Cafe Neo hoping to bring about a new day

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Nigeria’s Cafe Neo, founded by Ngozi and Chijoke Dozie, is hoping to be Africa’s version of Starbucks.

Now that’s an ambitious business plan if we’ve ever seen one!

The two brothers are hoping to gain a foothold in all the major cities in Africa and cement themselves as one of the continent’s premier retailers before the usual global giants finally make the leap.

Initially however, they plan to conquer their home country of Nigeria.

Nigeria represents a market of untapped potential: With a population in excess of 170 million it is the most populated nation in Africa, it has recently become Africa’s leading economy and, at the moment, there isn’t an established coffee culture. “The demand (in Lagos) is very high. There’s a significant minority of people who love coffee and want to drink [it], but [can’t],” says Ngozi Dozie.

Currently Cafe Neo has three stores, but plan to open a further two during the first few months of 2015. The two brothers then hope to expand their business expand over the coming years, eventually having somewhere in the region of 25 stores under their control selling locally sourced coffee to native consumers.

“It’s a new approach to coffee,” Ngozi noted to Agence France-Press.

“[It’s] a new approach where we, as Africans, drink the coffee that we produce…as opposed to exporting it and [then] importing sub-grade coffee.”

Reading the transcript of Ngozi’s conversation to the news agency, it is clear that he and his brother have drawn inspiration from the recent successes of Indian coffee chains.

“India is a fantastic example,” he explained, referencing Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) in the process.

“Our aim is to grow as such that yes, Starbucks may come, but we want to be the choice of Nigerians because there’s that affinity,” Ngozi stated. If so, it would be very similar to how CCD, one of the ‘early adopters of coffee’ in India, has been able to contend with and fend off the advances of Starbucks, retaining its market-leading position in the process.

But, there’s a long road ahead of them and there’s a lot of people who need to be introduced to the delights that cappuccinos, lattes and flat whites hold. Many, even those within the industry, haven’t even tasted a cup of coffee.

“I visited a coffee farmer in 2007,” recalls Kayitana John Bosco, who works with the brothers to help train the company’s staff.

“[He] had been [working] for twenty years…farming, harvesting and sending [the crop]. He didn’t know where it was going or what is was used for.”

“He didn’t know the taste of it.”

It’s about time that changed.

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