Baobab Express, an enterprise launched in 2014 to create a safe, low-cost, and dependable method of transportation for the inhabitants of Benin, has become the first company in West Africa to receive the prestigious B Corporation certification!
Baobab Express is an affiliate of African Drive and was established to create positive economic and social impact in countries with poor global infrastructure and few formal economic activities.
African Drive is a spin-off from the Benin Summer School, an initiative Materialise created to offer mentorship to young entrepreneurs, university scholarships, and support for initiatives that stimulate the local economy and social progress. Baobab Express was the first venture from African Drive, and since its founding in 2013 it’s been a rapid success.
The goal of African Drive and Baobab Express is to use business and entrepreneurship as a force for good, and attainment of B Corp status marks a company as a leader in building a more inclusive and sustainable economy that works for everyone.
B Corp status shows that a company is committed to purpose and the impact of their decisions, not just profit. Certification places a legal requirement on companies to consider their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment in their decision-making.
Baobab Express now being recognized with this impressive achievement reinforces that entrepreneurship and business with purpose can be an opportunity for growth and prosperity no matter where in the world you might be.
Being a B Corp
With such a strong start and a focus on connecting communities where services are scarce over simple profitability, Baobab Express already had the fundamental elements to make attaining B Corp status a reality.
As African Drive CEO Chris Van Assche explains, “After steadily integrating the system in the region of Borgou and northern Benin, our transportation company has managed to create value for the local population. It has created jobs, stimulated the local economy, and allowed the local population to go about their business in timely, safe, reliable circumstances. Baobab Express also donates 5% of their income to local charitable initiatives or societies.”
B Corp certification was created to provide third-party validation, public transparency, and legal accountability for corporations with respect to their social responsibility. More and more, customers are demanding that the company behind a product takes a strong stance on issues such as labor practices, environmental sustainability, and community engagement. B Corp certification assesses the overall positive impact of a company with the goal of providing a mechanism for customers to easily assess which companies align with their values.
The Baobab Express has created jobs, stimulated the local economy, and allowed the local population to go about their business in timely, safe, reliable circumstances.
- Chris Van Assche, African Drive CEO
By applying for B Corp certification, Baobab Express showed they were serious and committed to building trust and value in their community. Now that they have been awarded this certification, their mission is protected through legal changes to their governance plan, creating a solid foundation for their long-term growth.
Sustainability as social responsibility
“B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy,” Materialise CEO Fried Vancraen confirms. “The B Corp community works toward reduced inequality, lower levels of poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of more high-quality jobs with dignity and purpose.”
Materialise’s mission to make the world a better and healthier place has been a defining factor of our company since the beginning, and having our initiatives reach B Corp status affirms that we continue to push boundaries and are succeeding along this path.
As Fried eloquently sums up, “This is a testament that we at Materialise can have a positive impact globally. At the same time, the management and employees of Baobab Express are an inspiration and example for us at Materialise .”
With this achievement deservingly earned, Baobab Express is now focusing on the future. Using a capital increase from African Drive, they are looking to strengthen their existing network by reinforcing their strongest lines and expanding their reach to regions experiencing more difficult circumstances.
Materialise is very proud to be working with and learning from such inspiring entrepreneurs in Benin – congratulations to the entire African Drive and Baobab Express teams!
At Materialise, we know that sustainability both within and around our global organization is a necessary component to achieving the world we envision, which is why a key part of our Corporate Social Responsibility program involves supporting NGOs, non-profits, and grassroots initiatives around the world, focusing on projects that involve the use of technology.