Business

Last updated: 19 march, 2010 - 17:37 GMT

Starting Points

About this programme by Peter Day

As we have heard in the previous two editions of Global Business from Rwanda, this small crowded country in the middle of Africa has a big ambition, to haul its still largely poverty-struck population into middle income status by 2020. That gives it only 10 years to change quite radically.

Foreign visitors may find it easy to get carried away with this vision of growth to the extent that they neglect the reality of things that are happening now. So this week’s Global Business hears from some of the people working in Rwandan business, not the ones with the wired-up view of the future nation.

Coffee is a good starting point. Rwandan coffee is notably delicious, and exported coffee makes up at least half and often much more of the country's total export earnings.

Rwanda's new high-powered American friends include two business people from Seattle, the port renowned for coffee imports from Indonesia for at least 100 years. ("Java" from Indonesia has become a widespread American term for coffee in general.)

So it is not altogether surprising that Howard Schultz of the huge international coffee shop chain Starbucks has become a big buyer of Rwandan coffee. So has Jim Sinegal, co-founder of Costco, the huge warehouse retailer also based in Seattle.

Flavour

But in Rwanda itself, I'm told that they do not drink much coffee, just as the Ghanaian cocoa growers know little about what the chocolate made from their beans tastes like.

So an enterprising group of Rwandans have got together to start a coffee house chain called Bourbon.

Its slogan is from crop to cup and in chic surroundings in three locations in the Rwandan capital Kigali you can now sip well-brewed coffee from five distinct regions of Rwanda, packaged up with full descriptions of the place of origin and the coffee's distinctive flavour.

This is clever marketing, giving Rwandan coffee a back story for locals and tourists to this beautiful country that lifts it out of the huge amount of coffee traded internationally as a mere commodity. It is a pointer to the future.

With this perhaps in mind, a fourth branch of Bourbon Coffee has opened in Washington DC.

It's a long way from Rwanda itself, but a suitable place from which to influence American politicians.

And (perhaps) American public opinion, still shocked by the way the world stood by during the terrible Rwanda genocide of 16 years ago.

Previous updates - November

October

September

  • The media is going through a 'double-mangle' says Peter Day.

  • In San Diego, Peter Day investigates the company that produces WD40's secret formula.

  • Peter Day looks back on a year of the credit crunch with Simon Johnson, former chief economist for the IMF.

  • Peter Day finds out from the experts how to start a bank.

  • Peter Day looks at the great expectations in landlocked Bolivia and its part in the auto revolution.

August

  • Peter Day asks whether the credit crunch crisis creates a big opportunity for women.

  • Peter Day finds out how to make money out of commodities in the developing world.

  • Peter Day looks at the new communications methods that are changing the way firms do their training.

July

June

  • Peter Day finds out how to innovate your way out of an economic downturn.

  • A sense of time and place is changing Internet businesses everywhere.

  • Social entrepreneurs from Lebanon, Palestine and Egypt who are all innovating and confronting poverty in new ways.

  • A look at a hugely successful childrens TV series and it's boss Magnus Scheving.

  • No business school has a more daunting image than Harvard, 100 years old last year.

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