Social and economic entrepreneur Gerald Katabazi seeks to impact Ugandans socially through promoting coffee consumption within the country.
While appearing on The Groove Cafe, Katabazi, Founder of Volcano Coffee Limited, and lover of coffee farming, said that he envisions a hike in the domestic consumption of coffee in Uganda rising to 20% by 2030 while providing a sustainable source of income to all that will be involved in the value chain.
Born and raised in the hills of Kasese District, Katabazi grew up with a passion for coffee farming, its products and every activity that surrounded its production.
After completing his secondary education, Katabaazi was called by his uncle in Kampala to work at his restaurant. From there, he became friends with one of the employees of the Uganda Coffee Development Authority that got him a job as a steward. During his time there, he earned the recognition of the Executive Director of the Authority that provided him with a job at his wife’s new cafe.
In 2006, he mistakenly applied for an unadvertised job at the Kampala Serena Hotel. Fortunately, he was considered and sent to Nairobi, Kenya to gain more exposure. By 2010, he had moved to Rwanda and got to work as a coffee brewing expatriate on a 3-year contract. He later came back to Uganda with an entrepreneurial spirit to start up his own coffee business, even though it flopped.
“I had saved some money, bought some machines and entered into a business partnership but my partners, unlike me, were profit-oriented and not about social development. The Ugandan market was slow since most of the population doesn’t consume coffee but beer and Dawa tea. By then, the consumption was at 2% and the rest for exportation. Plus, I wasn’t well prepared to manage the business, so it failed,” he said.
With giving up not being an option, Katabazi went to search for fresh waters in South Sudan but was not successful there as well because of the war in 2014. The relatives that he had also employed back here in Uganda connived against him and used his business partner to initiate the final breakdown of the business.
Luckily for him, in 2016, he applied and won a study grant by the Mandela Washington Fellowship that sharpened his business management and entrepreneurial skills. To add onto this, Katabazi adopted social media for marketing his coffee which obtained him supply contracts with Makerere University Agricultural School and Sheraton Hotel.
“Our coffee setup in Uganda still has challenges because we are dealing with small-scale farmers who sell the coffee cheaply because of poverty and gain little because of the responsibilities they have. However, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation National Youth says that Ugandans can benefit more from domestic consumption in the country because of the available virgin market.”
He went on to add, “I am trying to change the mindset, socially and economically, into a purpose driven one that seeks to leave no one behind. We invest in even the raw material from the coffee beans because we have equipment that turns it into finished product. You can bring the raw material to our store for purifying. We can get you the markets whether specialized or commercial, I’ve helped many gain from the crop this way and they testify to the earnings and are happily living.”
Katabazi said his job as an entrepreneur is not only to make money but also to impact societies socially. He wants to see as many young people as possible join the business so that the market can be flooded and attention is changed from exports and foreign donations to making money directly from the local market.
He further advised youths to engage into the untapped coffee business from logistics, setting up coffee bars and using social media platforms to market their products, depending on where their passion drives them to.
The Groove Cafe with Crystal Newman airs every Weekday from 4p.m-5pm on RX Radio.
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