Assessing the innovative nature of the agricultural based small businesses in Rwanda - the case study of the coffee industry

12 Oct 2011

Innovation is one of the characteristics that distinguish an entrepreneurial venture from one that is nonentrepreneurial. In a situation where undifferentiated mass production is the defining feature of the global coffee industry, some Rwandan coffee producers have undertaken innovative actions in branding and niche marketing by developing speciality coffees. Though Rwandan farmers could in the past survive without innovation initiatives, seeing as they only competed in protected environments, with current globalisation initiatives innovation is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Innovative practices do not only marginalise the volatile nature of costs faced by these producers but also increase their profit margins. The purpose of this study is to assess the innovative nature of the agribusinesses, specifically a case study of the coffee industry in Rwanda. The coffee industry has been transformed from a highly controlled, politicised industry to a liberalized sector that is quickly developing a prized niche product, (namely specialty coffee). This study highlights important recommendations that governments and NGOs supporting the agricultural sector in Rwanda, could apply to enhance innovation in the Rwandan agricultural sector in general, and the coffee industry in particular.