"When I ran MBAs Without Borders, we worked in over 25 countries," Tal Dehtiar says. "Mostly in Africa, including Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, South Africa, and Ethiopia. I saw the amazing potential of these countries and the continent that it was on. I saw people that wanted and were willing to work. I saw people that hate to be looked at as poor. It's embarrassing. I saw smart, capable people that want to move forward and to see them in positive light. It's seeing this and then constantly seeing the other side of people talking about how poor it is and how much help it needs that bothered me. And I wanted to do something about it."
Dehtiar stayed true to his words as he launched Oliberté Limited (pronounced Oh-lee-bir-teh, a play on the words "liberty" and the Canadian national anthem "Oh Canada") this year, the first international footwear company to make premium casual shoes exclusively in Africa.
Headquartered in Canada, where Dehtiar resides, Oliberté has a designer in contract and a team of two in Ethiopia lead by team member Feraw Kebede. During production two more staff members are added as quality inspectors. Dehtiar explains that Oliberté purposely kept with a simple yet sleek construction for the shoes since the simple design codes make it easier for the company to work in a challenging environment.
Oliberté was founded on creating fair paying and long-term sustainable jobs within Africa and to showcase the true potential of the continent that Dehtiar has seen from his five years running MBAs Without Borders.
"I wanted to build something that I could understand or soon easily understand," Dehtiar answers. "I wanted something that people can wear everyday as an expression of themselves. Most people change shirts daily, but most wear their favorite shoes regularly. It's an expression of themselves and we thought why not a better way to show pride and power of Africa then the shoes you wear."
Oliberté goes beyond than what is on paper -- a shoe company in Africa. It is about empowering the continent and the people who make up its under one billion population. Dehtiar expresses that the more shoes the company sells and get on people's feet, the more "we are saying Africa has arrived" with the hope of changing the poverty-stricken image that the media portrays and that many people only know of the continent.
And it is because of this that the people of Africa, Oliberté employees, the company's partners, and farmers in Ethiopia, Liberia, Kenya, and other African countries all have become inspirations for the Oliberté footwear and movement.