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Mali Promotes West African Shea Industry

WASHINGTON, DC: The West Africa International Business Linkages Program (WAIBL) brought together 160 U.S. and West African participants in Bamako, Mali to discuss US-Africa business agreements in the shea butter industry. The West Africa based conference followed a similar event held in Washington, D.C. in January 2003 that attracted nearly 70 U.S. companies. Both served to educate participants on the shea industry as well as create an environment for U.S. buyers and West African sellers of shea to meet. WAIBL is a program of the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA).

The conference featured industry experts who spoke on commodities as exports, quality control and standardization, possible means to improve the industry through regional collaboration, marketing, labeling and packaging tips for the U.S. market, and challenges and opportunities for shea in the U.S. Vicki Huddleston, U.S. Ambassador to Mali, and Ousmane Thiam, Minister for the Promotion of Private Investment for the Republic of Mali, gave the welcome address. Included in the 160 conference participants were shea producers, distributors and exporters from Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger, Senegal, Guinea, Benin and Togo. Four U.S. companies also attended.

Following the conference, WAIBL arranged site visits to two Malian villages. 30 of the conference participants attended, taking the opportunity to see shea butter produced in the traditional manner by the women in the villages.

As shea butter quickly gains wider recognition in the U.S., the WAIBL conference served to bring more attention to the industry and the potential for collaborations between U.S. companies interested in developing shea butter market opportunities with West African shea producers and exporters. WAIBL Program Manager Sasha Resnick identified its achievements: "Overall, the conference was a great success, bringing all the important regional players in the shea industry together. Presentations were informative, giving the producers insight into market opportunities for their products in the U.S. as well as the importance of working together on a regional level to improve and develop the industry to be more competitive. Furthermore, the networking session gave shea producers and U.S. buyers the opportunity to discuss real business transactions and potential investment projects such as shea butter refineries and quality control labs."

WAIBL, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development-West African Regional Program (USAID-WARP), links U.S. and West African companies in order to generate trade and investment opportunities between the U.S. and the region. Sector specific conferences are held to facilitate linkages and create business deals. To date, the program has recorded almost $40 million in business transactions and has been involved in 86 transactions.

CCA, established in 1992, is a nonpartisan 501 (c) (3) membership organization of over 150 American corporations dedicated to strengthening the commercial relationship between the United States and Africa. CCA members represent nearly 85 percent of total U.S. private sector investments in Africa. CCA's website is at <>