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April 14, 2017

Ambassador visit puts spotlight on Alaffia, shows power of private enterprise

By: Brian Mittge   Comments: 0
Olowo-n’djo Tchala, co-founder of Alaffia, welcomed U.S. Ambassador to Togo David Gilmour to the Alaffia headquarters in Tumwater for a tour on April 12, 2017. (Photo: Brian Mittge/AWB)
The remarkable story of Alaffia, a international family business based in Tumwater, attracted attention from the state Senate and the U.S. ambassador to Togo this week.

Alaffia, which is featured this year in AWB's Grow Here employer image campaign, hosted U.S. Ambassador to Togo David Gilmour, U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, as well as several lawmakers and business leaders from around the region for a tour and roundtable discussion on Wednesday.

Gilmour's trip was part of the preparation for the 38-nation AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act) summit being held this summer in Togo. 

The ambassador also used the opportunity discuss ways to increase trade between the U.S. and West Africa. He and members of the Alaffia leadership team attended the state Senate on Thursday and were recognized after a unanimous vote in favor of Senate Resolution 8645, encouraging trade between Washington state and Togo. (AWB broadast live video from the floor speeches on Facebook here.)

Alaffia employs 120 people in Tumwater and more than 600 in Togo, in addition to thousands of farmers and producers of the raw products used in the company's skin care products.

"There's no words for the honor to have the ambassador come this far to visit, and a special thanks to AWB for the ad -- but I don't see it as an ad. I see it as a voice to encourage others," said Alaffia co-founder Olowo-n’djo Tchala, about AWB's 30-second commercial featuring the company and a longer video telling its story.

Madame Ladi, center, and Madame Ines of the Alaffia Empowerment Council talk with Judith Martin, wife of U.S. Ambassador to Togo David Gilmour, and Washington state women business leaders during a luncheon hosted by AWB on April 12, 2017. (Photo: Bobbi Cussins/AWB)
Part of the visit included a women’s leadership luncheon that AWB hosted. The luncheon, which included a discussion led by AWB Chair Wendy Sancewich, brought together women leaders from across Washington’s employer community as well as the Alaffia Empowerment Council, which consists of four women leaders from Togo. 

During the tour at Alaffia, Heck, D-Wash., said the work the company is doing to create jobs in both the United States and Togo is an example of how the private sector is solving problems and providing opportunity.

"Jobs, jobs, jobs. Here, and in Togo. There’s nothing more central to our well-being than having a place to get up in the morning and go to, to provide for oneself and one’s family," Heck said (video) during a short speech at Alaffia's headquarters. "[Alaffia's founders and employees] prove definitely and on an ongoing basis and in an ever-better way, that the pursuit of a healthy, growing, profitable business is not only NOT inconsistent with pursuing social good, but in fact is a perfect marriage of it."

The Olympian and KING 5 covered the ambassador’s visit. AWB has a photo gallery from the two-day visit here.

Olowo-n’djo Tchala, co-founder of Alaffia, leads a tour of his Tumwater factory on April 12, 2017. Tchala and his wife, Prairie Rose Hyde (second from left), founded their natural products company as a way to use shea nuts and other products of Tchala's home country of Togo. (Photo: Brian Mittge/AWB)