This is the book that set us on a social enterprise path. Whether it’s luxury ladies bags or delicious coffee, the aim is to marry business with social transformation.
We are absolutely, positively, certain we aren’t as much of a change maker as Good African. But we are absolutely, positively, certain we have the ability to do just as incredible a work as they have. We just need to keep moving forward.
And so can any business.
(That's our polite reminder to other entrepreneurs that making money alone from business is so medieval)
First, some background info. Andrew Rugasira is the founder of Good African. A coffee producer in Uganda who have radically affected the industry in Africa. An important part of their brand name is wanting to reinforce the notion of 'good,' with 'Africa,' as there have been countless media reports portraying the continent as decrepit and marred with seemingly unfixable problems.
Good African are a social enterprise in a myriad of ways, but foundationally it is because Ugandan coffee farmers previously only sold their harvest as a raw material, ensuring they then received the least amount of money possible for their quality product. This in turn promoted a subsistence farming practice that entrenched poverty, as opposed to compensation for their goods which allowed for increase in standing.
Under Good African, the value added process of refining and packaging the coffee themselves ensures that a greater portion of money is kept in the nation and therefore can be used (via taxes, wages and business expansion) to enrich and renew the economy of Uganda.
Furthermore, the coffee farmers are paid a premium for their beans and Good African has worked to organise saccos (Savings and Credit Co-Operatives) amongst the farmers. This promotes financial literacy, encourages a flow of money via investment and interest, and strengthens the community as they work together to produce systemic change.
Rugasira is adamant that Africa needs ‘trade, not aid,’ and sets out in his book a compelling argument for this as fact. This is what makes Good African such an interesting read. It is a biography of the companies start up, it is a book of principles for entrepreneurs and it’s also a look at African history and a manifesto as to how the continent can be renewed.
Reading over that paragraph would make you think the book is a little bit all over the place, but Rugasira weaves all these strands together to create an engaging, insightful and provoking book.
Now the pacing is a little slow at the start as readers get an insight into African history. This can be a turnoff for some as it is very detailed and could almost require supplementary material just to assist a reader in understanding what is being explored. In my opinion, that kinda spoils the experience.
Nevertheless, it is essential in providing a context within which a reader can better understand what takes place in ensuing chapters. That’s where the story becomes highly absorbing. This is because we are introduced to Rugasira’s personal history, trials as a young man and experiences in event management which helped prepare him for the challenge of creating a social enterprise.
Going in, it’s important to understand that, according to the author, many Africans have been ‘taught,’ that it would be a white person who would be the entrepreneur and that they themselves could not be responsible for great change. This belief sets up particularly interesting hurdles for Rugasira as he works to create something that many in Uganda would not, or could not, believe was possible by a Ugandan.
Another element of the story worth noting is that Rugasira is in a unique position given his connections with government officials and education at prestigious universities. Therefore, part of the book, which is intended as an education for would-be African entrepreneurs, can feel a little forced. After all, it's quite something else to have no connections and reveal how one could hustle their way in, as opposed to having family friends with great influence and to have gotten their assistance.
This isn't to take away anything from the incredible triumph of Good African. There is still ample time devoted to hurdles that could not be solved by anything other than ingenuity, hard work and a miracle. It is just worthwhile not to believe that success was entirely based around an individual. Rather, it shows the importance of connections and building relationships outside of your company.
Many hands make light work, after all.
All told this is a great book and one that was instrumental in the creation of Avery Verse. You can find Good African Story on Amazon and I would recommend to everyone that they buy the book. There’s no affiliate marketing involved here, we at Avery Verse are just grateful for the story and want others to find out about it.
- Improved training for Ugandan coffee farmers
- First coffee roasting and packaging facility to be established in Kampala, Uganda
- First African owned coffee brand stocked in British supermarkets
If you've read A Good African Story, we'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Feel free to spread the love and let others know about them as well. The more free publicity great companies like this can receive the better!
Moving forward, we'll be writing more posts on books, people and businesses that inspired our own journey. It is no small feat to start a business and everyone who has helped us (whether they knew it or not) should receive credit where it's due. This all comes back to the win-win.
Like anything in life, silent gratitude is as bad as loud ingratitude, so better to speak up and let people know you're thankful.
As such, our next review will be on The Social DNA of Business by Arthur Burk. This is a great teaching and one that we've drawn enormous use from. Finally, sign up to our newsletter to stay updated on all things Avery Verse, including rounds ups on fashion and insights into vegetable tanned leather.