Oliberte – The Story Behind Africa’s First Fair Trade Certified Footwear Factory


As consumers, the overwhelming need to own things that we like can sometimes blind us to the due diligence that should be done to make sure that we are not deriving our enjoyment at the expense of another person’s sweat and blood. Step in brands like Oliberte whose fair trade practices make it easier to make purchasing decisions that center around footwear.

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The thought that the people who make the clothes or the shoes or sweat it out for the raw materials that are used to make our technological gadgets are being exploited sometimes in the worst possible ways should be enough to make us pause and appreciate brands who stand out from the norm.

People whose services are engaged in the process of production should be guaranteed fair wages and safe working conditions. Africans and African children for that matter are often the most exploited in these types of cases. This is why we consider Oliberte to be definitively Pro-Africa.

Oliberte

Oliberte is known as the world’s only Fair Trade Certified footwear manufacturing factory. They have positioned themselves as a brand that is committed to supporting worker’s rights in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The footwear brand is based out of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where they employ over 70 staff. They began in 2009 as a small footwear company partnering with factories and suppliers in Africa. In 2012, the factory mentioned earlier in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and in 2013 got their certification as the world’s first Fair Trade footwear manufacturing factory.

Oliberte

They aim to make premium quality products with a lifetime warranty. Along with the great quality of their footwear, they are also projecting a different narrative about Africa. By partnering with suppliers, farmers, and craftsmen across Africa to get the final premium products that they sell to the world, they show the inherent creative and entrepreneurial capabilities held by Africans. Such a picture is at odds with the single story of poverty and corruption that is often propagated about this part of the world.

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Oliberte sources premium cow and goat leather from Ethiopia, get natural rubber from African countries such as Liberia, South Africa, Kenya, and Ethiopia and even try as much as possible to get machinery needed for their operations from within the continent. They make their tags and insole labels in Mauritius.

Two major ways Oliberte is Pro-Africa

They focus on Trade, not Aid

Although a bulk of African nations still rely on aid from various areas especially the West, more people are beginning to realize that aid will not provide any lasting solutions to Africa’s problems.

Ghana’s former President John Mahama pointed this out at the last United Nations General Assembly that he attended while still leading Ghana. Mahama while addressing the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-first session, said that Africa does not need development assistance from developed countries but rather, “a fair chance” to trade with the rest of the world.

Oliberte

Although Oliberte admits the probable necessity of applying foreign aid in natural disasters or when short term relief is needed from unforeseen circumstances, they ascribe to the notion that long-term general economic aid stifles economic change which is the basis of sustainability.

They point out that foreign aid is attached to conditionalities, and it often undermines local businesses that cannot compete with free goods. So the company exemplifies the opening of trade channels and encourages skill development which will allow Africa to truly develop.

They have a Community Premium Fund

On the road to achieve their Fair Trade Certified™ status, they complied with over 200 individual requirements that encourage fair trade practices and a healthy community that included the creation of a Community Premium fund.

Oliberte

The Community premium Fund is filled with a percentage of their total sales. The fund is then available to be invested collectively into any social needs identified by employees. The Community Premium Fund is a perfect example of giving back to the community. They are able to make investments that count and increase the quality of life for Africans in that area.

Even when no pressing need is identified, Oliberte allows employees split the fund as a cash bonus in addition to their salaries. This is another way that they support their employees and create a happy working environment that ireflects in the amazing products that they create.

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