Empowering Communities through Unique Design
More than a decade ago, we learned about the difficulties Africa was facing due to poverty after watching a documentary on the Rwandan genocide. This led us to investigate how others were enabling Africans to break out of the poverty cycle. As our concern for Africa deepened, we knew that we wanted to make a difference. Despite finding many inspiring projects on the continent, we couldn't find the right one for us.
Here's the story of how Africa Bags came to be:
In early 2007, we made the decision to establish our own non-profit organization. Our goal was to create a for-benefit, empowerment project that prioritized People, Planet, and Prosperity – the triple bottom line. On January 28th, 2007, Africa Bags was officially born.
Establishing Africa Bags in Malawi
Here's how our journey began. In May 2007, we embarked on our very first trip to Malawi. Upon arrival, we met with village leaders and decided to implement our project in three nearby villages: Kamweko, Viweme, and Nkhata Bay. We began by providing training on reusable cloth bag production and supplied the villages with foot-powered treadle sewing machines and all other necessary resources. We also trained a few individuals from each village to operate the machines. After our departure, a small group from our Nkhata Bay group branched out and formed the fourth group in Chintheche.
Here are some updates on our sales and production progress:
Our initial sales have come from our grassroots campaign, which involved reaching out to friends and family to spread the word about our project.
As production of our African Bags has increased, we're now pursuing retail avenues for selling them.
We're actively seeking partnerships with retail stores interested in our products. If you have experience in retail sales or know people who do, we'd greatly appreciate any help.
In July 2007, we returned to Malawi to check on production progress. We were pleased to see that the villages had made great strides and exceeded our expectations.
Our recent trip to Malawi was a huge success. During our visit, we were able to encourage the village groups to set up savings accounts and form committees to oversee each village's production. These committees will be responsible for resolving any issues that may arise. We visited all four African Bags-involved villages during our second trip, and was particularly impressed with the progress of Kamweko's community center. The village was in the process of producing over 25,000 bricks for building construction, thanks to the generous donations from Africa Bags supporters. The 1,000 sq. foot building's construction was completed in 2009. A second community center was recently finished in Viweme village, and a third one is almost complete in Chintheche.
From Bags to Home Products: Africa Bags' Online Store
Starting as a bag shop, Africa Bags has expanded its online store to include other unique handcrafted products made in Malawi. You can find an array of items such as wood carvings, paintings, and jewelry. Recently launching a new Home Products Line, Africa Bags now offers organic soap, duvets, and pillows, all made with the same excellent quality you've come to expect.
Africa Bags' Participation in Craft Shows and Fairs
Africa Bags actively participates in various events such as Third World Craft Shows, Alternative Giving Fairs, and Holiday Craft Shows. Our booth features our signature Africa Bags alongside other handcrafted items from Malawi. Please feel free to contact us with any information regarding events in your area that might interest Africa Bags.
Africa Bags: Providing Work and Opportunity for Villages in Malawi and Beyond
As Africa Bags moves forward, our primary objective is to find homes for the thousands of bags created by the talented villagers in Malawi. Our team is eager to increase production and expand into other villages as we find more outlets to sell our products. Since we started in 2007, we have expanded our reach to nine villages in Malawi and have also begun purchasing bags and other products from groups in Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Swaziland. Our sales of 3,000-4,000 bags per year generate over $50,000 in profit, which is returned to Africa. We are proud to say that everyone on our team in America volunteers their time, so that all profits from our bag sales can go directly back into the project.
Expressing Gratitude and Encouragement for Support
We are overwhelmed with gratitude for the outpouring of passion and assistance from a diverse range of supporters, including churches, organizations, friends, family members, and even strangers. As a grassroots organization, we welcome anyone who wants to contribute, so please don't hesitate to contact us if you wish to help.