Ivorian startup Afrikrea builds online infrastructure for African cultural commerce • Techpoint Africa

Having grown up in Mali, Moulaye Taboure was passionate about art and fashion. His studies took him to France, where he noticed that people there were particularly interested in buying art and fashion representing African culture.

It wasn’t just in France; it was in many parts of Europe.

In 2010, while Taboure was working at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as a senior IT auditor and later in 2013 as the head of internal audit at Alstrom, Mali started having problems with tourism; the country was closed to tourists.

In turn, artisans and designers began to struggle, turning to other jobs outside of crafts for survival.

Taboure says this got him thinking about how best to help these African designers sell their products.

In the meantime, another group of designers started to gain international recognition from names like Burberry and IKEA fabrics due to their Western aesthetic branding with African fabrics.

These two separate events and the study of the success of models like US-based ecommerce platform Etsy led Taboure to enlist the help of his longtime friend, Kadry Diallo in 2014.

Spurred on by their disgust that the average artisan isn’t getting enough paid or recognized for their work, they started a side project called Afrikrea to make these businesses sustainable.

But the idea has undergone an iteration as other consumer studies have shown they need to break the niche and include everyone who makes African-inspired art, fashion or beauty.

This time, however, they would help African designers sell their products outside the continent.

“People could make DIY products in the United States and sell them for billions of dollars on Etsy. It made no sense that we couldn’t do something similar for African designers recognized around the world, ”Taboure told Techpoint Africa.

Moulaye Taboure (Co-founder and CEO, Afrikrea)

According to Statista, Africa’s e-commerce opportunity is estimated at around $ 19.8 billion. McKinsey & Company, on the other hand, says that by 2025, the local manufacturing industry will reach over $ 900 billion.

While this shows promising signs for African online retailers to continue a global push for the fashion industry in Africa, problems have emerged to stifle collective progress.

On the one hand, cross-border shipping and handling and marketing are hurdles for African fashion designers who are actively reaching global demand.

Likewise, there are challenges with accepting online payments from platforms like Shopify. As with other ecommerce platforms, Shopify encourages African online retailers but does not build its platform to meet their specific needs such as payments.

Afrikrea: Tailored to the needs of African designers and global buyers

These were the problems that Kadry and Tabouré sought to resolve with Africa.

Leaving their jobs to work on the project full time, Afrikrea officially launched in 2016 when Luc B. Perussault Diallo joined them to become co-founder and CTO.

Based in Abidjan, the capital of Côte d’Ivoire, Afrikrea’s mission is to enable African designers to create showcases, receive payments from customers around the world and reduce shipping costs for delivery.

Taboure tells us that Afrikrea can offer lower shipping costs through its partnership with DHL. He further claims that shipping up to 2kg from Nigeria to the UK, for example, costs less than $ 20 (₦ 10,000).

In recent years, DHL has been actively involved in the growing African e-commerce space. It launched DHL Africa eShop, an e-commerce platform present in 34 African countries, in 2019, and a year later signed an agreement with Link Commerce that saw the logistics giant acquire a minority stake in the company from UK based turnkey e-commerce.

[L-R]: Kabry Diallo (Co-founder and COO, Afrikrea), Luc B. Perussault Diallo (Co-founder and CTO, Afrikrea), and Moulaye Taboure (Co-founder and CEO, Afrikrea). Source: Supplied

Designers on the platform are not required to pay to sell up front. However, after a first sale, they start paying $ 10 / month.

There is the question of whether these designers will earn as much as they pay for using the platform. But Taboure responds to that, saying the price is perfect for those who need the service.

“It’s quite simple. We cost the same as a Spotify subscription and half the price of a Shopify subscription. Anyone looking to export and do their business online will find our pricing not only affordable but very comprehensive.

Taboure says Afrikrea charges between 5% and 8% commission on subsequent sales made through the platform.

And to establish trust between the buyer and the seller, Afrikrea has a portfolio function. This means that when a buyer pays for a product, the seller does not receive the money until the buyer receives it and rates the product based on their level of satisfaction. Moulaye claims that Afrikrea guarantees a full refund to dissatisfied buyers as soon as possible.

“I think that’s a big influence for someone who buys around the world without seeing the seller or the product. Our value offering is to create the infrastructure so that people can trust that when they sell, they will get paid; trust to know that when they buy, they will receive what they bought.

Taboure also adds that by integrating several payment solutions into its portfolio infrastructure, Afrikrea can pay designers in the 50 countries where Afrikrea is currently present.

In total, Afrikrea’s global African culture e-commerce infrastructure spans 150 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom and most parts of Europe.

Pursue African and Global Growth

Afrikrea’s marketplace also enables efficient exchanges between buyers and sellers before, during and after an order via its messaging system, which Taboure says records more than 30,000 messages per month.

Having made huge strides, the startup started to gain recognition when it was one of the ten finalists in the Jack Ma Foundation Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative 2019.

Although he lost the top three prizes of $ 250,000, $ 150,000 and $ 100,000 which went to LifeBank, Nawah-Scientific and Water Access Rwanda respectively, the $ 65,000 Afrikrea won was a huge validation of its platform.

A new monetary validation would take place in February 2020 when the Ivory Coast-based startup raised $ 1 million. The Africa-focused venture capital fund, Saviu.vc, led the round. Id4 Companies, an angel fund based in Europe and Private showroom, the second largest fashion and beauty e-commerce platform in France, also took part.

Despite the investment, Moulaye is quick to add that so far Afrikrea has also worked on income. Over the past 18 months, that’s just over $ 2 million.

The objective is to achieve profitability in 2021 while doubling its turnover and supporting most of its costs.

Traction is another area where the startup is doing well as well. When we announced its fundraiser ten months ago, Afrikrea had achieved $ 5 million in sales in over 6,000 stores in 101 countries.

Today, the figures stand at $ 7 million in transactions with 7,000 sellers in 150 countries. Taboure adds that 40% of buyers are in Europe, while 30% shop in the United States.

A case for innovation and the recognition of minorities

Taboure recalls that at the beginning of Afrikrea, the team realized that their first group of African designers did not trust each other.

According to him, most of them didn’t believe that being with other designers would help them grow individually.

“They were afraid of competition and, until now, did not realize the effectiveness of the community, in terms of cross-selling, since two-thirds of purchases made on our platform are made from several sellers. times.

Additionally, some of the services that individual designers benefit from exist only because they are all on the platform. For example, the DHL deal was only possible because Afrikrea promised to aggregate the volume en masse.

Expressing his point of view on the success of the partnership, Moulaye says that during a recent meeting with DHL, the logistics company told him that Afrikrea was living up to its expectations and surpassing its competitors in volume.

“They told us we were the only company to go from 150 shipments per month last year to almost 10,000 this month in a year,” he says enthusiastically.

The Afrikrea team. Source: Supplied

With a successful partnership and a thriving business in place for further growth, the CEO sees Afrikrea dealing with products outside of African fashion.

“We want to be the number one export partner for anyone who wants to transact between Africa and the world,” he said. However, Taboure doesn’t want to forget why Afrikrea started in the first place.

“We want to make sure that Africans can realize how valuable their cultures, talents and businesses can be. And this is important for all those who have the will to sell properly, ”he adds.

This includes women who represent 90% of the salespeople on the platform. This is a large number to remember because women are generally underestimated in terms of talent and what they are capable of doing with it.

Likewise, French-speaking Africa is considered a minority in the African technological space. Often considered the second best in English-speaking Africa, the region has fewer technological innovations and startups.

“Looking at the well of startups in Africa, I feel like we are almost looked down upon and ignored by just about everyone in Africa,” he laughs. “I have the impression that there are only Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa in Africa. And it’s a little insulting when you see that you are capable of creating big companies like the others, ”he said on this subject.

Despite the consensus, Taboure believes that the French-speaking African technological space and startups should not be ignored. His point of view is simple: French-speaking African countries can innovate and deliver on a global scale, like any other country in Africa.


Featured Image: The Afrikrea team. Source: Supplied.

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