Member since March 2013
Despite Ghana’s strong economic and political performance relative to the other West African countries, progress towards gender equality, primarily, women and children, in the country is still weak. This lack of progress is particularly evident in the north of Ghana, consisting of the Upper West, Upper East and Northern regions, which has the highest poverty rates in the country – 87.8%, 70.4% and 52.3% among these three regions, respectively. Women in northern Ghana suffer from geographic dispersion, unequal household responsibilities, limited economic opportunities, vulnerability to livelihood risks such as illness or natural disaster, lack of access to education and potable water. Among the most common income-generating activities of women in Northern Ghana is shea nut picking and processing which engages an estimated 600,000 women. The shea tree is indigenous to West Africa and grows widely in the savannah, with Ghana being one of the top exporters of shea. However, despite their importance in the value chain, shea collectors often receive the lowest return in the value chain due to the multiple intermediaries that add little value along the chain, but significantly increase the final costs. In 2009, based on the results of a detailed feasibility study, PlaNet Finance and SAP developed an optimized shea value chain initiative in Northern Ghana to address identified weaknesses and to facilitate the women’s increased role in the value chain. The project, funded by SAP from 2009 through 2011, and co-funded by the European Union from 2011 – 2013, showed promising results in 2010 after it had successfully organized 1,500 women into self-help groups and managed to increase their incomes by 59-82%, by providing direct market access, along with safety and quality training. The self-help groups were organized and registered into a local association, called the Star Shea Network (SSN). Now, after the start of the third project year’s harvest season, this network boasts more than 5,000 active women members with the field operations team preparing for further sales transaction with international buyers. The social business, StarShea Ltd is there to take over the access to market for this network and increase it to 15 000 to reach sustainability.
Mission Statement: In order to ensure the continuation, scaling up and replication of the project, PlaNet Finance and SAP, have designed a potential solution to promote its transformation into an information and technology and communication (ICT) powered Social Business Venture. A social business is a midpoint between an NGO and a traditional business. It shares the same purpose as an NGO, i.e. maximization of social and environmental benefits, but is self-sustaining as a traditional profit-driven business. The term “social business” refers to “a non-loss, non-dividend business with a purely social purpose,” as defined by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Prof. Muhammad Yunus.
Organizational Goals: The mission of this new business is to empower rural Ghanaian women engaged in informal shea processing and to provide them with access to the formal economy. To accomplish this mission, StarShea, Ltd (working title) will be established, with the following objectives:
• Reinforce and expand the nascent Star Shea Network (SSN), a national association of shea producers established as part of the Shea Project to achieve economies of scale • Facilitate the production of premium quality shea nuts and butter through the SSN by providing the necessary quality control and training
• Develop sustainable market outlets and a Market strategy to sustain the business and thus the livelihoods of SSN members
• Diversify and help stabilize the women’s’ source of revenue by including shea nuts and shea butter to their income stream.
The revenue of StarShea Ltd. is generated from the transaction fees collected from the women to whom StarShea provides its services. This service includes the collection and aggregation of nuts, as well as all the logistics required in the supply chain to sell the product to the global buyer. Since the business model is that of a social business, the fee will be determined in a way that ensures the women to have a minimum 20% increase in their profit from the benchmark.