The modern chocolate industry has long exploited impoverished farmers throughout Western Africa, while making billions for the executives in charge of the largest chocolate companies in the world. But an Ohio University and Leipzig University graduate student now has the opportunity to work with a company who is striving to change the current status quo.
Luisa Bornberg is currently completing her binational double degree master's program, earning a Global Mass Communication M.A from Leipzig University and a Journalism M.S. from OU. This summer, she will be an intern at fairafric, a German chocolate company she has long admired.
Fairafric was founded in 2016, and manufactures the first organic, West African-produced chocolate sold in Europe. The company states that it places special emphasis on encouraging local West African economies, creating more jobs within the booming cocoa industry, and fighting the consequences of a billion-dollar industry that still leaves many cocoa farmers in poverty. Since the company’s founding, it has made even more changes, such as making its cocoa farmers co-owners in the company, offering fair pay and working conditions, going carbon neutral in their production, and planting of thousands of trees.
Bornberg first learned about fairafric when she was watching her favorite TV channel a few years ago, and a documentary on ethically produced chocolate came on. After seeing fairafric featured in this documentary, Bornberg sent the company an email saying she admired their work, and the company stayed on her mind for years after the fact.
“Even then, I knew that was where I saw myself as a young professional,” Bornberg said. “(I want to work somewhere) where my labor is worth something, my time is well spent, and I (can) do something that gives me a good feeling at the end of the day.”
Her passion for the company grew even more after Bornberg travelled to Ghana in 2019 for four weeks, along with a Ghanan family she had befriended in Leipzig. After seeing the many cultures in the country, she became even more interested to learn how the fairafric CEO, Hendrik Reimers, had not only found business partners in another country, but also made his business work among cultural clashes.
“I just love that fairafric are pioneers in what they do,” Bornberg said. “Most of the big players in the chocolate industry would laugh at this idea, but they made it work.”
After completing her Bachelor’s in Communication and Media Science at the Leipzig University, Bornberg got in touch with the company again, detailing her academic experience and her previous professional experience with public relations, marketing, and sales operations, and asked if the company needed an intern.
“We had a phone call, and 30 minutes later I had a job,” Bornberg said. “So, it’s sort of a love story. I always knew they amazed me and I wanted to be part of it.”
Bornberg hopes that she will be taken on as a working student at fairafric after her internship ends in June, and afterwards, she anticipates possibly becoming a permanent employee. Most of all, she is proud that her past experience in both journalism and public relations, as well as her previous travel and life experiences, are now allowing her to work for the company she has long admired
“I felt when I signed the contract for this internship, finally the past four years made sense in terms of personal, travel, and professional decisions,” Bornberg said. “Everything just fit.”