These innovative Nigerians are gradually transforming Lagos into the coffee capital of Africa, looking to tap into a $98 billion industry through their own coffeehouse chain.
SINCE founding Café Neo in 2012, Ngozi and Chijoke Dozie have invested $400,000 and launched the chain in several African countries, with over 10 in Nigeria alone.
Explaining how the chain originated, Ngozi Dozie says: “The word ‘neo’ means ‘gift’ in Tswana and it also ‘new’ in Latin. For us we view coffee as a gift to the continent. We felt that through Café Neo we could have the best African coffees produced by Africans, drunk in Africa.”
Returning to Nigeria hoping to fill a void in the countries coffee-loving community, these siblings were confronted with myriads of disincentives, including the lack of consumption of coffee in Nigeria which appeared daunting at first.
They were not deterred all the same. Chijoke explains to ‘African Start-Up’ how Café Nero overcame difficulties by creating an alternative coffee shop: “We were always sceptical that Nigerians wouldn’t take to coffee… what we tried to replicate was that third space. It wasn’t just ‘come and drink coffee’. It’s ‘come and hang out’, free Wi-Fi, meet people, jazz music playing in the background.”
Inspired by European coffeehouses, the Dozie brothers created a space for entrepreneurs, as Ngozi explains to ‘African Start-Up’: “I think it’s through the fact that we are providing a platform for entrepreneurs to grow. It’s also through the events that we are hosting and partnerships, where we can plug in entrepreneurs… For most start-ups, when you start, there isn’t really any space for you. If you try and work from home, there’s probably is no power. If you try to go to the hotel, it’s not conducive, but Neo is a space where you come and meet people. We try and create space that’s conducive to that kind of chance–serendipitous meeting.”
With a cup of coffee ranging from 50 cents to $3 a cup, Café Neo has become popular to a diverse pool of coffee drinkers, and the Dozie brothers hope to continue their growth in Africa.
Ngozi tells ‘African Start-Up’: “There’s definitely a coffee renaissance taking place in Africa, and we think that we are at the forefront, but we also want others to join us in spreading the word… I can’t think of a better place for an entrepreneur right now than in Nigeria. It’s a fantastic opportunity – but don’t tell anyone… let’s enjoy the opportunity first!”