Business-Savvy In Botswana: From Plants To Profits

Lillian Roberts
Published 1 month ago
Screenshot 2023-01-02 at 16.40.53

A persistent acne problem led Botswana’s Didintle Moreki to look for indigenous solutions in her backyard, and grow her skincare range into a successful business.

Didintle Moreki’s entrepreneurial story literally took root in her past.

In Botswana’s vast semi-arid shrub, grass and tree landscape, Mowana, Morula and Moringa grow naturally in the wild. The image of her grandmother and mother tending to them – as they knew the plants’ true benefits – and using them for the family is well-etched in her mind.

This is the imagery Moreki has carried forward as the founder of Organic Naturals Skincare, a Botswana-based beauty brand she launched in 2019 using ingredients indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa.

The ingredients are widely available but not many know their health benefits, and that is what 26-year-old Moreki wants to spread as ubiquitously as the plants.

There is also a key staple in her products – the will to work with local businesses to sustain families. The company works with women-led cooperatives who farm and supply or simply collect the plants from the wild.

“I found out about the potency of Morula, and then the potency of Moringa; it is in every single household in Botswana, and I never understood why. It’s [called] the tree of life for a reason. Its properties are your vitamin C and vitamin A,” says Moreki to FORBES AFRICA.

Mowana, high in omega-3 fatty acids with anti-inflammatory properties, is considered a treatment for acne. Marula, often used as a moisturizer, is high on vitamin C that can reduce hyperpigmentation caused by acne.

Once picked, the plants are processed into oils – and they are all chemical-free. The supply chain creates economic opportunities in local economies such as Maun, Botswana’s fifth-largest town.

According to Moreki’s website, three out of five women in Maun are breadwinners for their families, so her work is imperative.

“I was always an early bloomer,” smiles Moreki, who started school at the age of three and entered university to study accounting at the age of 16.

Recalling her early years, Moreki speaks of how she struggled with acne, and used western medicine to little avail and often adverse physical reactions.

“Nobody knows you, but everyone feels the right to talk about your situation,” she explains, remembering the one time someone suggested toothpaste and lemon juice as remedy for a breakout.

While everyone had an unsolicited comment about something she had little control over, Moreki’s confidence dropped. Then, her grandmother introduced her to the virtues of the local plants while she was on a break from university. And her skin improved.

From 2015, the idea was born; a face care range using locally-sourced and easily-available plants, which could in turn, help financially empower families.

“I was intrigued by why Moringa was in every single home, especially in my village, Kanye. When we were young, if you had back pain, or period pains, we would drink these leaves in tea.”

Kanye is a town in the southeast region of Botswana, 83 kilometers from the capital Gaborone, near the border with South Africa.

Marula grows in the south and north of Botswana. At the beginning of the year, it blooms in the south.

Organic Naturals Skincare works with a cooperative, BLG, comprising 1,800 women and men who go out and pick the Morula. They get paid for every bag.

“Before, we would just go out and gather Moringa in the wild. But instead, we have decided that unlike Marula…Moringa can actually be farmed,” says Moreki.

Organic Naturals Skincare faced a number of challenges.

“The first was finding a distribution partner, showing the legitimacy of what we’re doing, gathering the funds for testing, and most importantly ensuring the sustainability of our products on the shelves. So, going into retail was not easy… it required us to build a strong distribution.”

She adds that building the team was also a challenge.

Found in 17 stores across Botswana, Organic Naturals Skincare boasts 12 products including bar soaps, facial toners, clay masks, a facial serum, body butter, body oil and hand sanitizers.

The brand launched another product in October, a Niacinamide serum, which is a form of Vitamin B3 that helps protect cells from pollution and sunlight.

2022 has been significant as Moreki expanded to three more countries – South Africa, Zambia, and Lesotho. It has widened the scope of her work.

“Expansion means a lot of things for us, particularly in the sense that it gives us more local opportunities in terms of employment, and it also gives us the opportunity to accelerate or catalyse support in regards to our suppliers, and lastly, it means more of a footprint, it means vocalizing the power of indigenous plants on the skin and how they help people.”

Moreki is set to expand to other markets disseminating the fact that it’s time the rest of the world understood the benefits of indigenous knowledge systems.