That creativity and determination abounds in the hearts of Africans is not in doubt; that a double portion abounds in the bosom of the fairer sex is also indisputable. How else does one explain the amazing fact that this woman turned a local drink made from hibiscus leaves, (called ‘zobo’ in Nigeria and ‘bissap’ in Senegal) into an international beverage which is reputed to be the most widely distributed U.S. consumer brand founded by an African entrepreneur with a revenue of over 3 million U.S dollars.
Born in Senegal, 38-year old Magatte moved to Europe when she was 8 years old. She attended the Lycee Marceau high School in France, went on to business school and eventually relocated to the United States where she climbed the never-ending career ladder in the Silicon Valley of San-Francisco. During a visit to her native country of Senegal, Magatte discovered with alarm that the native drink and heritage of her people was being drowned in the sea of sodas. The frightening reality also meant that the women who used to rely on hibiscus for their livelihood would be obligated to source for other means of sustenance.
“A lot of them end up on the street and their kids end up begging as well, and – at the same time – the land back home is bought up for nothing by speculators, and then all of a sudden these people find themselves with nothing,” she explained in a 2011 interview with BBC Africa. “I created a company whose mission was to reintroduce these beverages and, in the process, put back to work all of those women who used to grow the hibiscus.“
Adina World Beat Beverages was therefore birthed in 2004 in her home kitchen and was originally based on indigenous Senegalese beverage recipes using organic ingredients. Greg Steltenpohl and Dominique Leveuf came on board as co-founders and the trio bootstrapped heavily, but eventually raised investments from venture capitalists. Headquartered in San-Francisco, the company’s products – which include “herbal elixirs” like blackberry hibiscus with rooibus, and organic exotic gourmet coffees and tea launched in late 2007, Fortified Juice Drinks launched in 2006 and an all-natural cold-brewed coffee energy drink – are now sold across the US by major retailers like Whole Foods Market and Wegmans. There are also trial roll-outs at Safeway and the Pepsi distribution chain.
Adina is partnered with several organizations that share their goals, including Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products (ASNAPP), which works to reduce poverty in Africa; Association Education Santé (AES), which works to help hibiscus farmers in the global market; the ECO-AGRI Research Foundation, a non-profit organization centered in India seeking to improve the lives of rural farmers; as well as other co-ops and financers in third-world countries.[ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adina_World_Beat_Beverages]
Magatte who is not afraid to get her hands dirty was named amongst the “20 Youngest Power Women in Africa” by Forbes Magazine in 2011, a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum at Davos for 2011, and a TED Global Africa Fellow. She was nominated in Women: Inspiration and Enterprise’s (WIE) inaugural Power Influencer list, the “60 Women Shaping Africa’s Future” and is a mentor for the MIT Legatum Center for Entrepreneurship and Development. She is a speaker at international conferences on entrepreneurship and innovation and writes for The Huffington Post, Barron’s, and other publications. Magatte has been featured on BBC, CNN, FoxBusiness and The New York Times, amongst others.
A serial entrepreneur, Magatte went on to found another company, after stepping down as the CEO of Adina World Beat Beverages because the organization was not as focused on Africa as she wanted it to be. The new company, Tiossan is a contemporary lifestyle products brand that offers skin care products based on indigenous Senegalese recipes and sophisticated French fragrances, which retails at online and at high-end boutiques. 50% of the profits from these are devoted to creating innovative schools in Senegal that will result in real benefits for humanity. In her words, “Tiossan is committed to creating the first high-end African skin care company. Our recipes are based on indigenous Senegalese recipes. Our branding is designed to evoke a “contemporary Africa” styling that is clearly differentiated from most existing African brands, which are typically based on safari, tribal, or “pity” approaches to Africa.”
Her drive? Magatte is firmly driven by a sense of social responsibility and the expediency of creating jobs in Senegal. “Every year thousands of our most ambitious and talented young people die as they try to cross the Atlantic in small fishing boats in an attempt to get to Europe” she stated in an interview with thenextwomen.com. “There are entire villages in which all of the young men are gone, most lost at sea. It breaks my heart more than you can imagine.”
And so, Magatte who went through the tragedy of widowhood soon after she founded her first company joins the ranks of awesome African women who are making a huge world of difference to their communities, countries and Africa as a whole. And something tells me she only just got started!!!