She takes a bite allowing her taste buds to reign supreme, savouring every morsel as it melts in her mouth. Nothing has ever tasted so good, she thinks to herself. She flips over the wrapping to see where it’s from, Switzerland, she should have guessed. Only the Swiss can make chocolate this good. What Anne Kadienge doesn’t know is that at the very heart of that chocolate she is so sinfully gloating over are cocoa beans that most likely originated from Ghana or some other West African state where cocoa farming is popular.
West Africa produces over three-quarters of the world’s cocoa, and Ghana, Ivory Cost and Nigeria are three of the world’s biggest cocoa producers. However, Africa only accounts for 3% of the consumption of cocoa and the continent makes very few cocoa processed goods such as chocolate. Instead, most countries will export their beans for production, and then import the finished goods and consume the very same beans in the form of a chocolate bar or chocolate drink. But this doesn’t happen only in Africa; in developing countries such as Peru and Ecuador the practice is common. In fact, 90% of the world's cocoa beans are grown in developing countries, yet only 44% of cocoa liquor and 29% of cocoa powder is produced in these countries.
Coffee beans go through a similar journey. Coffee is grown in huge amounts in regions such as East Africa but are often exported and enjoyed in large coffee chains abroad. And while it has become increasingly common to find Kenyan coffee in coffee shops around the country, the beverage is most likely found in foreign owned coffee chains, which outnumber indigenous coffee shops.
The same can be said of China, where only 30% of the coffee grown in the southwest region of Yunnan is consumed locally, the remaining 70% is exported to foreign markets. Large international chains have also dominated the coffee market, which is growing due to a burgeoning middle class who have developed a taste for the caffeinated brew.
So why do our beans have to be exported from the continent, only to be imported and enjoyed in the form of brewed coffee or chocolate?
Unfavourable trade regulations are at the heart of this problem. We only export our beans and not the finished products due to restrictive tariffs, which make the end product too costly. For example there is a 0% tariff on importing coffee and cocoa beans to the European Union (EU), but to import processed chocolate into the EU, the tariff could go as high as 25%. Also the cost of importing sugar and milk, two key products needed to produce chocolate, is staggeringly high in West African nations.
If trade regulations that allowed developing nations to fully benefit from their agricultural wealth were set in place, new industries could be established. It would also allow more countries to follow in the steps of Ivory Coast, which earlier this year opened the country’s first chocolate factory. Because despite cocoa accounting for 22% of the West African nation’s GDP, many farmers have never had the experience or the joy of tasting products made from the beans they harvest. With the right framework, this may become a thing of the past. And maybe one day Anne Kadienge will be savouring a delectable chocolate bar, knowing it was made entirely in Ivory Coast.