Sometimes you think about something and you talk about your ideas with someone and then it happens. All I can say is praise God. In short, I was introduced to Princess Adeyinka Tekenah, CEO of Nigerian based coffee solutions company, Happy Coffee and wow! her passion for coffee was incredible. I think our first conversation was close to an hour as we exchanged lots of ideas on coffee and how Nigeria can benefit from the World’s most popular beverage. She shared with me a video of when she met H.E. President Macron of France in late 2018, offering him a bag of Nigerian grown and roasted coffee beans. I subsequently shared the video on WhatsApp with all my relevant contacts. One of the ideas we mentioned was for Nigeria’s first coffee festival, similar to the ones across the World, especially the London Coffee Festival. Et voila, on 5 October 2019, it happened – now who says things take time in Africa. Well, not in this case and with coffee charged Yinka, who rounded up a team of planners, visited all potential sites, set up a company for the festival and a website, met with lots of potential sponsors around the country and just went for it with her “full of beans” determination.
So, here we were, after countless WhatsApp messages – the Lagos coffee festival, the first of its kind in Lagos. The main objective was not only to inform people about coffee in Nigeria but to also showcase small and medium enterprises involved one way or another with Nigerian coffee. We had products on offer that showcased coffee as a beauty product such as Damini (owned by NYC trained beautician that developed her products for herself and decided to sell them) and Coffeeskinpert
In addition, there was the infamous, Asah Bara Designs by Zoza Icha, who brings art alive in her cup designs –
I say this, because I think her cups are too beautifully designed to drink from. You need to display them somewhere so that they can be appreciated. Needless to say, her stand was one of the most popular at the festival.
Also on show were coffee stalls, with ever popular My Coffee Lagos who had coffee and snacks on offer, which I couldn’t resist. In addition, there were artisanal bakers – I bought a peanut butter and banana cake – you know me and dessert; and also Merlyn Nutri, who offer healthy drinks and spices (I must confess their customer service was great, as they hand delivered some products that were not available together with some things for me to try, like their delicious zobo (hibiscus) and Tiger nut with ginger and dates drinks, thanks Melody).
So, how about the coffee festival itself.
There were three panel sessions; the first focused on “opportunities in the coffee business: creating wealth through coffee”, which featured entrepreneurs who are already in the coffee business, like Yinka of Happy Coffee, Ms Adesola Gbadamosi – Coffeeskinpert founder and My Coffee Lagos owner, Ms Tatyana Buchak. The second focused on “Starting a Coffee based business” with the panel consisting mostly of people who have started non-coffee related businesses but giving tips on how to start a business and find a niche – the main exception was Ibrahim Samande of Mai Shayi Coffee. The third was on “Stakeholders in the Nigerian Coffee Economy: Defining the Coffee Value chain”, which I moderated – filmed entirely by my wife (who accompanied her crazed coffee husband to Lagos), with the panel consisting of Ms Bisola Olusanya, Special Adviser on Agriculture for Lagos State Government, Alhaji Olomide, President of the Nigerian National Association of Coffee and Tea Farmers (NAFCOTAN) and Mr Ejide Oladuoye, a coffee farmer.
This was probably the most apt session for me as I have written a bit about this lately, having attend the International Coffee Organisation SDG Session on this in June 2019 – read here. The main focus was to hear from the coffee farmers as to what their main challenges have been, including their problems with accessing domestic markets, let alone international markets. It was interesting to note;
- 22 States in Nigeria already grow coffee (Nigeria was 36 states) and there could be more depending on the ecosystem.
- According to the recent ICO Executive Director, Jose Sette, Nigeria is the 7th largest coffee growing country in the World and with a population of approximately 200m people, the focus should be on growing domestic consumption.
- The government has put in place initiatives to promote the agricultural sector, including coffee.
- Nigeria grows both robusta (mainly in the south) and arabica (spanning from the central to the north east).
However some gaps remain, like data on the value and output of coffee. Needless to say, some work needs to be done to determine the quality of Nigerian coffee, essential to tap international markets. All this will be really valuable information needed to entice the private sector to get more involved too. In fact that was one of the things I committed (coffee geek) – to develop a public private partnership (PPP) proposal involving both the Federal and Lagos State governments to facilitate the process for developing the Nigerian coffee industry, which may include exporting coffee, possibly through a coffee processing plant near the harbour – just thinking.
All in all, I really enjoyed myself and I was really encouraged by the energy of the panellist, the participants – we had over 70 in the last session and by the atmosphere. Driven by all this energy, I was hungry but more important, I was craving coffee – naturally I headed over to the Happy Coffee stand of course, where I had a double espresso – I had to, after all Yinka was their CEO.
In addition, I tried some coffee from the Mai Shayi stand, where the Syphon was on display. Later on, their CEO, Ibrahim Samande held the coffee appreciation session.
So, here’s looking forward to the Lagos Coffee Festival in 2020 and developing a PPP proposal to resuscitate the Nigerian coffee industry, which will now become one of my main personal projects. If anyone reading this, is really interested to join this ride, please contact me.