remote destinations is no surprise. The move towards everyone carrying a mobile phone was predicted – the question was merely when the cost of handsets and airtime would be sufficiently low to enable everyone to be connected. Visit any European high street and you see just how much today’s society is dependent on mobile connectivity and coffee. From Starbucks to Orange, the high street is dominated by coffee and mobile phone shops, and the number of coffee shops on the European high street has quadrupled in the last ten years. 

But it’s not just the European high street that has changed complexion. Some of the most remote villages in Africa now display structures painted in the familiar red and yellow colours of the mega mobile brands. But why is it that Africa is evidently able to profit from the mobile industry, yet you need to hunt for any evidence that Africans are profiting from the huge demand for the continent’s coffee? 

The numbers tell the real story. Whilst coffee farmers are generally receiving a paltry 10% of the eventual retail price of a cup of coffee, MTN converts over 40% of its revenues to profit (MTN reported R50 billion of profit in 2010). The opportunity must exist for Africa to leverage greater value from its coffee harvest. Africa produces some of the best coffee beans in the world, but the challenge is to generate premium returns from selling Africa’s premium coffee to the rest of the world and also to Africans. 

As a team committed to meeting the needs of business travellers, strengthened by Lonrho’s agricultural knowledge, Lonrho Hotels piloted its coffee shop brand Espretto at this year’s Taste of Jo’burg event. I’m pleased to confirm that the brand was well received and we’re now preparing to announce the opening of the first Espretto shop. From the very first cappuccino, Espretto will be working collaboratively with African coffee farmers to ensure that the strength of this coffee brand directly profits Africa.    

Ewan Cameron, CEO: Lonrho Hotels