Alaffia: compassionate capitalism in West Africa

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My first experience in West Africa influenced my desire to promote the principles of fair trade. I see it as my moral obligation and my duty. Through this work, women and children in my communities can enjoy the equal opportunities they rightly deserve. This is why my fair trade beauty company, Alaffia, exists today.

From a young age, I have a strong desire to have a positive impact on humanity. Born and raised in the village of Kaboli, Togo, West Africa, an area known for its crowded markets and local commerce, I grew up learning to work hard to support my family. I witnessed the injustices and inequalities that my own mother and many women in my village faced on a daily basis.

It was here in Kaboli that I met my partner Prairie Rose Hyde – we shared a call to do good in the world and to fight the injustices that existed in West Africa. Rose and I were committed to the community and in 2003 we co-founded the first shea butter cooperative which then grew and became known as Alaffia.

Our simple commitment has had an impact on the lives of over 250,000 underserved people in West Africa.

Our business model beyond fair trade

For nearly two decades, Alaffia’s mission has been to reduce poverty and advance gender equality. We do this through the fair trade of indigenous African resources such as unrefined shea butter, African black soap, coconut oil and neem extract that we use in the formulation of our personal care products. and herbal beauty.

Our goal is always to follow our moral compass, which is about people and offers them opportunities that put them on the path to upward mobility and success. It only made sense to organize cooperatives in West Africa close to readily available resources in Togolese communities. This ensured that our female-led members would be able to provide their skills and knowledge to the rest of the world and, in turn, begin to lift themselves out of poverty.

Members of the cooperative hand mix locally sourced shea butter which is an ingredient in Alaffia herbal personal care and beauty products.

Programs that empower and meet basic needs

Since its inception, Alaffia has had an impact on the lives of over 250,000 people in West Africa. The programs we have established have directly funded over 6,500 births; donated school supplies to 37,521 students; distributed 30,852 glasses to beneficiaries in need; distributed 10,817 bicycles to students; planted over 99,000 trees; and built 16 schools.

We are implementing community empowerment initiatives to bring about positive changes in education, maternal and child mortality rates, in addition to supporting reforestation in rural agricultural areas.

Alaffia makes it a priority to have a positive impact on humanity through community education. By providing bicycles to nearly 11,000 students, we make sure they get to school safely and on time every day. Alaffia has created a domino effect which has a significant impact on education, healthcare, food stability, employment, thus helping to ensure a fair future for people in these communities.

We are a people-centered company. We place the dignity and fundamental rights of members of our community at the center of everything we do. These are basic needs, not profit. Empowerment, not charity.

Schoolchildren holding new pens and pencils
Alaffia’s programs have built 16 schools and donated school supplies to more than 37,500 students.

Put people before profit

We hope others will be inspired to use this business model. By adopting a Beyond Fair Trade model, organizations can bring fair and equitable jobs and inspire empowerment in marginalized communities. I have seen with my own eyes the improvements that come with doing business in this way. The positive impact of fair trade on poverty stricken communities is beyond measure.

As an organization, we strive to show others how to positively impact communities by prioritizing humanity and sustainability, while continuing to be successful. As an African entrepreneur, I can tell you that leadership doesn’t just tell people what to do; it’s about setting an example and putting people before profit at all times.

Each time an Alaffia product is purchased, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the product is donated to communities to fund community projects that support gender equality and the empowerment of women, in particular. I hope others will join us in this quest for a more sustainable future.

Olowo-n'djo & members of the dancing cooperative
For nearly two decades, Alaffia’s mission has been to reduce poverty and advance gender equality.

All photos courtesy of Alaffia.

About the Author

Olowo-n'djo Tchala Olowo-n’djo Tchala founded Alaffia, which handcraft award-winning, clean and fair trade beauty and grooming products. The organization advances gender equality and alleviates poverty through the fair trade of indigenous African resources such as unrefined shea butter, African black soap, coconut oil and neem extract. Learn more at Alaffia.com.

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