Alicia Wallace was a volunteer in Rwanda when Africa became a part of the rest of her life. The reason why is two-fold, the poverty and heartache she witnessed made her want to stay and do more to help, and she was deeply moved by what she called Rwanda’s “life beat”. She shared that there’s something joyous about the people. They appreciate life and their spirits seemed lighter. After leaving when her assignment came to an end, she wanted to go back. So in 2010 when Greg Stone, All Across Africa’s CEO asked her to be his partner, she said YES.
All Across Africa (AAA) is a Benefit Corporation that creates market-driven employment opportunity for women artisans living in rural Africa. A Benefit Corporation is essentially a new class of corporation that works to create a positive impact on society and the environment while working for a healthy bottom line. One requirement of a Benefit Corporation is publishing a social impact report and if you’ll review AAA’s Impact Report you’ll see for yourself the good they’re doing.
AAA creates a sustainable livelihood for rural African women by selling the artisan’s beautiful handmade baskets, jewelry, bags, home décor, and accessories. They’ve been featured in just about every major magazine and their future prospects are on the rise. AAA began in 2004 as a nonprofit, but after seeing how the income generating skills did so much to improve the artisan’s self-esteem and quality of life, they decided to go for-profit. Going Benefit Corporation meant AAA could model a sustainable and scalable business without having to rely solely on fundraising and donations, which translated to more work for the artisans.
AAA is Fair Trade certified, and is currently working in remote villages in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Kenya with 45 cooperatives, which include a total of 3,200 artisans (95% of which are women). This social business is doing well and Alicia attributes their success to luck and hard work. Hard work got them to the right market where luckily Costco noticed their product line and invited AAA to sell in their stores! And it’s just been announced that AAA will be working with ProFlowers providing baskets for Mother’s Day bouquets. AAA has created an exclusive line of vases handmade by women artisans in Rwanda.
When asked how their ever increasing sales orders have impacted the artisans, Alicia explained that the women are apparently eating better because their faces no longer appear drawn and yellow. Their skin looks healthy. They’re even gaining weight which the artisans are quite pleased about because being called fat in Rwanda is considered a compliment. Some of the artisans now own cows which is a form of savings, and some have wells. Alicia is even hearing about electricity making its way into homes. (Images from: All Across Africa Website)
Their product line really is stunning, particularly their baskets. Each basket carries a special meaning. The Unity basket symbolizes the three ethnic groups that divided Rwanda in 1994, groups that are now working together. Check out these beautiful pieces, shop AAA! We think you’ll love them.
“Fair trade isn’t a movement. It’s a call to action for each and every one of us to live responsible lifestyles, ensuring we’re caring for those down the line whom many of our everyday choices affect.” – ALICIA WALLACE, COO