US Educated Nigerian entrepreneur launches Starbucks’ copycat Happy Coffee

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by Andres Schipani
Princess Adeyinka Tekenah has a mission in life — becoming Nigeria’s Howard Schultz. “I love the Starbucks model, and I am determined to build a coffee narrative particular to Nigeria,” she says. Aiming at strengthening the coffee-drinking culture in Nigeria, she has been installing cafés with espresso machines into existing businesses.

In 2015, with seed capital of $5,000 from the Tony Elumelu Foundation, a pan-African venture set up to finance promising business start-ups, the US-educated Ms Tekenah created Happy Coffee, a local coffee franchise. It serves a Nigerian coffee blend, sourcing beans from women farmers in Taraba State in the north-east of the country and roasting them in Lagos. It caters for private and corporate events as well as bars and restaurants through pop-up stores.

The coffee economy in Nigeria is largely untapped: last year, it produced just 42,000 60kg bags of coffee, while Ethiopia, Africa’s coffee-producing powerhouse, topped 7.6m bags according to the International Coffee Organization (ICO). But there are 22 coffee-growing states across Nigeria and people are starting to drink more coffee. Consumer spending on coffee in the country will rise by 9.3 per cent a year in the next four years, according to rating agency Fitch.

“I wanted to find a way to provide more local coffee to the average Nigerian. Why shouldn’t someone have access to a decent cup of Nigerian coffee?” Ms Tekenah says.

Unlike Ethiopia, Nigeria does not have a strongly developed coffee drinking culture: while about half of all Nigerians drink coffee of some kind, they tend to rely on the ubiquitous small sachets of instant Nescafé. “We are an instant coffee country, so we need to move beyond that to create major awareness about locally grown coffee in order to impact the coffee industry as a whole,” Ms Tekenah says.

The government provides no direct support to promote local production and consumption, so she has been learning the business from experts in Brazil, the world’s largest producer.

Happy Coffee now sells roughly 1,000 cups for N500 ($1.38) each — versus roughly N200 for a Nescafé ($0.55) — and 200 packets of 100 grammes of coffee for N1,400 ($3.87) each month.

“Promoting domestic consumption in producing countries is one of the best ways to increase overall coffee consumption,” explains José Sette, the Brazilian executive director of the ICO. “Nigeria, because of its population size, is a market that is underexplored.”

Interest in ground coffee is growing, but according to Fitch, weak consumer purchasing power means instant coffee will remain dominant.

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