More than a tea party

Finweek English Edition - - Private Buy -

LAST FRI­DAY I was meant to be on a bus head­ing for Flagstaff in the East­ern Cape. I looked for­ward to the trip, hav­ing never been to Flagstaff be­fore and be­cause it was to mark a plan by brand com­pany AVI to in­ject money into women’s ru­ral de­vel­op­ment.

But the deadly flu lit­er­ally gripped me by the throat and I couldn’t make the trip. It was a pity, be­cause I hear Flagstaff, well, en­cap­su­lates in its unique way what a small town is like in ru­ral South Africa. Not pretty, ap­par­ently, but with its own dis­tinct charm.

I was also keen on what AVI – us­ing its brand Trinco Tea as the cup for the spon­sor­ship – was try­ing to do. Anec­do­tal ev­i­dence strongly sug­gests it’s the women in ru­ral ar­eas who get things done. Still, I fol­lowed up and was en­cour­aged to learn more about this ex­am­ple of cor­po­rate so­cial in­vest­ment.

AVI has in­vested R1,2m in the Women’s De­vel­op­ment Bank ( WDB) as part of the project. It may not sound like a lot but R1,2m goes a long way – if prop­erly chan­nelled – in an area such as Bizana in the East­ern Cape.

The WDB is a mi­cro-fi­nance or­gan­isa- tion that tar­gets women in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties. It’s not, I’m as­sured, like the loan shark down the road. The Flagstaff project, where a new branch of the WDB has been opened, will pro­vide women in the area with mi­cro loans and train­ing, en­com­pass­ing how to run a busi­ness, busi­ness sup­port and men­tor­ship and en­cour­age them to open sav­ings ac­counts. The aim is to help the women in­crease their house­hold in­come and pro­mote eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in the re­gion.

Why Trinco Tea? AVI says the brand’s typ­i­cal con­sumer “is a mo­ti­vated, hard­work­ing, sen­si­ble and loving mom. She’s a role model to other women in the com­mu­nity and val­ues her cul­tural her­itage.”

Wow, I won­der what sort of re­search AVI had to con­duct to find that out about Trinco Tea drinkers? Men don’t ap­pear to be part of Trinco’s very pos­i­tive cul­ture. That’s okay: I’ve been to enough Mad Hat­ter’s tea par­ties to try and avoid the sub­stance com­pletely.

It’s prob­a­bly all PR spin. But AVI’s money is real, its in­ten­tions are good and seem well thought through. If it works for the women of Flagstaff, it works for me.

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