It is a sad reality that Uganda produces some of the world’s best coffee, but so few coffee drinkers know it. Mention Jave, though, and just about every middle-class consumer in capital city Kampala who loves a good cup of joe will have tasted its brew. With million customers a month regionally, tens of stores in Uganda and Kenya and a market value estimated at $50 million, Java is the dominant player in the coffee market in Uganda and Kenya. Its brand is unrivaled and it commands enormous respect. On my first visit to one of their coffee shops in Kampala recently, a waitress told me that she was stunned by the potential the country offers brands such as Java. I have for years been impressed by Uganda’s robust economy and its growing middle class. As a result, the East African coffee chain is planning to aggressively expand in the region. It hopes to add several stores over the next few years.That regional companies such as Java view the local market as an important market speaks well for the wider East Africa.
“We are being swept into that development, but we are in the very early stages of the growth of Java in Uganda and this market alone. I am stunned with the economic development, the size of the middle class and the long-term opportunity we have in ‘pearl of Africa’,” a senior manager told me. Ugandan consumer companies should take note of how Java has grown over the past few years from just one outlet stores to a regional giant. If they wish to play a role on the regional stage, they must start thinking seriously about developing and promoting their brands.I must also admit that Dormans coffee shops in Kampala also offers one of the finest.Good African Coffee, owned by a prominent Uganda entrepreneur is equally up to the levels of Java.Uganda has great companies and brands. However, they are little known outside Uganda and thus unable to make inroads regionally. Tanzanian companies like Azam are well known in Uganda but the same cannot be said of a Ugandan brand in Tanzania with exception on Air Uganda which was recently grounded for failing to meet Uganda Civil Aviation standards. Uganda may churn out some of the best coffee beans in the world, but it needs to brand its products better so that the world can better appreciate what is being produced.For now, Java is the chic place to have coffee in Kampala.