There is a saying, that ‘if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together’, and dream chasers will never get tired of looking for possible ways that will help them acquire whatever is on their radar.
This is what you would say in summary if you will get a chance to meet for a cup of coffee with this young and self-motivated Tanzanian lady, Abir Ibrahim, who is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), of Inua Naturals, an initiative that works to empower marginalized women while at the same time solving the issue of malnutrition.
Founded in Muheza District, Tanga Region in 2015 with three women, today, just four years later, it has managed to bring into the game a total of 154 women farmers from Kisarawe, Muheza, Mtwara, and Zanzibar, with a brand that now sells in US and France market.
Ms Abir, who holds a Masters of Public Health from the University of New England in the United States, says shegot the idea of starting her company after witnessing a neighbor dying of HIV.
“That was something that affected me, and it was basically caused by the extreme poverty, especially among women farmers,” she narrates.
So Abir started thinking of ways that can actually bring a solution and deepen the impact, and that’s how she came out with an idea that will help women generate their income and get out of poverty.
“When it comes to effects of HIV/Aids, women are the most vulnerable group, especially in rural areas, and the biggest problem is that they are the ones who drop out of school,” she says.
Inua initiative works closely with small-scale farmers and artisans every day to build their businesses, improve production capacity, sustainably increase income, and provide community-driven solutions to improve healthcare services and education.
“And what we are doing now is to work with these farmers and make high quality skin lotion and soap from Tanzania, brand them and sell to the global market. We want Africa to be on the global map, we don’t want people to be sorry for Africa,” she said.
The initiative assists underserved communities by linking handcraft talent from emerging markets with the global consumer.
For her, African women have potential, and the only thing they need is training and being provided with reliable resources.
“From this point, people will see the positive results, I believe local African women can perform wonders and make products that can be of the same quality as European and American brands,” she says enthusiastically.
According to her, the Inua brand creates a new industry and economies for women, who do not otherwise have access to the global consumer, where women are rising above poverty, raising healthier families, stimulating their local economies and inspiring the world around them.
The Inua natural brand was among the products that featured during the first China- Africa Trade expo that took place In Changsha city, Hunan province at the end of June.
“We were invited by the leadership of Changsha city Hunan Province, they are building a 60bn$ new development e-commerce aiming at bringing at least 500 African companies,” she noted.
Why marketing their products in China? “It’s because we believe African products can also be available in China. It’s about health care, no chemicals, and our customers are encouraged to embrace natural beauty,” she responded to a question posed to her.
The CEO also thanks the government through the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender Elderly and Children together with international organizations such as the United Nations (UN), and USAID for supporting the initiative through various training programs to women.
“The biggest support so far that we have enjoyed is trainings on multiple areas, such as nutrition and sexual reproductive health care for girls at schools, and also the United Nations has been able to help us in producing this kind of trainings,” she says.
However, she extended a call for more financial support from the government and other stakeholders because the initiative is looking forward to training 500 women in food processing.
She says that there is no doubt that Tanzanian products are among the best that are needed the most in China.
Hundreds of Chinese and other nationals from participating countries visited the Inua Naturals pavilion, where apart from buying the products, commended the quality.
The pavilion was also visited by senior government officials, including the Minister of foreign Affairs and East African Community, Prof Palamagamba Kabudi and the Tanzanian Ambassador to China, Mbelwa Kairuki, who both assured them of government support.
“All the feedback we get is positive, and some of our clients have shown interest of working with us and visit Tanzania,” says Ms Abri.
She was optimistic that the firm is capable of and will definitely show the world that African and Tanzanian women are big competitors, not just hopeless people living and waiting for aid to come their way.