Based in Ethiopia, Oliberte is the world’s first Fair Trade-certified shoe factory, making a variety of shoes for both men and women. From sneakers and boots to sandals and moccasins, Oliberte also makes bags and other accessories. It’s probably not often that you hear of a piece of fashion that is made in Africa. Canadian entrepreneur and the force behind Oliberte, Tal Dehtiar, is trying to change this perception.
In 2009, Oliberte started building trade in sub-Saharan Africa as a footwear company partnering with different factories around sub-Saharan Africa. Three years later, in 2012, it would open its own dedicated factory in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the next year it was announced as the world’s first Fair Trade shoe manufacturer.
The whole premise of the brand is to support the rights of workers. The company prides itself on “empowerment, transparency, and doing right by all.” Oliberte recognized that Africa is usually met with a high amount of negative generalizations.
Believing in “trade not aid”, Oliberte’s website walks the consumer through the benefits of building trade in sub-Saharan Africa over providing aid. With many in the area experiencing poverty, providing a place of work is a huge plus instead of just providing aid.
By providing a workplace, profits made can be placed back into the company and community, creating more job growth. Eventually, more factories can open, providing jobs for more people, and allowing adults to work while children gain an education. While aid can have many positive effects, it is not sustainable and leaves people dependent.
Dehtiar says the company makes sure the employees are paid minimum wage, but also, “that as we grow as a company, they’re committed to improving their conditions, whether it’s through (initiatives such as) health insurance programs … now all the factories provide maternity leave programs to all the women.”
Gaining supplies locally from partners around Africa and creating products in their factory in Ethiopia, the brand is sure that everyone along the way has fair jobs and rights. They even attempt to buy their machinery on the continent whenever possible.
In the end, the products they sell come with a lifetime warranty. Oliberte is a brand that respects consumers, the environment and its employees.
– Shannon Elder