Africa Empowerment Industry and Commerce Tanzania Woman

Zanzibar beauty products from seaweeds: a community-based approach

Seaweed is an amazing story to tell, because it speaks about women, empowerment, respect for the environment and about an ethical way of doing business with the community and for the community.

Initially founded by a Swedish Foundation, Seaweed is currently run by a multicultural couple, with African rootsand produces natural and organic beauty products from the transformation of algae.

The sale of naturally growing seaweeds in Zanzibar begun during the thirties of the last century, but it’s only between the eighties and the nineties that a proper farming for trade started. Its main market is in Asia, with China, Vietnam, Malesia, Korea and Japan as main Countries of destination. Usually seaweeds are sold as raw material and then transformed into semi-finished or finished products directly by the importer and thus used in the cosmetics and food production. However, as in many other sectors, selling raw materials with no adding value is not so profitable for the local farmers, who can rely on a very low contractual power, compared to the huge foreigner importers.

So, Seaweed Co.Ltd has definitively added value to the zanzibarian local communities, by nurturing the hard work of more than twenty people (permanently part of the organization) plus a variable number of other collaborators according to the seasonality.

Intrigued and fascinated by this initiative, I have tried to analyze some of the winning strategies implemented by Seaweed Co. Ltd

  • Its peculiar organizational structure: setting itself as a social enterprise, Seaweed has the peculiarity of managing internally all the phases of the business: from farming to finished product. This means they cultivate the raw material, transform it and then produce and sell the finished products, mainly soaps, oils, scrubs, body lotions and many others. Because of its “social core”, Seaweed promote and contribute to build a number of social and environmental initiatives.
  • The excellent quality of its products, one hundred per cent natural, organic and entirely produced with locally available materials, which includes the algae of course, but also bee wax, sugar and many zanzibarian spices, just to list few.
  • A high quality packaging, which has the undeniable capacity to present the products at their best.
  • Its market positioning as a “social enterprise”, aiming at attracting a clearly identified market niche.
  • A marketing strategy coherent and in harmony with its market positioning: Seaweed Co. Ltd., for example, also offers learning tours, to understand the farming and the production cycle of the seaweeds, to learn how the products are made and to meet the producers. And this is surely a winning strategy to properly communicate with customers who wants to buy and consume ethically-made products.

If you are lucky enough to pass by Zanzibar, I warmly suggest you not to miss this spot.

Lorenza Marzo is a Tanzania based freelance consultant, Founder Wana-WAKE-UP! You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram

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