While much of the focus of the U.S.-Africa Leader Summit has been on U.S. investments in Africa, bringing trade the other way is a struggle for many countries. But one startup is trying to change that by putting a taste of Ethiopia into one of life’s bare necessities: a cup of coffee.
Coffee has transformed Tebabu Assefa’s life. He and wife Sara import beans from their native Ethiopia to roast and give Americans a taste of what they consider the purest cup of Joe around. Tebabu fled civil war to settle in the U.S. But Ethiopian coffee and its special communal brewing rituals drew him back with a plan: bring it to the U.S and give indigenous farmers a better deal.
Working from home in Maryland the couple set up a benefit corporation: it has a duty to maximize returns while delivering social benefits. Half of the profits go to a network of 250,000 farmers and suppliers, more than they could expect through conventional export channels.
The finished beans are sold at farmers markets and this neighborhood cooperative. And likely to remain a niche product Ethiopian coffee represents just 6 percent of U.S imports. Food experts say small-scale farming methods mean African countries often lag behind bigger players. But this couple aren’t deterred. They’re scaling up the business by opening a cafe in this unit then expanding across 10 U.S. cities. A growth plan with the motto ‘one coffee one conversation.’ CCTV America’s Owen Fairclough reports.