In Nigeria, the country that is home to more Black children than anywhere in the world, one entrepreneur is taking advantage of European and U.S. companies’ inaction.
Taofick Okoya, a 43-year-old Nigerian has launched the Queens of Africa and Naija Princesses dolls to tremendous success by marketing the toys to the country’s three largest ethnic groups, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. Now, he’s planning on expanding his doll empire beyond just the West African the nation to Europe, the U.S. and South Africa, reports The Guardian.
Toy makers like Mattel, makers of Barbie have little to no penetration in sub-Saharan Africa and Okoya is starting to corner the market. The dolls sell for between 1,300 Nigerian naira to the special edition 3,500 naira ($22), while cheaper Naija Princesses sell for 500-1,000 naira apiece.
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With a booming economy in Nigeria and more black children than anywhere else in the world, Taofick Okoya was dismayed when he could not find a black doll for his niece.
The 43-year-old spotted a gap in the market and, with little competition from foreign firms such as Mattel Inc, the maker of Barbie, he set up his own business. He outsourced manufacturing of doll parts to low-cost China, assembled them onshore and added a twist – traditional Nigerian costumes.
Seven years on, Okoya sells between 6,000 and 9,000 of his Queens of Africa and Naija Princesses a month, and reckons he has 10-15% of a small but fast-growing market.
“I like it,” says Ifunanya Odiah, five, struggling to contain her excitement as she inspects one of Okoya’s dolls in a Lagos shopping mall. “It’s black, like me.”
While multinational companies are flocking to African markets, Okoya’s experience suggests that, in some areas at least, there is still an opportunity for domestic businesses to establish themselves by using local knowledge to tap a growing, diverse and increasingly sophisticated middle class.
There’s no doubt about Nigeria’s economic potential. Economist Jim O’Neill has this year popularised it as one of the Mint countries – alongside Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey – that he sees as successors to the first wave of emerging markets he dubbed the Brics (Brazil, Russia and India and China).