Gerald Katabazi

2017 Fellowship Alumnus, Uganda

Brewing the Next Generation of Ugandan Coffee

Man monitors coffee beans in a cylindrical metal roasting machine
Gerald roasts coffee beans at Volcano Coffee.

When 2017 Fellowship Alumnus Gerald Katabazi opened Volcano Coffee, his goals were simple: source, roast, brew, and sell quality, fair-trade coffee from Uganda to the world.  Coffee is Uganda’s leading cash crop, but that statistic isn’t always felt by the farmers producing it.

Gerald has made it his mission to increase the profits that Ugandan coffee farmers see to improve their livelihoods and communities.  Having had the opportunity to work in nearly every aspect of coffee production, from tilling the land to milling the beans to brewing coffee, he is confident that he knows just how to do that.  As his business grows, Gerald is looking beyond the bean to capitalize on the benefits of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Our coffee hub also helps unlock and preserve the identities of the people and products they produce that are seeking inclusion and integrity in global economies.”

Gerald Katabazi, 2017 Fellowship Alumnus, Uganda

Becoming part of the daily grind

Bags of coffee with different colored labels sit on a table
Sampling of Volcano Coffee beans.

Founded in 2008, Volcano Coffee was born in small cafés.  Gerald wanted to make coffee more accessible and enticing to the Ugandan people, so the cafés are strategically located along bustling streets that provide convenient access to commuters during rush hours. By providing traceable, fair-trade products, he pulls market share from his larger café competitors.

In addition to its cafés, Volcano Coffee operates a roastery in Kampala. There, they are able to provide roasting services to more than 110 coffee startups. This service allows the coffee startups and their farmers to sell their crops for more money, as roasted coffee beans fetch higher prices than raw beans.

In addition to markets in Uganda, Gerald says that Volcano has helped link Ugandan produce to international markets targeting the specialty coffee industries in the United States and Europe.  Gerald says, “Our coffee hub also helps unlock and preserve the identities of the people and products they produce that are seeking inclusion and integrity in global economies.”

Change is brewing

Group of people in matching black shirts that say Clark Atlanta University stand around boxes of produce, smiling for the camera
Gerald and other 2017 Fellows and faculty on a site visit to a farm during their Leadership Institute.

In 2017, Gerald participated in a Leadership in Business Institute at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, during his Fellowship. While he was there, Gerald honed his business and entrepreneurship skills, taking what he was learning in the classroom and putting it into practice at Volcano.

Gerald also made contacts at Allen Entrepreneurial Institute (AEI), whose mission is to increase the size and number of minority and women-owned businesses throughout the United States and around the world.  Through their collaboration, AEI and Gerald are bringing Volcano Coffee to the United States:  they are collaborating on a store that will sell not only their coffee products but also other African handicrafts like jewelry and footwear.

2 photos: left: 2 women hold a coffee cup between them; right: fabric with Volcano Coffee logo and words + flag graphics roasted in (Ugandan flag), brewed in (US flag)
Left: Former U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Natalie Brown (right) visits Volcano Coffee Academy; right: Volcano Coffee t-shirt.

Filling others’ cups

Now that he’s realizing his goal of bringing Ugandan coffee to the United States, Gerald is expanding his focus to empowering other Ugandan youths and entrepreneurs.

Group of people in white coats hold up certificates
Volcano Coffee Academy graduates receive their completion certificates.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, as economic turmoil impacted youth employment, Gerald wanted to restore their hope and create new opportunities.  In 2020, he started Volcano Coffee Academy, which trains the next generation of coffee brewers and baristas in both the art of coffee-making and key life skills.  Volcano Coffee Academy is proud to have graduated more than 1,200 coffee experts and baristas who work in Uganda and around the world.

When asked what is next, Gerald says, “Uganda is blessed with so many resources. It would be amazing to me to see a one-stop [Ugandan] department store in the United States that sold everything from coffee and cocoa to potatoes and rice.” He hopes that through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), it’s only a matter of time before the American people begin to experience “volcano eruptions.”

Written by Laura Mancini.

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