The press has been awash with stories from the African continent in the last few years – and not the usual fair concerning famine, war and privations. Rather, many countries in Africa are taking what they have, technologically, and innovating, in exciting world-beating ways. We’ve highlighted the mobile phone revolution – changing the way banking and community medicine is distributed and handled – in these pages before, and so it follows that interesting entrepreneurs are also in the press as of late.
One such example of an innovative, fresh initiative was profiled on the BBC website. And it makes for inspiring reading. The story of an Ethiopian shoemaker using recycled materials and those from her immediate environment, illuminate how much successful businesses rely on good ideas and what those ideas cost – nothing. The shoe company in question, SoleRebels, was started by Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, in 2004 and has already gained accolades like the Young Global Leader award in 2011 and is turning over $2m this year, with a projection of $20m in 2016. What makes this young woman’s shoes exciting in a market that isn’t exactly barren? – An original idea, using responsible sources and expressing a community’s identity in a unique way.
SoleRebels are also a fair trade company and pay their workers “up to four times Ethiopia’s average wage” – proving once again that in this day and age, conscionable products are more than just trendy, they have become something that consumers demand and will be the foundation of successful businesses for the future. It’s exciting and encouraging that a 32-year-old woman from such an impoverished country can now say she is now running one of Ethiopia’s “most thriving businesses” and according to the World Fair Trade Organization, “SoleRebels is the planet’s first fair trade green footwear company.” This is great news for a courageous, enterprising woman and her innovative idea. Well done.