African fashion is rising right now. Over the past few months it has revelled in media interest withthe likes of Beyoncé, Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Iman, and Kylie Jenner placing a global spotlighton African designers after sporting their clothing.

Companies are now fulfilling increasing orders from the African diaspora, particularly in Europe and America, while sales of African prints are also popular among non-African consumers. This has led to the creation of many successful African-based e-fashion platforms.

“We export African culture no matter where you are,” said Moulaye Tabouré, Co-founder and CEO of Afrikrea, an online marketplace for African clothing.

In 2014, two old friends of Malian descent, Abddoul Kadry Diallo and Moulaye Taboure,constructed Afrikrea, an e-commerce platform inspired by Etsy, dedicated to African fashion, artand handicraft. Afrikrea was designed to fulfil two growing needs; the increasing urge to buyAfrican inspired products worldwide and secondly, the opportunity to expose and sell Africandesigns.
The startup, which was one of the 10 from across the continent that competed in last year’s editionof Jack Ma’s Netpreneur Prize, has a partnership with DHL that enables sellers from any Africancountry to ship worldwide for lower prices.The company boasts a minimalist and user-friendly website which a reported 5000 designers use.The platform hosts over 4,000 shops and 60,000 designs and allows its users to sell to more than100 countries.Their biggest market is the US, followed by France and the rest of the EU.
Afrikrea brings together different designers, whether they be of African-heritage or not, to opentheir own online storefront for free and sell their creations directly to an audience that loves andappreciates native African culture.

“Over 1/3 of our designers (so at least 300 of them) make at least partially their products in Africa, and 100 among them are based there. Which accounts for at least 2,000 to 5,000 products,” explained Moulaye Taboure.

These designers build an online “shop” with the digital tools provided by the website. They then setthe prices and communicate directly with customers. The customer is able to stagger theirpayments and Afrikrea then deducts a commission of 10-15% per sale. When the order is placed,DHL will come to pick up the clothing directly from the designers door.

“Our target is to get the infrastructure growing, so we get at least 50% of our sellers from Africa,”said Tabouré. “The idea is to get people in Africa to say, ‘Maybe this is the best place to set up my business.’ But the biggest issue is to be able to organise, and sustain the growth.”

Unexpectedly, the recent Covid-19 induced effects, positively impacting e-commerce players inAfrica. There was a shift in demand due to lockdown restrictions which left physical retail outletsclosed as governments attempt to stop the spread of the pandemic. Reduced vehicular trafficmeant deliveries can happen much faster in cities known for notorious traffic jams. This also led toan increase in designers from African cities with tougher movement restrictions to sign up to theplatform. Despite the platform predominantly serving clients in Europe and the US, it was reportedthat orders from customers on the continent tripled on the platform over the past two months.

Post lockdown, Taboure stated that Afrikrea i already tweaking its model to make it cheaper fordesigners based in Africa to sign up so as to cater for an expected growth in orders from acrossthe continent.

By Natalie Reppas