A Chadian entrepreneur who believes in female empowerment

Although Chad, a poor landlocked country in the Sahel region of Africa, has been primarily reliant on its oil and extractive industries, one N’djamena-based entrepreneur believes that enabling women and promoting Chadian goods would be beneficial not only for the people, but to promote a healthier country as well.

Chad is a country with lot of natural products but we export all the raw materials and we import all our processed goods. We don’t have factories, we don’t process anything here, says Awatif Baroud, a female entrepreneur at her home in Mardjane Daffac neighbourhood in the country’s capital.

Her vision to build up her small business focuses on creating Chadian products made with raw materials sourced in Chad not an easy feat for a woman in a very conservative country.

Chad is rich in livestock, but we export most of the animal skins, so I decided to create my company to produce bags, says the 50-year-old owner of Soum Soum, which means sesame in Chadian Arabic, a bag company based in N’Djamena.

We have a tannery in our country, so I buy the skins from there, and have a team of artisans that work with me they have a knowledge in handicrafts, she says. Her products include hand-made briefcases, all types of women’s handbags, wallets, belts, and desk sets. Some of her designs also incorporate colorful pagnes , or printed cloth, that make up motifs on the bag and lining.

According to a report from the 2016 UN Economic Commission for Africa, manufacturing contributed 2.4 per cent of Chad’s GDP in 2016. The country is mainly reliant on oil exportation.

Stylish leather goods are just part of Baroud’s business plans. She has begun to manufacture skin and hair care products based on Chadian traditions.

I started making skin and hair care products for women from shea butter, honey, beeswax and sesame oil. I only import the packaging, says Baroud.

She would like to see more products manufactured and sold within Chad including food.

Lack of support for women

Finding funding to open a business is part of the struggle, she says. Chad is a very poor country, and we don’t have financial institutions to empower women in their businesses, she adds.

Berud had a job, and saved 100 US dollars to start her first business.

Source: Modern Ghana