Historically, African countries are associated with growing coffee, rather than coffee consumption, although recent activity suggests this might be changing. I came across a video from CNN about a coffee company in Nigeria, Café Neo, which demonstrates a growing trends for coffee shops.
Café Neo founded in 2012 describes itself as representing ‘a modern and vibrant approach to celebrating Africa’s coffee heritage’. The company has stores in number countries but with a concentration in Lagos, Nigeria (14 stores at the time of writing), and has ambitions to continue to grow to 20-30 stores over the next few years.
According to Ngozi Dozie CEO and co-founder, they want to bring back the best of coffee culture in Africa, and through Café Neo they are using a three-pronged approach: opening stores in downtown locations, opening stores in commercial buildings and selling Neo branded coffee and capsules.
Coffee: Africa’s Gift to business opportunity
The founders of Café Neo, Ngozi and Chijoke Dozie, view coffee as a gift to the continent and want to have the best coffee in Africa, drank in Africa (currently used Arabica beans grown in Rwanda). Having worked abroad, they are attempting to replicate the kinds of spaces they have seen in other countries, a coffee shop business which provides a place to have a drink, to work, with free wi-fi and jazz music, and providing a collaborative space for entrepreneurs to thrive. The menu wouldn’t look out of place in many other Starbucks-like stores around the world with coffee based drinks and juices, and a range of cakes and pastries. Acknowledging that they want to capture the market before Starbucks the founders highlight, “the demand (in Lagos) is very high. There’s a significant minority of people who love coffee and want to drink coffee but haven’t had access to coffee”.
While the Nigerian market might appear challenging to some international companies, not at least because of the infrastructure costs related to keeping electricity going through power shortages, it has not stopped companies such as KFC, Dominos or more recently Krispy Kreme from trying to establish themselves in Nigeria. It will be interesting to see how long it will be before Starbucks or Costa Coffee try to establish themselves there too, given the clear interest in these types of spaces. At present, there is not a huge amount of competition, but the number of coffee shops is beginning to rise. One example is Umutu Coffee Co, which describes itself as a Nigerian Gather House has a flagship store in Lagos airport, as well as a store in Victoria Island, the area of the city where Café Neo stores concentrate.
Beyond the border
Outside of Nigeria, across Africa, there are signals of coffee shop growth. Starbucks opened its first store in South Africa in 2016 recognising a market that was ‘vibrant and growing’. As explored in this Ventures Africa article, there are a number of companies alongside Café Neo who have sought to develop coffee shops in Africa: Deluxe Coffeeworks – Gardens, Cape Town; Café du Livre, Marrakesh; Tomoca Coffee Shop, Ethiopia (established in 1953); and Cuppa Cappuccino, Accra. And there are other successful coffee shop chains: in Ethiopia, Kaldi’s Coffee was founded in 2005 and has over 30 stores across Addis Ababa; and Java House which established its first outlet in 1999 now has over 35 outlets across Kenya and Uganda. And it’s not just coffee shops trying to emulate the western style chain coffee shops, there are a rising number of independent coffee shops too, as explored in this blog post from Coffey and Cake which highlights some of the best coffee shops in South Africa, or from the Culture Trip on coffee shops in Nairobi, Kenya. Africa is a diverse continent, growing a wide variety of coffees and if current trends continue, most likely it will develop a variety of coffee shop cultures too.