A Good African Story by Andrew Rugasira is named in reference to the author’s coffee company, “Good African”, and is published by Bodley Head.
A committed Christian, an ambitious businessman and a talented raconteur, I had the pleasure of attending Andrew Rugasira’s Oxford launch of this, his first non-fiction title as part of my work for the literary agency (which represents his writing in the U.K.)
Not a bad start for my first ever my non-fiction review!
“I have such respect for authors now” Rugasira murmured to me as he signed copies of A Good African Story for the queue ahead of his table (no doubt swelled by those who had read the flattering double spread on the man himself in the Observer just days earlier). I reminded him that he was in fact an author himself.
Rugasira’s vision, to found a coffee company in his native Uganda (and the business’s subsequent development), forms the backbone and heart of the title’s narrative- which also navigates compellingly through challenging political, historical and economic questions.
Rugasira’s idea was a simple one: to be the first African company to produce, roast and export high quality coffee direct to British supermarkets. Andrew Rugasira’s vision transformed the lives of the 14,000 subsistance farmers who had, previous to his business plan, lived hand to mouth: flanked by territorial conflict in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and beholden to a lack of technology, to foreign agents and to middlemen whose prices were never just nor sufficient.
Opening with the harrowing tale of his father’s persecution by Uganda’s 1970s militant regime, the novel is a human story. A Good African Story is a narrative of trial and triumph, of chances and of mistakes. A business story featuring a talent for trade which works to counteract the easy western idea of Africa as a desperate space in need of aid and western intervention. In the introduction to his work, Rugasira call attention to the fact that no successful African businessman has written the narrative of his achievement. Dismayed by the lack of sustenance for inspiration available to the young African entrepeneur who repeatedly sees played out a narrative of Western intervention and aid on the continent, Rugasira resolved to put pen to paper. Success in Africa should not be framed solely by what foreigners write, he says.
Combining all the popular culture appeal of the coffee market with a sharp political relevance, this book has the potential to transform the way a young, travel-hungry, intelligent and caffeine-fuelled generation views Africa.
Rugasira is right in thinking that the business and cultural sectors of the world can no longer afford to ignore what Uganda, or Africa in general, has to offer. No reader can afford to ignore A Good African Story.