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Drink mogul aims to re-brand Africa as 'world contributors'

January 11, 2012 -- Updated 1612 GMT (0012 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Senegalese entrepreneur Magatte Wade is co-creator of U.S. drink company Adina
  • Her new venture is a high-end skin care line based on traditional Senegalese recipes
  • Negative perceptions create an inferiority complex among many Africans, she says
  • She wants to brand Africans as 'contirbutors to the world,' she adds

New York (CNN) -- After turning a traditional Senegalese drink into a hit American product, Magatte Wade is now trying re-brand Africa itself.

Senegalese entrepreneur Magatte Wade is the creator of multi-million dollar U.S. company Adina World Beat Beverages, which makes drinks based on traditional recipes from around the world.

She came up with the idea in 2004, after she returned home to Senegal and found soda drinks were replacing the country's traditional hibiscus drink, known as bissap.

She arrived back in the United States determined to share healthy traditional recipes with the rest of the world. Adina's products now include organic coffees and exotic fruit drinks and are sold all over the United States.

My vision was that the world is hungry for well-executed African brands.
Magatte Wade

"My biggest pride was to know that it was possible, that the vision I had was possible and my vision was that the world is hungry for well-executed African brands," Wade said.

"We saw it at the investor level and we saw it at the buyer's level and we saw it at the consumer's level. Everyone wanted to be part of that adventure and it was just amazing."

Scramble for 'dot africa' internet domain name

Now Magatte Wade is now building a new company, Tiossano, in New York.

It's a high-end skin care line based on traditional Senegalese recipes, using natural ingredients indigenous to Africa.

"What we are doing now is a concept phase where we make sure a product is right, the packaging is right, the branding is right, the marketing is right," she said.

"We are in the process of making sure that people will buy into it. In our first three weeks of existence we landed a pretty cool account already, so we're getting there."

Her goal is to inspire others, so that in the next 10 years there is an African company among the top 100 global brands.

Wade says that when it comes to marketing an African product it's not just about selling units, it's about selling a different image of Africa to consumers.

She argues that most people see Africa in terms clichés, such as safaris, tribal designs or people needing charity. Her goal is to change the perception that both Africans and non-Africans have of her home continent.

I think a lot of Africans, unfortunately, the overwhelming majority, does still not yet feel comfortable about themselves.
Magatte Wade

"I think a lot of Africans, unfortunately, the overwhelming majority, does still not yet feel comfortable about themselves. There is this complex of inferiority that is pervasive in the culture.

"A lot of it has to do with history ... yes we have Obama in office today but it doesn't change a lot. And I'm not even talking about racism, that's not what I'm talking about. What I am talking about is just groups of people not feeling good enough about themselves; if you don't have the right type of self esteem you go nowhere in this world.

"But self-esteem will also come if enough of us today that are in the age of working, if enough of us can really get together and try and build a different brand for Africa, a brand that all of a sudden means 'contributors to the world,' rather than a subset of a population that's always sucking energy out of others."

Africa can teach the world to innovate

While her products are currently made in the United States, the plan is to move production to Senegal once Tiossano has generated enough profit. Wade says the company plans to donate 10% of profits to a foundation supporting the next generation of Senegalese leaders.

"If I have to share with people my deepest dream, that's the level at which I want to play -- not just do well for myself and even for my employees but I really want to make sure that the next generation is well prepared," she said. "Or at least we have a cluster of people that are going to go and really accomplish things that we can all be proud of."

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