Tanzania: Rose Swai, coffee producer

Rose Swai, coffee producer in Tanzania

Women in Tanzania who produce commodities such as coffee and moringa are significantly driving their own families’ incomes and the country’s economic development. As part of its work to promote cooperation with the private sector around the world on behalf of the German Development Ministry (BMZ), the ExperTS programme organised workshops and delegation visits to support 116 Tanzanian businesswomen. As a result, 70-year-old coffee producer Rose Swai has been able to expand her professional network and acquire valuable market knowledge.

How did you end up working in the coffee trade?

I grew up in a coffee-farming family. Coffee has been my passion from an early age. It makes people energetic and active – just like me. I wanted to continue the tradition of my parents, who were coffee traders. That’s how it all began.

Did you encounter any resistance when you were setting up your company?

It wasn’t always easy to put my ideas into practice. I didn’t want to just trade in coffee beans; I wanted to process, that is, roast, grind, package and sell the coffee, myself. Being a woman, people often asked me why I was trying to set up a business. I didn’t have the capital for the machinery at first, but I started small and built my company, Choice Coffee Ltd., little by little. After all, anything that grows does so from the bottom up!

What are your current plans for your business?

While I may not be that young any more, I’ve got lots of ideas and plans! Right now, I’m continuing to expand the family business and trying to export our coffee to Europe. We’re ready for new markets. My sons are going to take on the company and keep making it a success. Everyone associated with the business will be paid a fair wage and be able to provide for their families.

You received support from the ExperTS Programme. What did this look like?

The ExperTS Programme really helped me to make contacts with other female entrepreneurs, potential buyers from Germany and industry associations. The programme accompanied me and a group of other female entrepreneurs from rural Tanzania involved in raw materials processing on a trip to Germany. We learned a great deal during our time there about the processing of agricultural commodities, the packaging process, marketing, eco-certification and the specific products in demand in the country. We heard that there was a market for moringa. This gave us the idea of coming together as women to form a cooperative to allow us to grow and sell moringa in the future too.

You’re the spokesperson for this group of female entrepreneurs. What’s your message?

Fairness is important to me – fair prices and working conditions for all the people involved in a value chain. Also, as women, we need to stick together and not be dependent on men. We need to seize opportunities and realise we can get things up and running.

Rose Swai comes from a family of coffee traders. She ensures that her company uses fair prices and operates sustainably. She buys coffee from local farmers.

Swai decided to not only sell, but also process the coffee beans. She employs eleven staff members in her production facility.

The female entrepreneur invested in machinery for roasting, grinding and packaging her Choice Coffee. It was not easy for her to obtain capital at first.

Swai expanded her business step by step and did not let doubters put her off. The emancipated woman considers it important to be financially independent of men.

The businesswoman believes it is important for young people and women especially to learn a trade. She trains new staff members in how to roast and package the coffee herself.

Her female staff members sew and label Choice Coffee’s trademark brightly-coloured cloth packaging in house.

The idea of packaging the coffee in small packets made from traditional Tanzanian cloth came from the businesswoman’s son.

Swai sells her goods from her own shop in Moshi. She also supplies hotels in the area and the nearby regional airport.

Travellers in the Kilimanjaro region are her main target group. With plans to export her product in the future, the coffee producer is looking for buyers in Europe.

Rose Swai travelled to Germany with 11 other Tanzanian businesswomen. They met with industry associations, visited production facilities and got to know several companies.

With the support of the ExperTS Programme, Swai intends to take her company further forward, find buyers in Germany and inspire other women to start their own businesses.

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