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Kenya sleeps, Uganda wakes up and smells the coffee

By Charles Onyango-Obbo

Source: The East African

A few days ago, there was a story tucked away inside Kenya’s Standard newspaper.

It said coffee factories in western Kenya had closed, because farmers were no longer selling the beans to them. They were selling it to, wait for it, Uganda!

In Uganda, they were quoted saying, they were getting the equivalent of Ksh100 ($1) per kilo. At home, however, they were getting only Ksh10.

What made that story remarkable is that during the bad years of the 1970s when military dictator Field Marshal Idi Amin was in charge in Uganda, and the economy had collapsed, the most lucrative trade between Uganda and Kenya was smuggled coffee.

The Ugandan crop was all ending up in Kenya, because it fetched peanuts at home. “Magendo” coffee made many people in Kenya, and a handful of Ugandans, very rich.

This trade continued into the early 1980s when Milton Obote was in power for a second time, and for the first few years after President Yoweri Museveni came to power.

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