Client Story


  • Location: Tyne & Wear
  • Sector: Employment, Education and Training
  • Amount: £20k
  • Purpose: Working Capital
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When 50-year-old Afi Dometi was 29 she came to the UK as an asylum seeker from Togo, West Africa. “I was involved in political activity, so my life was in danger,” Afi said. “Togo is a military regime – one of the most corrupt countries in Africa.”

A graduate with a qualification in accounting, she had worked as an accountant. In the UK, as a French speaker, she learnt English for a year, working as a hotel housekeeper and kitchen porter, before studying business at Northumbria University. For the next seven years she worked in finance for the North of England Refugee Service, but was made redundant in 2014.

Afi went on to be a Support Worker for people with learning disabilities, which gave her flexibility to set up Africawad. The CIC was founded in 2015 in Wallsend, which is within the top 6% of most deprived areas in the country.

“In the Refugee Service I met a lot of women who didn’t have English as a first language like me, and struggled to find a job in the UK. That’s the reason why I created Africawad – to help my fellow women.”

Language isn’t the only barrier. There is a Catch-22. Without a UK job reference, the women can’t secure work.

“Most of the women are isolated, at home looking after children. Some are single mothers, but they are able to work, to socialise. So, we ask them to come in and volunteer with us.”

A ‘cash for clothes’ enterprise, volunteers collect and sort recycled clothing for sale and export, saving 300,000 kilos of unwanted garments from landfill each year.

Clothes are sold via eBay, wholesalers, and shop owners in the UK; 80% of products are exported to Togo and distributed to a network of companies across West Africa.

The women are supported to learn English and develop skills, confidence, and experience.

“From there, we can give them a reference so they can start a job somewhere else,” Afi said.

They support more than 20 women each year in the UK; at least 90% go on to education or employment.

Africawad also supports African women who have created their own micro businesses in the secondhand clothes sector, helping break the cycle of poverty.

Africawad has two full-time staff, and in 2022 their turnover was £229k, but shipping and custom fees to Africa have doubled in the last year. Key Fund gave a loan of £15,400 and a £4,600 grant for working capital to expand their operations, as well as purchase a van to pick up stock.

“Key Fund’s support is very important. We have been in business for more than five years. We don’t have a cash flow problem anymore.”

Afi is positive about the future. Her ambition is to double the turnover, secure more suppliers, and employ more staff. With a charity-arm in Africa, proceeds from clothing sales paid for the tuition of 80 school girls in the last year in Togo; a figure Afi hopes to double next year.

“Girls normally think I will get married and the husband will look after me. We want to change their thinking. We encourage them not to get pregnant and to continue their studies.”

Afi said: “In Africa, women are like second-class citizens. Most of the time, men make the decisions. If we are educated, we can help make decisions and we will change things. If women have an education, their children will have an education too; it will help the continent, it will stop war, it will stop emigration, it will stop dictatorship.”
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