Last month, I called TOMS's "One for One" model a great marketing tool, but bad aid. Oliberté, a new footwear company being labeled the anti-TOMS, is proving that what Africa needs is fair jobs—not endless dependence on handouts.
Oliberté is creating buzz for its commitment to fair labor practices and for the quality of its product. Tal Dehtiar, the Canadian founder of Oliberté, had experience in aid work before starting the company. He’s committed to creating jobs in Africa at a time when other manufacturers continue to be discouraged by the negative stereotypes of the region. So far, Oliberté operates in Ethiopia, Kenya and Liberia; there are plans to expand to Camaroon, Congo, Uganda and Zambia.
In a GOOD magazine feature, Dehtiar explains the difference between Oliberté and TOMS—he believes that with TOMS' handouts to Africa, there is no incentive for dependencies to end. "He’s skeptical of the company's one-for-one model because he believes the donations can pressure local shoemakers and vendors, in addition to reinforcing stereotypes about the developing world," writes Tate Wakins in GOOD.
The Oliberté model is fundamentally different than TOMS's. It’s selling pride, not pity.