Freda Obeng-Ampofo, Chef-Mixer bei Kaeme. Shea-Butter und Black Soap sind die Stars bei Kaeme aus Ghana.

You need pride! came

Shea butter and black soap are the stars at Kaeme. In its soaps, creams and lotions, the cosmetics brand from Ghana reinterprets what women in West Africa have always used to care for their skin and hair. Freda Obeng-Ampofo, a political scientist and economist, is the founder - and as she calls herself "chief mixer" - of Kaeme. In an interview with 'Manuyoo', Freda tells how she came up with the idea for Kaeme, why women are better entrepreneurs and where Kaeme products will soon be on the shelves.

What is the story behind Kaeme, why did you start the brand?

Freda: I grew up with four older brothers like the fifth boy. Cosmetics were not important to me, for my face and body I only used shea butter and black soap, a homemade natural soap with ash from banana peels or palm leaves. Even during my studies and my first jobs in Europe and the USA, I made my own care products.

However, in a different recipe. The old products didn't spread well and didn't smell good, so I mixed the ingredients more intensively and added natural fragrance oils. A few years ago I made a bespoke cosmetic set for a friend as a wedding gift for her. Other female wedding guests wanted it too, I started producing more and suddenly I realized that my products had business potential.

What were the challenges for you on the way to your own company?

Freda: Ghana doesn't have a startup culture. The government wants to promote founders, but there is neither state funding nor any advice. It takes a long time to get certificates for products, the processes are not transparent, most of it is only possible through relationships. Finding good employees was not easy either.

How is it that in Ghana and other African countries it is often women who set up startups? Is entrepreneurship in Africa female?

Freda: Entrepreneurship is a risky business. The men here want a secure job with a regular income. Women are used to taking risks. And it's okay for us to make mistakes. We make them, learn from them, move on.

Why are there no global brands "Made in Africa"?

Freda: There are several reasons for that. On the one hand, it is historically the case that international corporations see Africa as a supplier of raw materials. It was no different with shea butter from West Africa, big cosmetic brands have been making a lot of money with it for a long time. But it's also up to us. Our education systems don't teach critical thinking, so there's a lack of creativity. When someone makes shea butter, the next one doesn't come up with a bigger idea, they just do the same thing. In addition, for a long time people were not proud of their identity, their origins, their traditions. But you need this pride to develop a strong brand.

That seems to be changing. At least in the cosmetics industry. Kaeme is not the only African manufacturer of high-quality, modern shea butter products. What sets Kaeme apart from the competition?

Freda: We are firmly anchored on site. Our products are 100 percent 'Made in Ghana', my team manufactures everything themselves, all the raw materials come from a women's cooperative in the north of the country.

What is your vision for Kaeme?

Freda: There is no telling what long-term consequences the Covid19 crisis will have for us. But something inside me tells me that the crisis makes us even stronger.

We love telling the KAEME story because we believe it reflects the true Ghanaian spirit of ingenuity, courage and perseverance.

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