Part 3: The 30 Most Notable Africans of 2013
03 Feb 2014
What: Shea butter has quickly become a staple in many products in the beauty industry, promoting youthful, healthy skin. Did you know that 100% of that shea butter comes from Africa? Although corporations are making major profits from using this “women’s gold”, as it is known, to enhance their products, the communities in which this “gold” is produced benefit little from this boom in the industry. This is because the women who harvest the shea butter have little-to-no involvement in contributing to the value-added chain in the manufacturing of this valuable product. Instead, many are left selling the raw materials for pennies on the dollar—leaving the majority of profits in this multi-billion dollar industry to be reaped by the corporations that purchase the raw material. Frustrated by the lack of knowledge that West African women had about the value shea butter on the open market, and inspired to help them reap more gains from their labor, Rahama Wright founded Shea Yeleen in 2005 to promote sustainable economic development in sub-Saharan Africa.
Why I’m Inspired: Rahama’s vision for Shea Yeleen has become a reality, helping more than 800 women in West Africa earn a living wage through the production and sale of shea butter. After seven years of hard work, Rahama’s diligence paid off when her products were granted prime shelf space in Whole Foods stores around the U.S. In 2013, Shea Yeleen received funding from the PanAfrican Investment Company, LLC to invest in expansion and distribution of the Shea Yeleen product line, staff development, and capacity-building for shea producers. This is the perfect example of how teaching others how to fish, instead of giving them the fish, translates into sustainable economic development.