Lessons from leveraging private sector dynamism and resources to drive sustainable development in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s coffee sectorby Jonathan Pell and Dagmara Chwalowska / November 5, 2019 / Leave a comment
The idea that taxpayer money should be spent on non-taxpayers overseas is a difficult one to broach with the electorate in the post-austerity era. That is why the work that we do at Adam Smith International is so important. At our core is the principle that we can transform lives by making economies stronger, and through that help to create societies that are more stable, supported by governments that are more effective. We believe that the key to long-term, sustainable economic development is in building a flourishing private sector as the vehicle for job creation, mutual prosperity and reducing aid dependency.
As we look to the future of international development, we expect to see a continuing shift towards promoting higher productivity sectors as a pathway to economic transformation. Trade and investment promotion, two mainstays of economic development, are likely to be of increasing importance to the sustainability of development priorities. There is more emphasis than ever on addressing the specific barriers faced by women, youth, people with disabilities, and other marginalised groups throughout the UK government’s international development policy priorities, and this can only be a good thing for ensuring sustainable economic development. One of DFID’s flagship poverty reduction projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), ÉLAN RDC, managed by Adam Smith International, has been working to develop coffee and other sectors since 2013. To date it has boosted the incomes of over 840,000 people by taking an ambitious, private-sector driven approach to economic development.
When thinking about the DRC, coffee might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But the combination of rich volcanic soil, pure water and an ideal climate provide the conditions to grow some of the finest quality beans in the world.
Up until the 1980s, coffee production in the DRC was thriving with annual exports of over 100,000 metric tonnes. By 2003 the sector was in ruins with exports down over 90 per cent from the peak. Decades of violent conflict, political instability and endemic corruption had destroyed businesses throughout the value chain and limited new investment into the sector. Coffee wilt disease had reached epidemic proportions, devastating crops.
Across DRC over 250,000 producers rely on coffee for their livelihoods. Desperate farmers were driven to extreme measures, risking dangerous border crossings to sell unprocessed beans…