‘We can’t meet the de­mand for Shea but­ter’

Daily Trust - - BUSINESS - By Vic­to­ria Onehi

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.

Yas­min Oth­man

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