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How WAKOYO is helping the world discover African design

Article provided by PayFast

WAKOYO is an African storytelling movement that is supporting artists and designers from across the continent by selling their home-decor items via their ecommerce website. Keddi Uzorka, a marketing graduate who has a passion for seeking the extraordinary amidst the ordinary, founded WAKOYO back in 2013 as an online educational platform to help the world at large discover and appreciate African contemporary art and design. She chose the name Wakoyo as it’s a Benin term of endearment, which when loosely translated into English means “You are welcome to my home” or “Please make yourself feel at home”.

“I have always had a deep passion and interest in African art, culture and history – more so when I lived overseas. I started WAKOYO in 2013 as a resource and reference point; I wanted to actively partake in the storytelling of creating a rejuvenated image of Africa and what it meant to be African,” said Keddi.

“I wrote articles and shared incredible African stories past and present. It was a celebration of the great work Africans were doing. At this time I was also working full time in a corporate role, so in many ways, WAKOYO was a creative outlet to share my writings and findings and keep me connected to the continent,” continued Keddi.

From telling a story to making an impact 

As time progressed, the more Keddi travelled around Africa the more she realised that while there were numerous platforms telling great stories, they didn’t contribute to the livelihoods of local artisans.

“I made a decision very early that I wanted to be a doer, not just a talker; to be part of the solution in my little way. I didn’t want to only talk about the great handiwork of artisans in Africa, I wanted to show the world,” said Keddi. 

Keddi knew there were preconceived stereotypes of what African design looked like, so she wanted to showcase fresh products and items designed for the “new age,” modern living African who is well-travelled and has an appreciation for great design and quality. 

“It was also important that our range of products suited the global consumer’s lifestyle, from Austria to Johannesburg, London to Lagos, Cape Town to Osaka. Regardless of one’s geographical location, great design will always be great design, and I wanted WAKOYO to be a reflection of this,” said Keddi.

Sourcing quality hand-made products to sell online

From her previous research, Keddi was able to quickly identify the communities and organisations around the continent that were doing exceptional work in the areas of manufacturing. WAKOYO partnered with them as retail partners and, if formal structures didn’t exist within those communities, she partnered with artisans directly to build formal business structures and provided them with a cash injection and artistic direction to help them compete globally.

“Building solid relationships has always come easily to me. I’d bring these great items home from my travels and my friends would literally buy them off me. My relationship with my partners have always been organically grown and honest, you just click with people you have similar business ideologies, ethos and values with,” said Keddi.

“I leveraged these relationships and started to bounce ideas off and share my vision with them, and I got more great introductions to other women doing amazing work on the continent. It’s like a sisterhood and we all do what we need to do in our eco-systems excellently and meticulously, so this way we all win,” continued Keddi.

Accepting online payments with PayFast 

The WAKOYO online store integrated with PayFast as their payment gateway in 2020 to offer their customers secure online payment options with Visa and Mastercard credit cards, Instant EFT, Mobicred and SnapScan. While Keddi had no prior merchant experience with PayFast, she knew the solution was the leading online payment portal in South Africa.

“I needed an efficient payment service provider for our company and, most importantly, a seamless service for our customers. PayFast prioritises the customer experience and makes checkout a simple and straightforward process. They also provide a secure platform for our customers and have managed to build a solid brand resonance. It’s like a stamp of approval when customers see PayFast at checkout, which overall gives online stores the much-needed credibility,” said Keddi. 

“I have been extremely happy partnering with PayFast as they are an African brand doing great work with an excellent support team. To thrive and excel in ecommerce, you need trusted stakeholders; you have to partner with companies that want you to win and are sticklers for excellence themselves. I often tell people when choosing business providers to support your business, you need to make sure everyone in your boat is paddling in the same direction,” continued Keddi. 

Growing WAKOYO’s international presence

Since Keddi transformed WAKOYO into an online store she’s experienced nothing but success. Their orders have consistently increased leading to the growth of the WAKOYO team to meet the demands of their expanding markets.

“We send items as far out to Austria, Gabon and the U.S, but the local markets from Johannesburg to Cape Town have always been a great supporter of our brand and by far our most important market segment. We are also working with more artisans and organisations and building new partnerships and structures here at home and on the rest of the continent to keep creating great products using locally sourced materials. We live by our catchphrase “from Africa to the world”,” said Keddi.  

“I attribute our success to defining our purpose early on and partnering with people and businesses who have similar value systems and vision as us. We are unwavering in our objective and what we stand for as a company. We are crazy about design and finicky about quality. This is evident in the items we offer and our customers have come to love us for this. We are always going to surprise and delight with our well-curated items,” concluded Keddi. 

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