kenewendo1Michael TeweldeXinhua via Getty Images_coffee farmer ethiopia Michael Tewelde/Xinhua via Getty Images

The Key to Africa’s Economic Revolution

The African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat has made clear that, thanks to the AfCFTA, Africa is “open for business.” That may be true, but it will mean little unless the people running those businesses are aware of it – and reaping the benefits.

GABORONE – In the ninth century, an Ethiopian herder named Kaldi noticed something odd. Whenever his goats ate the berries of a particular tree, they seemed to get a jolt of energy. His curiosity piqued, Kaldi took some of the berries to a monastery, where the abbot took a taste and, shocked by their bitterness, tossed the berries into the fire. To both men’s surprise, however, a tantalizing aroma soon wafted in their direction. So, they removed the now-roasted berries from the fire, soaked them in water, and took the first-ever sip of coffee.

It is fitting that African countries today command a significant share of a global industry that has since become an integral part of billions of people’s lives. Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda all rank among the world’s top 25 coffee producers, and several other countries – including Angola, Ghana, Liberia, Burundi, Zambia, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Sierra Leone – are increasing their market share. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that African coffee farmers will reap their fair share of benefits from these efforts.

Globally, coffee exports will be worth an estimated $155 billion by 2026, and coffee is increasingly becoming the drink of choice around Africa, thanks to the rapid growth of the continent’s middle class. But whether African farmers – of coffee and other crops – can take advantage of such opportunities depends significantly on the trajectory of the African Continental Free Trade Area.