Desiree Barao Garcia, 2015-2017, Germany (right), on the “Change” leg of the 2016 Millennial Train Project journey
I want you to think about this statement: “Amazon is just a start-up, they have a long way to go.”
Do you agree with it? Well, I don’t. Yet this is exactly Amazon’s understanding of themselves. They state that their revenue currently only accounts for 1% of the world’s retail volume, i.e., they have big goals of taking over the world and are just beginning to do so. And, they are not the only ones. For years now, big companies and larger businesses have been taking over entire industries causing a power imbalance that eventually benefits very few shareholders while, in my opinion, disadvantaging employees and customers, often harming families, and communities as a whole.
From a customer perspective, larger companies eventually gaining the power of monopolies or duopolies will raise prices beyond what may be affordable for the average person. Enabled to set prices, they will choose profit maximizing prices rather than watching out for customers who may not have sufficient financial ability to pay. And while this situation currently applies mostly to luxury goods, knowing that the greater part of the retail industry is being taken over by large companies, I fear that this will – in the future – also be the case for basic suppliers.
Senay Kahsay, 2013-2014, Ethiopia (left) and friends enjoying a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony alongside Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile River in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia
During the 2013-2014 academic year, I was awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student grant to Ethiopia to study the coffee supply chain.
Growing up in two different cities with strong coffee cultures inspired my appreciation for coffee from a young age. As a child in Addis Ababa, I experienced the rich communal process of the Ethiopian coffee tradition. Later, when my family and I moved to Seattle, I observed the meticulous and creative craft of preparing and marketing specialty coffee. This inspired my desire to develop a better understanding of how my favorite drink travels from farm to cup. As a Fulbright Student in Ethiopia, I studied the country’s coffee supply chain. From my base in the capital, I made trips throughout Ethiopia’s coffee-growing regions to develop my understanding of the industry by surveying farmers, processors, cooperatives, traders and exporters. Through these surveys, I outlined the industry’s demand forecast and communication methods and identified opportunities for improvement. I performed these surveys with the help of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX)—a recently established marketplace that has revolutionized Ethiopian agricultural commodity markets by providing farmers with price transparency and other market information. My project provided the ECX with better visibility of the coffee supply chain.