Swahili believes in the potential for a sustainable network of trade between Africa and the United States. Since every transaction that occurs influences how African producers perceive American business, company operations center on responsible practices that promote growth and cultural affinity.
Swahili believes that hardworking African artisans, producers and export agents hold the key to their own personal success, and that the path to success requires a steady, committed pace. Swahili extends each artisan's channel of trade from local markets to the global marketplace, all the while allowing artisans to work from the comfort of their own homes and communities. Secure in the knowledge that the fair payment they receive will not be reduced by traveling expenses, childcare costs and haggled prices, most artisans in the Swahili network promote their family's future by using earnings to put food on the table and pay educational expenses for their children.
Swahili is a member of the Fair Trade Federation, a group of like-minded companies and organizations that adhere to:
- providing fair payment to workers in developing nations
- educating artisans and workers to increase their potential for advancement
- ensuring the rights of children
- developing products and processes that protect and conserve the natural environment
- promoting fair trade as the standard in commercial exchanges
Swahili is also a Shared Interest fair trade loan facility holder. As the world’s only 100% fair trade lender, the Shared Interest cooperative currently lends over 33 million pounds yearly to both producers in developing nations and the buyers who distribute their goods worldwide. Shared Interest funds, invested completely by members with UK bank accounts, today facilitate fair trade transactions in 36 nations around the world. In 2004 the organization founded the Shared Interest Foundation to provide business training to marginalized producers, furthering the sustainability of cooperative investments. The Shared Interest Society received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2008.
Swahili is a small company whose orders provide many African
artisans with income. Even with a small staff,
Swahili maintains accountability with artisans by visiting
groups in person at least once yearly. These important face-to-face
sessions allow the company to:
- confirm that payments are being received and properly allocated to individual artisans
- discuss problems, implementation of new designs and strategies for future development
- conduct training sessions with export agents, team leaders and artisans to further streamline operations, increase production capacity and reduce errors
- emphasize Swahili's ongoing commitment to each artisan's or group's success
Swahili augments yearly visits in a variety of ways.
- Cooperative arrangements with development organizations like the Peace Corps, Aid to Artisans and the West African Trade Hub allow Swahili to check in with working artisans year-round.
- Digital communication allows Swahili to communicate important information in a timely fashion. All producers and group representatives are required to maintain access to email, fax and phone.
- Online ordering systems viewed and edited by U.S. staff and African producers significantly reduce errors and keep producers educated on the status of payments and shipment deadlines.
- Reporting successes, design ideas and upcoming visits by email and text maintains a positive atmosphere that welcomes producer involvement