Dr Nasra Alli is a Kenyan by birth and a Nigerian by Marriage. She is a Medical doctor by training but has a passion for Coffee. She grew up in Coffee business in Kenya and decided to follow up on passion which led to the birth of Kaldi Africa..
The sweet aroma of coffee filled the air as we entered into her cosy office and we were treated to the nice taste of Nigeria coffee which evoked some nostalgic feelings. ‘Coffee used to contribute about 4percent of Nigeria’s GDP prior to the oil boom’, you could see the pain in her eyes as she took us through the history of coffee in Africa and in Nigeria. ‘Like every other non-oil sector, the coffee industry has been allowed to rot away gradually whilst the whole populace concentrated on the oil windfall, something drastic need be done to arrest the fall and make the coffee trees glow once again, that is my passion and I am driven to achieve this aim’, such strong words from Dr Nasra. Would you call her ‘mama coffee’, yes! Because not only is she in the business, she also knows coffee like the tip of her fingertips, from history to farming, processing, retailing, exporting, to medical and lifestyle advantages, Nasra Ali is an encyclopedia when you talk coffee. She traced the heritage to the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau where legend says the goat herder Kaldi first discovered the potential of these beloved beans. It is said that Kaldi discovered coffee after noticing that his goats, upon eating berries from a certain tree, became so energetic that they did not want to sleep at night. Kaldi reported his findings to the abbot of the local monastery who made a drink with the berries and discovered that it kept him alert for the long hours of evening prayer. The abbot shared his discovery with the other monks at the monastery, and slowly knowledge of the energizing berries began to spread. As word moved east and coffee reached the Arabian peninsula, it began a journey which would spread its reputation across the globe.
She posited that if well managed, coffee could become one of the most important exports from Nigeria as researches and records have shown that Nigeria is in the coffee belt region encouraged that efforts be put in place by government to encourage the growing of coffee on a much larger scale that will increase its foreign exchange capacity to the nation. According to her, 11 of the 36 states of Nigeria are in the coffee belt and that the nation is able to grow, process and export coffee on a very large scale. So much is her passion for coffee that in spite of her MBBS Degree and Practice of Medicine she fell back to her passion (Coffee). This time she has taken Coffee to another level by not only visiting the states in the coffee belt, Kaldi Africa, spearheaded by Nasra have entered into working arrangements with farmers in these areas to see how they can partner to revive the coffee plantations. Most of the states fall in the northern part of Nigeria and quizzed on the environment and the reception of the local farmers, she pointed out that ‘the response has been very good! The farmers understand that we are not coming to usurp their lands, rather we are bringing in good seeds, mechanization, funds and all the expertise to help in growing the business of the area. We also would help with the harvesting and on the long run still purchase the seeds from them at premium price, its a win-win situation for everybody and so they’ve all been very co-operative’.
Trained as Medical Doctor, Nasra can be known as called Madam Coffee. All her life she has known coffee having come from a family at coffee growers, processors, brewing and drinking family. According to her, “the aim of Kaldi Africa Limited is to bring coffee to where it should be in Nigeria. Nigerians take a lot of coffee both at home and abroad, with this huge population of coffee lovers, it could be turned into a goldmine and also help shore up our export earning potentials.
Along with cultivation of Coffee, the company also plants and package tea which brand they have labelled Highland tea. ‘We are also passionate and focus on cocoa. Our Cocoa Process Plant is in Ekiti state and it is doing pretty well! We do not intend to plant cocoa in Nigeria, she explained, because the country has enough to sell.
Kaldi Africa has three departments which altogether enhance the production of coffee, tea and cocoa. The foremost, is the training department. Because planting, harvesting and processing requires a degree of expertise this department trains farmers on how to plant and nurture cocoa seeds to maturity. Having mastered this, they are trained on how to process the seed into powder how to prepare, serve, market and make profit from the products. Our customers include high net worth individuals, big supermarkets, and first class hotels. ‘Our technical department handled the maintenance of coffee processing machines’. We are supporting some established coffee shops to purchase their own machines; I must say however that the machines are very expensive even though some shops who buy machines still come to us for maintenance”. The machines are of German and Italian origin and we have engineers from these countries in the management of Kaldi Africa Limited. “All in all, we are available to support and encourage upcoming coffee shops and intending investors in the business to help increase the economic value of Coffee in the country.
Ali is counting on the country’s rising consumer class to shun imports in favour of her homegrown brew. “We are trying to see how to be able to be part of that growth, with our value addition and ensuring that we really are able to appreciate good coffee in Nigeria,” said Ali.
Is drinking coffee good for the health and she replies, ‘coffee is a lifestyle thing with lots of benefits’. Coffee can improve energy levels and make you smarter, its good for the liver and also helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. She also added that, coffee can fight depression and make you happier, coffee drinkers also have a lower risk of some types of cancer and can help you live a longer and healthier life. Above all, she recounts jokingly, ‘I remember granting an interview where I said coffee also boost men’s sexual performance, and before the end of that day, I got calls from different parts of Nigeria asking how they can purchase our coffee’. We all busted out laughing, ‘seriously she said, ‘it is true, coffee is good for the act and makes you stronger particularly when taken fresh.’
Now a full-fledged Nigerian, Nasra is quick to add that being a Nigerian is such a sweet experience and that her sojourn in the country has erased all the false notion that Nigerians are bad people, she recalls her experience to various markets in Lagos when she came to Nigeria, the friendliness, hospitality and honesty of the average Nigerian and was surprised at how warmly she was received by all and sundry’, honestly I have no regrets settling in Nigeria, she concluded.
The coffee dream is one that she encourages everybody to pursue, from the planting to processing and retailing. She advised that her company, Kaldi Africa is well posited to help train, equip, maintain and even set up your company as a consultant all in her effort to see coffee attain her potentials in Nigeria.