eBatuta – The Adventures of a Moroccan Traveler

Faiza Hajji is a global citizen providing a global solution to a global problem through her startup eBatuta (www.ebatuta.com). eBatuta connects artisans with the world market by reducing financial and logistic trade barriers, so that these artisans can sell their goods directly to tourists and foreign importers. This means that individual artisans and small groups can connect with buyers in markets they normally would not be able to reach.

We had a nice chat with Faiza at a coffee shop in Los Condes, Santiago. After speaking with her for a short time, it became apparent that she wasn’t your average social entrepreneur.

Faiza has been to 36 countries, speaks 7 languages (4 of them fluently), has founded and worked in multiple organizations ranging from finance to non-profit to engineering, has been featured in a CNN documentary about one of these organizations, won multiple awards, has a masters degree in engineering, and is using her superhero powers to change the world through social enterprise. Wow!

So where did Faiza get the idea for eButata? Well, it turns out that this new business was born through the pains and struggles of another organization, IFASSEN, that she started 5 years prior in Berkane, Morocco.

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IFASSEN, an ethical fashion brand and project of ADF (Association du Docteur Fatiha – an NGO registered in France and Morocco), was formed to provide a market-based solution to the problem of waste-bag litter in a poor neighborhood of Berkane. Stylish hand bags are purchased by IFASSEN from a cooperative formed for the purpose of transforming these plastic waste bags into useful products. The cooperative uses the artisan skills of more than 60 poor, rural Moroccan women.

The bags are then sold to the tourist market. The profit gained from the sale of these bags supports a literacy program for the women, while also earning the artisans a basic wage. Illiteracy is as high as 87% among adult women in the area where the bags are made.

The work that IFASSEN is doing is greatly benefiting the community it serves. But through her international travels, Faiza has also realized that artisans in other parts of the world are struggling to understand how to get their products in the hands of international buyers. This is how the idea behind eBatuta was born. eBatuta allows artisans to reach international audiences through two distinct channels.

First, tourists use the site to find local artisans in the country which they are traveling. This direct contact gives tourists peace of mind in knowing that their souvenir is authentic, while keeping middle-man costs at a minimum.

Second, enterprising social entrepreneurs can sign up to be ‘Ambassadors’ and import artisan products for sale in their local markets. eBatuta then acts as a gateway to facilitate the relationship between buyer and artisan.

The goal of eBatuta is to keep more of the money from the sale of artisan products in the hands of the artisans. A United Nations special report on tourism details how tourism spending can greatly reduce poverty in a region, with part of that spending coming from the sale of artisan products. Unfortunately, cheap mass-manufactured replicas of hand-made artisan goods are flooding many traditional tourist areas around the world. This is diverting the traditional revenue streams which prop-up local economies. Artisans are being cut-out of the picture, while tourist dollars are disappearing from local economies and ending up in the pockets of wealthy shop owners, import companies, and warehouse industrialists in other regions of the world.

So how can you help eBatuta in its mission and find awesome, locally made artisan products wherever you are traveling? Check out their website ebatuta.com. And if you are interested in being an Ambassador and importing some products to sell in your local market, you can join their network by signing up on the homepage.

Interesting Bonus Fact: So, what about the eBatuta namesake? The company is named after Ibn Battuta. Battuta was an Moroccan traveler and explorer in the mid 14th century. His accounts and adventures are still told in Morocco today. He is considered one of histories greatest travelers, having covered a geographical distance three times that of the well-known traveler Marco Polo. Faiza thought the name was fitting; we agree.

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