Basket Love

I have always loved baskets. A passion that has been passed on from my mother and most certainly passed on from generations far back. My baskets in my home make nifty storage solutions in my home, while my grandmother and my great-grandmother would have used them for fishing, harvesting maize from the fields and storage of food untill next years harvest.

Elle Decoration South Africa article , “The art of weaving” brings life to basketmaking, almost like a song. I can almost feel the tropical winds blowing and hear that gentle rustle of the elephant grass that I am so familiar with.

In tune with the cycle of agriculture, basketmaking follows a seasonal rhythm. There is a time for gathering grass or rushes and a time for weaving them into baskets, sieves and granaries used for harvesting.

Grasses and reads used for basketmaking ( source Elle decoration South Africa)

basket weaving techniques

First row left – right: Combination of random and coil weave, twist weave, beginning of random weave. Second row left – right: Loop stitch woven into a Dilly bag, loop stitch woven, random weave. ( source Elle decoration)

Photographs above Niel Vosloo – Production Laureen Rossouw and Hendrik Coetzee

African baskets

African baskets from Yawama of Sweden

Improved trade within Africa

This week we finally received som fabric that was ordered from South Africa and delivered to the Chikumbuso Womens Group in Ngombe Lusaka who are to work on new cushion designs for Yawama of Sweden. The payment was made for the material in October 2014. An application was then made for SADC certification which would allow the material to be imported into Zambia duty-free. A period of close to 5 months where money has been tied into stock and planned production deadlines moved forward. Similar hurdles have been met when importing yarn into Zambia from Kenya where duties have suddenly been slapped onto goods from Kenya, even though both Kenya and Zambia are part of the free trade COMESA region.

African trade has to be made simpler, more cost-effective and efficient for continued economic growth and to be competitive for world export markets as summed up in this world bank documentary.

Stylish Batik Cushion Covers

Just before Christmas in anticipation of 2015 Yawama of Sweden launches a small batik range of monochrome black and white cushion covers for the modernist or the earthy interior decorater. Would you like to add an ethical twist to your Scandinavian look? These batik cushion covers should do the trick. These cushions are not just African inspired but they are handmade in collaboration with Yawama of Sweden by women in Swaziland at Baobab.

batik cushion cover

Baobab is a small enterprise employing 25 women in Swaziland. All the women and predominantly single mothers. Baobab provides the women with tools to adapt to the growing responsibility and the shift in women’s roles in communities. Baobab is a member of SWIFT (Swaziland Fair Trade), an organization that supports the development of the handicraft industry in the country.

Svart vit prydnadskudde

Batik cushion  leaves

These cushion covers have been created by skilled artisans through a tedious process. Hot melted wax is artistically applied in specific design to a white fabric. The fabric is then submerged into a dye bath, the wax acting as a resistant on the fabric allowing the uncovered fabric to be dyed. The fabric is then left to dry in the sun. This process is repeated layer upon layer. The wax is then removed by boiling the fabric and a unique fabric with a crackled effect is created. The dyed fabric is then cut and sewn into uniques pieces such as our batik covers.

Monochrome interior

black and white cushion cover

An inclusive business Model

Not for profit or not?

I moved back to Sweden 3 years ago after having worked in Zambia for 11 years. I wanted to continue to develop small-scale producers in Southern Africa as I had previously done  working both in the private sector and with NGOs in the not for profit sector. I also felt a need to run something based on my knowledge and skills and not run a project that had already  pre-defined methods and goals as is often the case in the development sector. I did not want to pursue a philanthropic venture as I have often seen these programmes start-up to collapse when funding or personal are not in place. My goal was to create a business that could survive without me. A business that could make a difference by creating jobs and increasing incomes.  A business that was not tied to a particular place. A business that would be economically viable and attract investment.  A business with an “inclusive business model”

An inclusive business as defined by Wikipedia is a commercially viable model that benefits low-income communities by including them in a company’s value chain on the demand side as clients and consumers, and/or on the supply side as producers, entrepreneurs or employees in a sustainable way. Inclusive business is not corporate philanthropy or corporate social responsibility, which have inherent limitations of scope, impact and budget. Rather, it is the search for sustainable business models that “do well by doing good” and are part of the companies’ core business activities – the key to business having development impact at scale.

Inclusive business model. Source WBSCD

Inclusive business model. Source WBSCD

Yawama of Sweden is a for profit business that aims to do well by doing good, although profit maximization is NOT our ultimate goal.  The current focus is to meet current expenses which include developing products and the producers, training and testing expenses and meeting Yawama administrative costs. I do get questioned about my business model some people feeling that I would be better off running my business as a charity.  Swedes are happy givers towards philanthropical initiatives and businesses can make beneficial tax reductions on goodwill.  Not for profit organisations are a large part of the business community. My personal opinion is that building fundraising into your business concept can be costly and time-consuming and requires a large network and may not be the most cost-effective tool for a smaller business and might not provide incentives for creative and practical solutions for businesses to run.

Examples of businesses in Sweden importing from Africa and their business models

Individuella Männsikohjälpen (IM) in Sweden have existed for many years running as a not for profit organisation  successfully importing crafts from developing countries but also working with development and aid. They have a large network of producers, employees and volunteers.  IM products include fair trade coffee, teas and home interior and textiles.

Sackeus is a good example of a business that started out as a not for profit being run by the Swedish Church, and today run as a large wholesaler of fairtrade coffee, tea and confectionary.

Both the above examples are predominantly importing from South America and Asia and are established larger organisations.

North and South Fair trade and The house of Fair Trade are large  wholesalers of imported goods from many developing countries. They stock food and beverage and a range of interior accessories.  The house of fair trade also stocks children articles.

African touch, Just Africa and Afroart , are physical  boutiques based in Stockholm all supporting small-scale producers in Africa ( although afroart works primarily with producers in South America and Asia. Afroart started out as a not for profit today operates as a for profit business with design playing a large part in the productions process. I intend to discuss design processes later.

All the above just like Yawama of Sweden promote fair or ethical trade and market their products as products that improve livelihoods by job creation or increased incomes or “trade not aid or “help to self-help”.  I will discuss definitions and certifications in upcoming chapters because this is a science on its own.  All the above companies have  Webb based sales (apart from African touch) as a compliment to their wholesale or retail activity.




A guide to starting your import business from Africa

I have been so touched the last month by the numerous numbers of encouraging mails complementing our efforts in working with the Yawama of Sweden brand but also asking for advice on how I have gone about creating a business that includes Africans small-scale producers. Many of us have travelled to Africa, worked in Africa , been moved by Africa, been inspired by african colour, african design, african handicraft  not to mention its beautiful people.  We all understand that needs at the so-called base of the pyramid ( the 3-4 million people living on less than USD 2,50 – 8,00 per day….numbers differ depending on where the definition comes from)  are too numerous to mention. What do we all have in common? We want to do good business. We want to make change.  Many have ideas of starting up similar ventures or have already started. Some have started and closed shop. I would like to share my experiences. Not because I love competition but because I feel that together we can grow. Hopefully you can save time and money  by avoiding some of the mistakes that I have made. Hopefully this space will help your business to grow and therefore help others.  Something I have learned here in Sweden is that sharing ideas and experiences brings growth and I am grateful for the many opportunities where I have gained information because someone chose to share it.

I sincerely hope that we can use this as a platform to discuss and exchange ideas about import strategies, product development, design, freight costs, payments and more. Where possible I will refer to brands and businesses that have been an inspiration.

I do not feel that I have all the answers but I truly believe that Africa is in a position to offer products for the interior and children industry for Europe and in so doing also create market opportunities locally in Africa. The internet is providing new ways that we can work with producers in the South. A number of different freight options are available.  We are a number of young dynamic African offspring with a die-hard passion to bring change and economic development to the African continent and whether you are Zambian or Nigerian the word “Africa” says home.

The areas that I will be highlighting in  the guide to starting your import business from Africa will include

  1. Your Business Model
  2. Your Market
  3. Your Value Chain
  4. Your suppliers
  5. Your Distribution
  6. Your Marketing Mix

Please take note that I will write from my experiences from both Africa and Europe working with design for good. What might work for me might not necessarily work for your circumstances.


  • Products: Interior decor and textiles. Plush toys for kids
  • Producers: Southern Africa , primarily Zambia
  • Market: Sweden
  • Marketing Tool: On Line Store
Yawama of Sweden

Yawama of Sweden


Swecare sub-saharan Africa day II

Northwestern Province

Motorcykel NorthWestern Province Zambia.
Source: Rose Marie Westling

Norwestern Province Zambia

Mountain bike Northwestern Province Zambia Source : Rose-marie Westling

“All eyes on Africa.”

Nu är Afrika mer aktuell än någonsin för FDI ( foreign Direct investment). Länderna som Zambia, Uganda, Nigeria, Etiopien anses vara Länder där företag borde finnas.  Swecare sub-saharan Africa day hade sitt andra seminarium, där man igår visade affärsmöjligheter för Svenska företag med fokus på hälsosektorn i Zambia och Uganda.  Nya sätt att samarbeta förespråkas såsom Private Public Partnerships.  Nya användnings områden för mobilteknologi inom hälsosektorn, svensk tillverkad utrustning för behandling av tumörer och management contracts var några av många affärer som är aktuella idag.

Har själv jobbat inom hälsosektorn i Zambia och förstår vilka stora brister som finns inom sektorn.  Här skrev jag en kort artikel om child health i Africa.  Att staten har en tydlig fokus på förbättring med nya investeringar är mycket positivt.

Men varför är Afrika så hett just nu?

Erika Bjeström journalist och författare till boken Det Nya Afrika tar fram sju punkter.

1. Demokrati

2. Infrastruktur till följd av investeringar från Kina

3. IT & Mobil revolution

4. Skuldlättnad

5. Högre BRICS. Ökad pris på råvaror

6. Direkt investering högre än bistånd

7. En växande medelklass

Jag kände mig super stolt att se Zambia lyftas på ett piedestal igår och ser verkligen fram  emot att se svenska företagare som viktiga aktörer i Zambia.

Africa is a great country

I samarbete med fotografen Jens Assur visar SIDA en fotoutställning om 40 fotografier i storformat från tretton storstäder i Afrika på Liljevalchs konsthall. Bilderna visar en alternativ bild av Afrika, präglad av stark ekonomisk tillväxt och där utvecklingen går framåt i hög fart. På utställningen möter besökaren människor vars liv inte skiljer sig från våra liv, som delar samma urbana verklighet och ställs inför samma utmaningar. Ett Afrika i förändring. Utställningen visas 13 april – 2 juni, 2013 och kommer sedan att turnera i Sverige.

Mera bilder finns på SIDAs webbsida här.

Dar es SalaamFoto: Jens Assur

Dar es SalaamFoto: Jens Assur (source SIDA)

BBCs exploring Africa Series


Baby elephant dying on BBCs new Africa series

Baby elephant dying on BBCs new Africa series. Source Simon Blakeney.The sun


David Attenborough’s new Africa series watched by over 6 1/2 million vieweres on its first episode, travels through the vast and diverse continent of Africa, from the soaring Atlas Mountains to the Cape of Good Hope, the brooding jungles of the Congo to the raging Atlantic Ocean.

The series, filmed over four years, explores the whole continent, uncovering bizarre new creatures and extraordinary behaviours. Here series producer James Honeyborne, producer Simon Blakeney and director Felicity Egerton talk about the experience of making Africa.

This weeks episode showing a slow painful death of a baby elephant was critisized by viewers who felt that BBC crew could have prevented the death. The full story was covered by the sun.

Ett ansikte bakom ditt julbord



Underlägg från Gone Rural på Julbordet

Underlägg från Gone Rural på Julbordet

Underlägg från Gone Rural i Swaziland på Julbordet. (bilden från Sveriges Radio )

Hållbar Jul utställningen blev uppskattad och uppmärksammades i media. En liten utmaning till alla julkonsumenter….



Här nedan en av tillverkarna från Gone Rural.

Ndzandza Magagula - Gone Rural Woman of the Week.

Ndzandza Magagula – Gone Rural Woman of the Week.

Ndzandza Magagula – Gone Rural Woman of the Week. (bilden från Gone Rural)

“Jag är en gammal kvinna, men fortfarande jobbar med Gone Rural och jag började många år tillbaka när jag var mycket starkare, med att tillverka bordstabletter och mattor. Detta arbete har hjälpt mig mycket som änka med 4 föräldralösa barn som är mina barnbarn. Vad jag älskar mest är att min dotter följde mina steg och hon har också anslutits till Gone Rrual “.

The Slow Movement

I have a daughter who turned 11 this year.  It took her 2 months of living in Sweden to realise that she didn’t have the ” correct wardrobe” to fit in. Her non branded, not so tight PEP store jeans shifted further and further back in her wardrobe. She recently told my husband and I, that not having an I phone made her feel like an outsider.  IS THIS EUROPE TODAY?

When we lived in Zambia I felt we were able to protect our children from “commercialism”.  But urban Africa is changing.  A recent study carried out in urban settings in Africa by  McKinsey South Africa shows that Private consumption in Africa is higher than in India or Russia; it rose by $568 billion from 2000 to 2010.6 From 2012 to 2020, consumer-facing industries are expected to grow a further $410 billion.

In Sweden I am involved with a network of businesses who recently held an exhibition called “Hållbar Jul (sustainable christmas) promoting sustainable consumerism with a focus on ethical, ecological and recycled brands.  The need to address overconsumption in the west is critical. Currently, the developed nations of the world consume at a rate of 32, while the rest of the developing worlds’ 5.5 billion people consume at a rate closer to 1.

The Slow Movement which advocates a cultural shift toward slowing down life’s pace, came about in protest to fast foods in the 1980s. Slow food encourages the enjoyment of regional produce, traditional foods, which are often grown organically. The philosophy has extended its boundaries to include Slow fashion which promotes “quality over quantity”.A unified representation of all the “sustainable”, “eco”, “green”, and “ethical” fashion movements. Slow living is the choice to live consciously with the goal of enhancing personal, community and environmental well-being.

Professor Guttorm Fløistad summarizes the philosophy, stating:

The only thing for certain is that everything changes. The rate of change increases. If you want to hang on you better speed up. That is the message of today. It could however be useful to remind everyone that our basic needs never change. The need to be seen and appreciated! It is the need to belong. The need for nearness and care, and for a little love! This is given only through slowness in human relations. In order to master changes, we have to recover slowness, reflection and togetherness. There we will find real renewal.