This afternoon, we met David Robinson and Ambassador Daudi Mwakawago. It was very informative and enjoyable (despite the broken a/c.)
David Robinson is a very handsome and a very tall man. (Genes of Jackie Robinson perhaps?) I’ve been looking forward to meeting him and did some prior research on his career as a coffee farmer. (See Vanity Fair article) I even purchased coffee from his company based in New York - Sweet Unity Farms Coffee (a bit of a delay in distribution and I only received it after my return from Africa.)
David came with some of his children (some under 5 years old), gave them notebooks and pencils and begun his talk. He talked about Mshikamano Farmers Group of 400 small coffee farmers based in south of Tanzania. The country’s GDP is 70% agriculture and cooperatives are quite common. David, knowing the culture and markets of both countries wants to export Tanzanian coffee to the US market. His 3 main challenges – 1) capital, 2) expertise and 3) organizational structure. He seems to have control over the supply of the value chain but is faced with challenges in differentiating himself in a competitive US market, the distribution channels and marketing. His agenda is to present the coffee under the private label - Sweet Unity Farms Coffee. His competitors? – Starbucks, and even bigger fish like P&G or Altria.
We discussed various topics - the local market demand (seems only 10% of Tanzanians drink coffee), designing attractive packaging, exporting possibilities to Ukraine, toll-roasting and E-commerce. David is looking for roasting companies (minimum 540lb) in the US that would also arrange packaging. He has quite a challenge!
Our next speaker was Daudi Mwakawago, a former UN Ambassador and by the end of the trip we became very friendly. He was with us most of the time, visiting Reginaldi Mengi, Universtiy of Dar and other amazing places. He largely contributed to the success of this trip and I’m very thankful we got to know him.
Ambassador briefed us about his career at the office, Ministry of Industry and Trade, his time in Rome and the US as an ambassador and peace negotiations in Sierra Leone.
He emphasized 4 key strengths that differentiate Tanzania from other African countries:
1. Indigenous language –Swahili
2. No tribes wars
3. No Discrimination (chieftainships was abolished)
Despite the fact that he is retired he remains very active. His favorite line: "I’m retired but not tired."
Later in the evening Ambassador joined us for dinner; amazing Indian food – naan bread, delicious shrimp pakoras and Kilimanjaro beer (although quite light to Slovak standards).
Images: D. Robinson and I; Bruce, Amb. Mwakawago & D. Robinson; Sweet Unity Farms postcard; Marina and Amb. Mwakawago