A guide to starting your import business from Africa

I have been so touched the last month by the numerous numbers of encouraging mails complementing our efforts in working with the Yawama of Sweden brand but also asking for advice on how I have gone about creating a business that includes Africans small-scale producers. Many of us have travelled to Africa, worked in Africa , been moved by Africa, been inspired by african colour, african design, african handicraft  not to mention its beautiful people.  We all understand that needs at the so-called base of the pyramid ( the 3-4 million people living on less than USD 2,50 – 8,00 per day….numbers differ depending on where the definition comes from)  are too numerous to mention. What do we all have in common? We want to do good business. We want to make change.  Many have ideas of starting up similar ventures or have already started. Some have started and closed shop. I would like to share my experiences. Not because I love competition but because I feel that together we can grow. Hopefully you can save time and money  by avoiding some of the mistakes that I have made. Hopefully this space will help your business to grow and therefore help others.  Something I have learned here in Sweden is that sharing ideas and experiences brings growth and I am grateful for the many opportunities where I have gained information because someone chose to share it.

I sincerely hope that we can use this as a platform to discuss and exchange ideas about import strategies, product development, design, freight costs, payments and more. Where possible I will refer to brands and businesses that have been an inspiration.

I do not feel that I have all the answers but I truly believe that Africa is in a position to offer products for the interior and children industry for Europe and in so doing also create market opportunities locally in Africa. The internet is providing new ways that we can work with producers in the South. A number of different freight options are available.  We are a number of young dynamic African offspring with a die-hard passion to bring change and economic development to the African continent and whether you are Zambian or Nigerian the word “Africa” says home.

The areas that I will be highlighting in  the guide to starting your import business from Africa will include

  1. Your Business Model
  2. Your Market
  3. Your Value Chain
  4. Your suppliers
  5. Your Distribution
  6. Your Marketing Mix

Please take note that I will write from my experiences from both Africa and Europe working with design for good. What might work for me might not necessarily work for your circumstances.

CASE: YAWAMA OF SWEDEN

  • Products: Interior decor and textiles. Plush toys for kids
  • Producers: Southern Africa , primarily Zambia
  • Market: Sweden
  • Marketing Tool: On Line Store
Yawama of Sweden

Yawama of Sweden

 

Kommer vi alltid att vara del av slit och slängsamhället?

Greenpeace Fashionduel

Greenpeace Fashionduel

Green Peace lanserar sin ” Fashion Duel” en kamp att rengöra mode industrin.

Visst vill man gärna tro att man är miljömedventen?

Jag källsorterar och  jag har börjat för inte så länge sedan att köpa ekologisk mjölk och bananer.  Jag har till och med gjort kartongtestet på återvinnarnas facebook sida och fått enastående poäng.

Men när det gäller kläder, inredning och hudvård?  Handlar jag/vi ekologiskt då? Varför ser vi att de butiker/tidningar med eko-prägel  lägger ner den ena efter den andra. En artikel med rubriken  Svensk Hållbarhet Håller inte i SvD berättar hur Ekodesignern Camilla Norrback och Edit Künstlicher på Eko tidnignen LivingGreen mfl har tvingats ge upp. Artikeln beskriver att  det kan bero på att design kommer före hållbarhetstänkande, samt att information kring modetillverkningen kan vara bristfällig.

Kan det verkligen vara så som Edit Künstlicher framhåller att vi dessutom har fostrats i en Ikea- och H&M-kultur.

– “Vi är jättebra på miljöarbetet samtidigt som vi är jättebra på massproduktion. Jag tror inte det finns något land som lanserat så mycket slit- och slängprodukter som Sverige.”

Jag skulle gärna vilja se ett samhälle där design och hållbarhetstänkande kan gå hand i hand, inte enbart ur miljösynpunkt men ur ett socialt och ekonomiskt perspektiv. Jag upptäckte nyligen Jackpot , som säljs på Åhlens och blev överaskad glad att hitta kläder som jag verkligen gillar och som dessutom har en tydlig hållbar strategi.  Så visst tror jag att  design och hållbarhetstänkande kan gå hand i hand och jag vill ha det som en grundprincip i mina egna affärer och mitt eget köpbeteende. Tyvärr har jag långt att gå.

The Slow Movement

I have a daughter who turned 11 this year.  It took her 2 months of living in Sweden to realise that she didn’t have the ” correct wardrobe” to fit in. Her non branded, not so tight PEP store jeans shifted further and further back in her wardrobe. She recently told my husband and I, that not having an I phone made her feel like an outsider.  IS THIS EUROPE TODAY?

When we lived in Zambia I felt we were able to protect our children from “commercialism”.  But urban Africa is changing.  A recent study carried out in urban settings in Africa by  McKinsey South Africa shows that Private consumption in Africa is higher than in India or Russia; it rose by $568 billion from 2000 to 2010.6 From 2012 to 2020, consumer-facing industries are expected to grow a further $410 billion.

In Sweden I am involved with a network of businesses who recently held an exhibition called “Hållbar Jul (sustainable christmas) promoting sustainable consumerism with a focus on ethical, ecological and recycled brands.  The need to address overconsumption in the west is critical. Currently, the developed nations of the world consume at a rate of 32, while the rest of the developing worlds’ 5.5 billion people consume at a rate closer to 1.

The Slow Movement which advocates a cultural shift toward slowing down life’s pace, came about in protest to fast foods in the 1980s. Slow food encourages the enjoyment of regional produce, traditional foods, which are often grown organically. The philosophy has extended its boundaries to include Slow fashion which promotes “quality over quantity”.A unified representation of all the “sustainable”, “eco”, “green”, and “ethical” fashion movements. Slow living is the choice to live consciously with the goal of enhancing personal, community and environmental well-being.

Professor Guttorm Fløistad summarizes the philosophy, stating:

The only thing for certain is that everything changes. The rate of change increases. If you want to hang on you better speed up. That is the message of today. It could however be useful to remind everyone that our basic needs never change. The need to be seen and appreciated! It is the need to belong. The need for nearness and care, and for a little love! This is given only through slowness in human relations. In order to master changes, we have to recover slowness, reflection and togetherness. There we will find real renewal.

Röda träskor i Afrika

Träskor i Afrika

Mina fötter- trygga på den afrikanska jorden i mina fina svenska träskor. En bild som får symbolisera hur det är att som svensk hitta hem i ett främmande land, något som jag lyckats med sen jag tog steget från Gotland till Zambia för drygt åtta år sedan. Att skapa en plats att kalla hem långt ifrån sin kultur, sitt språk, allt det familjära är en process. Samtidigt som jag har lärt mig att anpassa mig och avvara mycket av det vi tar för givet i Sverige så har jag under den processen insett vilka saker som känns viktiga att hålla kvar vid, vad som är en del av min svenska identitet. De röda träskorna får representera den biten, och den torra afrikanska jorden representerar den plats jag valt att kalla hem.

Click here for english….