Wednesday, February 21, 2007


The Simpsons TV show has always been a favorite program of mine. I was reminded of one particular episode earlier this week after reading an Associated Press article entitled, "Starbucks to buy more East African coffee." In the episode I am referring to Bart Simpson is walking through the Springfield Mall as construction workers close stores in the mall while simultaneously converting them into Starbucks stores -- still makes me laugh today!!

Starbucks announced (, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) that it will double its purchases of fine coffee from East African countries by 2009. However, Starbucks will extend this purchasing relationship to include:

  • Providing US$1 million in micro-financing loans to small-scale coffee farmers
  • Create a farmer support center in 2007 to "improve bean quality"
  • Continuation (apparently - the article does not clearly state this as fact) of their current US$ 4.2 million fund for "social development projects in East Africa.

I am not a coffee drinker myself but I do salute Starbucks for their efforts to develop the coffee farmer population via their purchasing power. However, I would offer them these additional options for leveraging their corporate infrastructure to benefit an even wider community while also pursuing profits:

  • Stores -- Open at least one Starbucks store on the African continent in 2007 since it appears none exists there today ( Starbucks has a presence in only 30 countries today, out of the nearly 190 countries in our world, and none of them are in Africa. Having a store in East Africa would benefit farmers so local communities see the final product, more non-farming jobs would be created, local workers would gain new job skills, and ideally a group of African franchise owners would be developed once this first corporate store proves successful.
  • Music -- Advertise for East African musicians to burn audio CDs in a mini-recording studio added to this first Starbucks store as part of Starbucks' music program (. Perhaps this idea could be expanded by partnering to create an "African Idol" contest to help discover talented musicians.
  • Books -- Starbucks' currently featured author coincidentally comes from Sierra Leone having written "A Long Way Gone" ( Their book program could be expanded to benefit a larger segment of the African population by partnering with my friends at Books for Africa (, which is based in Minnesota, to help distribute books and inspire reading (and drinking coffee in their stores while listening to the musical talent discovered by Starbucks............) across the continent.

My overall point here is that Starbucks' support of coffee farmers is great economic news but the world's wealthiest countries have moved the vast majority of their population from the agriculture sector to manufacturing and now services/information society sectors -- so to truly create wealth in African this same evolution of moving farmers to non-farming occupations needs to be accelerated.

Trade not aid,


1 comment:

David said...

Cool suggestions!

I will look up books for Africa too!