Shea Butter is a major raw material that has gained international recognition for its unique ability to heal and nourish the skin. Do you know it is also edible and used as a substitute for Cocoa Butter in Chocolate? What most people don't know about it is that majority of all shea butter in the world has been processed by hand, and I repeat BY HAND by West African Women from Senegal through Ghana to Cameron. The backbreaking, tedious, hand-made process takes a few days to complete and is usually done by women in groups. These women have been doing it for generations. Millions of African women do this as a full-time job every day. Now imagine in the last 10 years, with all the popularity of Shea Butter and the thousands of cosmetic companies that have sprung out of it, realizing that most of these women still live on less than a dollar a day. They don't have the time, education, and resources to find a market or grow their businesses. Currently, they are at the risk of losing their jobs because international conglomerates are building manufacturing facilities, a few hours away, to compete for the same shea nuts, driving up price and competition.
What kind of protection do they need? How can we invest in their growth and development? What better opportunities are available for their educated kids who are looking for new opportunities? How can we build an industry around the process they have mastered without education? How do ensure that the 21st-century Chemistry graduate can improve her mother's craft? How can Africans use science and innovation to add value to their own inventions? How do we solve African problems by learning, improving, and growing?
These are the questions that keep me awake at night, and why the success of NAYA means so much to me. I believe in industrialization when it impacts many people and brings about real longterm economic development.