Founder: Daphne Tsankho Kasambala
Meekono is a B2B e-commerce marketplace and virtual ecosystem builder that streamlines the wholesale sourcing of handcrafted apparel, décor, accessories and textiles for international buyers seeking to diversify their sourcing via a trusted digital platform and equips sellers with the tools to meet their needs.
Meekono is harnessing technology to create jobs and access to global markets for marginalized African artisans by bridging the gaps preventing them from trading in the $750bln handicrafts market.
The global handicrafts market is growing at 9% CAGR, driven by rising consumer demand for unique, sustainable, handcrafted and culturally rich lifestyle products. Growth in social media activity, global travel, pioneering African cultural and popular icons (The ‘Wakanda Effect’) and more ethical and inclusive consumer demands have all led to this rising demand.
Independent retailers, who are the biggest distribution channel for handcrafted goods, are increasingly reliant on virtual marketplaces and global trade shows to discover and source new and unique products that meet this demand.
Despite 49% of handcrafted goods exports originating from developing countries, Africa has less than 2% share of the market.
The African Development Bank estimates that, with the right support, the creative sector has the potential to be the second largest employer in Africa after Agriculture, generating $15.5bln in revenue for women, youth and the most vulnerable and excluded populations.
However most African sellers can’t afford the costs, nor do they qualify to access virtual marketplaces and international trade shows. Effectively, they’re invisible to global buyers because they lack the prerequisite Skills, Networks and Financing.
Prior to Meekono, Daphne Kasambala launched Sapelle, a pioneering London-based fashion retailer of contemporary African fashion brands in 2012. After 7 years of moderate success, trial and error, engaging over 100 suppliers in 15 African countries, Daphne wound down Sapelle to focus on mapping and solving the systemic problems preventing global retailers like Sapelle from successfully sourcing from Africa.
Meekono emerged in 2021 with a dual mission: i) to address the pain points buyers face when sourcing from Africa: quality assurance, availability of viable products, cost of importing; and ii) to upskill and support African sellers seeking global buyers and consolidate the fragmented landscape in order to achieve economies of scale savings on costs like shipping.
Meekono is building an ecosystem of viable quality sellers: since officially launching in March 2023, we have already engaged 500 and onboarded 150 viable sellers, delivered free virtual one-to-one support and mentoring, masterclasses and toolkits to address identified skills gaps.
We are engaging on their behalf with key strategic players in the financial and logistics sectors, including partnering with Africa’s biggest courier company, with more initiatives in place to advocate and negotiate on their behalf for better terms.
We are developing innovative techniques to engage marginalised artisanal communities to equip them to access Meekono’s digital platform, and gain soft business and product development skills.
We have started to gain some green shoots of engagement among buyers, including receiving an order from Barclays Bank for corporate gifts to mark Windrush Day.