2021 Visionaries to Watch: Olowo-n’djo Tchala, Founder & CEO of Alaffia
Olowo-n’djo Tchala is the founder and CEO of Alaffia. Tchala has been able to directly impact the lives of over 250,000 individuals in West Africa by selling Alaffia products to fund its Empowerment Projects, including maternal care, planting trees, donating bicycles to Togolese students, building schools, and so on much more.
Olowo-n’djo Tchala Interview
Alaffia’s growth has seen significant progress over the years and has created a dynamic impact throughout West Africa. What can you attribute that success to?
Olowo-n’djo Tchala: From the beginning, I’ve had a desire to impact humankind positively. I was born and raised in the village of Kaboli, Togo. Growing up and working to support my family, I witnessed firsthand the daily injustices and inequalities of many women in my village.
After moving to the United States and going to University, I felt the responsibility to fight the injustices that existed in West Africa.
For nearly two decades, Alaffia’s mission has been to alleviate poverty and advance gender equality through the fair trade of indigenous African resources such as unrefined shea butter, African black soap, coconut oil, and neem extract used to make personal care and beauty products.
It came naturally and only made sense to organize cooperatives in West Africa around the indigenous resources readily available in Togolese communities so that our women-led members would be able to provide their skills and knowledge to the rest of the world and rise out of poverty.
Since its inception, Alaffia has impacted the lives of more than 250,000 individuals in West Africa. We alleviate poverty, advance gender equality, and implement community empowerment initiatives that have made positive changes in education, maternal and infant mortality rates, and forestation in rural farming and wild recollection zones.
Our programs have directly funded over 6,500 births; we’ve donated school supplies to 37,521 students; distributed eyeglasses to 30,852 recipients; distributed 10,817 bicycles; planted over 99,000 trees; and built 16 schools. Empowering Togo to rise out of poverty puts humanity at the center— it’s about basic needs, not profit.
What steps could other companies take to make an effective global impact and change?
Start where there is a need.
Get people to invest emotionally in your mission.
Make such an impact people are proud to share their work.
At Alaffia, we are completely transparent so that our communities know the great strides that have been made to end poverty, cultivate gender equality, and highlight diversity. Our community feels invested and proud in the brand that they share the mission in full transparency.
Alaffia is a company that has a moral compass that is all about people and giving them better lives. It’s about putting humanity at the center— it’s about basic needs, not profit.
Make it a goal to impact humankind through educating the community positively. We not only provided nearly 11,000 students with bicycles, but it was a means to get to school, which caused a domino effect, ultimately providing education, access to healthcare, a resource for food, employment, and an equitable future to build their lives.
To conclude, from the very beginning of Alaffia, the ultimate goal has been to create a model that can be replicated in other underserved communities in West Africa and around the world. Adapting the Beyond Fair Trade model to the rest of the world, even the United States, could bring fair, equitable employment and self-empowerment to various marginalized communities.
How do you motivate yourself and the Alaffia team to continue doing such incredible and important work?
Olowo-n’djo Tchala: What motivates me is the legacy that I want to leave behind with my team. I want to leave behind a legacy for today’s African men to break the cycle of generational poverty, fight for gender equality, fair wages, women’s health care, and keep uplifting the women and children in our community and worldwide.
I hope to be an example for other brands and organizations on how one can put humanity and sustainability first, be successful, and continue to change the lives of our communities.
As an African entrepreneur, I can tell you that leadership is not just telling people what to do; it is leading by example. For me, it is putting people over profit at every turn and every choice that I come up against.