‘We can’t meet the demand for Shea butter’
Yasmin Othman is the National President, African Women AgriBusiness Network and Women in shea butter Business. In this interview she said Shea-butter is a world resource product and Nigeria produces 60 % of it. If this potential is harnessed properly, she said it could become a huge export earner for Nigeria.
How do you think women are faring in business in Nigeria?
A few women have made it but a good percentage of them need hand holding, that is support. Before now, people used to say government should do this, government should do that, now people are doing a lot, women are using their hands to do a lot. But they need more support and they need the enabling environment. They need finance and capacity building through training to upgrade what they are doing. For instance, somebody or an organisation can teach them how to package their products properly to meet the global standard.
You are in the Shea butter business, how can the business get better?
We have been in this business for over ten years now. We work with women in the villages.
Shea butter is our product in Africa almost 100 percent. This product is based in Africa and you won’t believe we have over 60 percent of the tree in Nigeria. As far as Shea butter in the world is concerned, Nigeria has not started.
What do we need to start?
We need the federal and the state governments to come in and create enabling environment to support us. Almost 99 % of people in this business are women. From plugging it, processing it, packaging and storing it and then taking it to market, women are involved. Many women don’t have the means to go beyond this. That gives room to the foreigners to take it out and refine. They take it to Europe and refine our own product but if we have the resources we can do it ourselves and it will be a big export earner for the country.
We need to put people to work. The trees are there. Nobody planted the trees. They are God given trees in the bush. It takes over 25 years to fruit and it can be there for over 60 years. But right now, nobody is saying okay these things are a God given resource; let us find a way to plant more.
What are the benefits of this natural product?
Shea butter is a world resource product, it is being sort after all over the world now. West Africa cannot even meet the demand. They are using it for anti-aging in the cosmetic industry and even the European Union has accepted that it should be part of food industry. So, they are looking at it for pharmaceutical and for their chocolates. And you know they eat a lot of it because it is better than cocoa butter and it doesn’t dent the teeth. So, we cannot even meet the demand. Back home, everybody has gone natural and it doesn’t have any side-effect. It is a very good moisturiser and it leaves your skin looking fresh. From your hair to your toe. It is a magical product. So, more people can come in and create a good business out of it. Right now is individual effort.
I believe for you to actually benefit from Shea butter business, you get into cosmetic industry. That is where you get the money. But it is a lot of work. So many things have to be in place for you to be there, and to be acceptable in the global market right now. Right now, we don’t find that help in Nigeria. It is mainly, individual effort.