A high-powered delegation of executives from the supermarket chain Whole Foods Market visited Togo from July 30-Aug. 2 to explore ways to boost exports of organic products from Togo to the United States. Whole Foods Vice President Don Clark met with Togolese Prime Minister Komi Selom Klassou on Aug. 2, accompanied by U.S ambassador to Togo David Gilmour and Olowo-n’djo Tchala, founder and CEO of Alaffia, a company whose shea butter-based cosmetic products are sold in Whole Foods stores throughout the U.S., Canada, and the UK.
Alaffia uses the profits it makes from sales of shea butter to fund community development projects in the areas of education, environmental protection, and maternal and child health. It also pays its workers four times the normal wage and harvests the shea nuts in a sustainable manner. This makes it a natural partner for Whole Foods Market, which sources its products only from Fair Trade-certified companies that pay good wages and practice sustainable agriculture. According to Ambassador Gilmour there is enormous potential for “social businesses” like Alaffia to create economic growth in develoing countries, because consumers in the U.S. and elsewhere are willing to pay a premium price to support such businesss. These were some of the topics that were discussed during meetings between the Whole Foods delegation and the Togolese authorities. Besides the Prime Minister, Don Clark also met various entrepreneurs whom Whole Foods Market could partner with to export organic products to the United States. “We discussed opportunities that we could leverage on in Togo to build other partnerships similar to the one we have with Alaffia,” Clark said.
In addition, the Whole Foods delegation visited Alaffia’s production facility in Sokode. The visit was also the occasion for the official inauguration of a new school constructed by Alaffai in the rural village of Agbandoude. The delegation received a joyous welcome from the community when they arrived, including performances from local musicians and sketches featuring the children who will get to attend the new school. At the close, they presented new bicycles to deserving students.