A new documentary from CNN Marketplace Africa charts the journey of Ghanaian shea butter, from harvesting by members of a women’s cooperative to arriving on a beauty counter of a London store – via an appearance at this year’s Natural & Organic Products Europe event.
The short film, hosted by CNN’s Eleni Giokos, explains that Ghana is West Africa’s largest exporter of unrefined shea butter, with exports currently valued at USD66 million.
Traditionally, shea butter – the fat extracted from the fruit of the shea tree – has been processed by women, while have famed maize. The processing, much of which is done by hand, is laborious and slow. In recent years local women have formed cooperatives to coordinate production and sales of their product more efficiently. They have gained the support of the Ghana Export Promotion Authority which is providing finance for new mechanical processing and warehousing facilities.
Around 90% of shea butter production is used in food and cooking (it widely used in Africa as a cooking oil). But recently beauty product applications has grown and created major new export opportunities. The CNN documentary reveals that the Body Shop earlier this year launched a new shea butter-based beauty rang, with an accompanying promotion telling the story of the company’s ethics sourcing of its shea butter from women’s cooperatives in northern Ghana.
The CNN documentary finishes with scenes filmed at this year’s Natural & Organic Products Europe, Europe’s biggest trade showcase for natural and organic beauty products. Akua Asiedua Asare, founder of London-based natural cosmetics brand Shimirose tells CNN Marketplace Africa’s Milly Chan that her business uses “only 100% natural shea butter”, sourced from one of the women’s cooperatives. In the film, Chan also talks to NPG editor-in-chief Jim Manson about the wider natural beauty market and the opportunities for further export growth of high quality African botanicals. Afua Asabea Asare, CEO of the Ghana Export Promotion Authority, says that Ghana wants to double its shea butter exports by 2023, showing the scale of the country’s ambition.
All images, CNN Marketplace Africa