Rwandan coffee gains foothold in China

Rwandan Ambassador to China James Kimonyo with Xueli Cherie, a Chinese online influencer, and Sam Abikunda (right), a commercial Attache at the Embassy during a live streaming promotion event in China. Photo: Courtesy.

Cathy is a Chinese consumer whose love for Rwandan coffee has grown significantly within just a month.

Rwandan coffee has become her daily consumption since last month after she had tasted it from her hometown, she says.

The coffee enthusiast, who only prefers to be identified by her first name, lives in Yiwu City of China’s Zhejiang Province. She is a public servant.

Cathy’s first taste of Rwandan coffee came in December last year when the Rwandan Ambassador to China visited her city and the envoy provided Rwandan coffee as a gift to the vice Mayor of the city.

That was an opportunity for Cathy to have a taste as one of the participants at the meeting.

Rwandan coffee continues to draw attention among Chinese consumers.

In October 2018, the Government of Rwanda and Alibaba Group launched the first Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) project in Africa.

The project is part of the implementation of activities of a bilateral agreement on e-Commerce cooperation signed between Rwanda and China when President Xi Jinping visited Rwanda in July 2018.

In September last year, the deal was further extended for three years.

The purpose of the project is to support the development of the digital economy in Rwanda and make it easier for Rwandan companies to participate in global trade.

Through the project, Rwandan products like chili and coffee are being sold on different online sites to Chinese consumers.

Coffee lovers in China can access the product through online platforms such as Tmall and Taobao among others.

But they can also access it during various promotional events organized by the Rwandan Embassy in China.

Rwandan coffee is also available in Shanghai-based Hema stores that operates a chain of malls all over China.

Rich aroma

For Cathy, the taste of Rwandan coffee was “so amazing with rich aroma and balanced taste.”

She takes it every workday.

“Every coffee has its own taste. I think the taste is affected by coffee beans, how it has been roasted and the freshness. For me, Rwandan coffee’s rich aroma and balanced taste are very expressive,” she noted.

The Chinese public servant added: “Every coffee lover is likely to fall in love with Rwandan coffee. And as it is a little bit more expensive than other regular coffee in China, I think it will be much more popular in the rich regions and big cities in China.”

In a bid to better leverage the online platforms to popularize the Rwandan coffee, early this month the Rwandan Embassy in China together with Alibaba Group worked with a Chinese online influencer, Xueli Cherie, to promote and sell Rwandan coffee on Alibaba’s Tmall.

In just five minutes of interactions with the audience through live streaming; over 2,000 packets of Rwandan coffee were sold.

Live shopping has found a spectacular success in China, with celebrities and influencers –usually called KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) promoting products to their followers, enabling them to buy what they see on the screen in real time.

In 2017, Wang Jian Hui had his first ever taste of Rwandan coffee brought to him by one of his friends. Since then, he decided to introduce it to Chinese consumers.

Wang is the Chief Executive of Shanghai Yajin International Company.

In 2018, the businessman decided to open a number of coffee bars.

“My friend introduced Rwandan coffee to me in 2017. The coffee tastes good. Every day I take four cups. It is more fragrant,” he said.

A year after Wang tasted the coffee, he found it necessary to start selling it in his company. He can sell up to 10 tonnes per month.

“I opened coffee bars and I sell the coffee online especially for office customers. It was my honor to introduce Rwandan coffee to Chinese consumers,”

According to him, Rwandan coffee is the best in the world.

The numbers

Figures from the 2018/2019 annual report by National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) indicate that coffee revenue decreased from $ 69 million in 2017/2018 to $68 million (about Rwf 61 million based on exchange rates) in 2018/2019, whereas the export quantities increased by 6 per cent from 20,000 tonnes to 21,000 tonnes in 2018/2019.

Dang Qisheng, the third Secretary in Charge of Commercial Affairs at the Chinese Embassy in Rwanda, advised local producers to ensure reliable and consistent supply on the basis of quality since the demand is growing in China.

“China is the second largest economy, as well as the second largest importer in the world. eWTP has already served as a gateway for Rwandan coffee into China. Such a promotion will further improve the brand recognition of Rwanda coffee in China and increase the market share,” he said.

“Coffee plays a major role in the economy of Rwanda. About 400,000 small holder farm families produce it and depend on it for their livelihoods. Rwandan coffee which grows in a good environment is made from the great coffee beans processed to the high standards in order to provide a full rich flavor. Anyone who has tasted coffee from Brazil, Columbia among other countries might have a taste of Rwandan coffee and feel the differences.”

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