In 2009, Fred Deegbe, a trendy banker and shoe enthusiast wondered if some of the shoes he often bought from European and American shoe-makers could be made in his home country – Ghana.
A nearby shoeshine boy, some of his friends and family members said that it was impossible. This did not deter Fred, however, and in two years he quit his job and partnered with a friend, Vijay Manu, to start the HEEL THE WORLD brand. He has not looked back since.
HEEL THE WORLD makes bespoke, high-end shoes and leather accessories. Based in Accra, Ghana, the company is tailored after the founder’s vision which seeks to make the equivalent of the high-end shoes that Africans patronise from European and American stores to “kick Hermes and Louis Vuitton off their perch”. In an interview with CNN, Deegbe said, “They [Africans] want their friends to ask them, ‘Where did you buy that?’ and they say, ‘No, we made it; we made it in a garage, in Accra, with our own hands” inadvertently tapping into a teeming-but-ignored market.
HEEL THE WORLD shoes are handmade and bespoke, which means that finding your size or preferred style will not be an issue. You can simply take the reins and help craft the perfect shoes for yourself – with expert help of course. From handcrafting the shoes with locally sourced materials to importing the unavailable ones, HEEL THE WORLD’S brand ethos is clearly and purposefully reflected in every shoe, combining the tenets of creativity, excellence and dynamism.
Some of the Shoes
HEEL THE WORLD is also a social enterprise. Aside from making shoes that Africans can wear and be proud of, the founders also wanted a humanitarian aspect to the brand. “We want to be a brand that lets people around the world know that there is something incredible happening in Africa”, said Deegbe in an interview with Ayibamagazine. Therefore they decided to encourage and empower young Africans by launching a consultancy angle for smaller start-ups. They also launched a line of “empowerment beads” to show the importance of hard work and its resultant success. The black beads show work or struggle, while the singular gold bead represents the reward.
The Empowerment Beads
Products and Pricing:
HEEL THE WORLD primarily makes male dress shoes: From loafers to Oxfords, to brogues and monk straps, there is something in their catalogue for you. These go for between $100 and $300 depending on your choice. Besides the primary products, they also make leather accessories like belts, slippers, sandals, wallets and purses. The prices of the accessories range from $50 to $150.
To check their catalogue and purchase a pair of shoes you can visit their website at htwshoes.bigcartel.com and order a pair, or visit the physical store, off Oxford street, Osu, Accra, Ghana.
A 2015 research from the International Trade Center on International Ecommerce in Africashows some of the difficulties with international banking transactions. It highlighted the restrictions placed on the amount that can be transferred across borders, the inability to use foreign credit cards in certain African countries and the lack of requisite foreign bank accounts to allow an integrated payment solution. All these and more are a concern, considering we are in the modern age with improvements in technology, where digital payments are considered basic in more developed countries.
The founders of Flutterwave– Iyinoluwa Aboyeji and Olugbenga Agboola– thought about these challenges and how to make the modern payment system available and accessible to African countries. But how do you tackle such a challenge when only about 3% of Africans reportedly own a credit card?
In an interview with CNN, Aboyeji has this to say “We’re peering 15-20 years into the future and saying, ‘What do we have to do to save the world?’ When you have a situation where a majority of people who live in the world are excluded from the new prosperity of software, that’s not good for the future of the world.”
The Story So Far…
Since its inception in 2016, Flutterwave has grown to be one of the best digital payment platforms in Africa and has partnered with over 50 African banks and 1,200 developers that build on the platform. They have also processed $2.5 billion in payments, 100 million transactions and have raised over $20 million in investments.
Beyond these figures is how much Africans have been able to benefit from it, especially through their products, Rave and Barter.
Rave was founded in 2017 as an easy way to make and accept payments from customers anywhere in the world, with secure and reliable tools. Rave allows businesses to accept a range of payment methods in their local currency from customers across the world.
Barter was founded in 2019 to help clients focus less on how to spend, send and borrow money. With Barter, you can easily send money to friends near you. An illustration is seen in the image below:
The focus for Barter is on personal and small payments across African borders and within countries. It makes international payments easier globally.
Some other popular payment service providers served by Flutterwave include Paywithcapture, Paystack, AmplifyPay and many more.
Flutterwave supports payment methods such as Visa, MasterCard, ApplePay, Verve, American Express, Android Pay and others.
How Flutterwave is Bridging the Gap Between Africa and International Transactions
Flutterwave currently serves 5 African markets, including Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, and recently South Africa that was launched earlier in June this year. This enables African countries to easily connect to the global economy by introducing payment integrations with a simple API.
The RAVE payment platform helps businesses across Africa to thrive by maximizing digital payment options in the easiest and fastest way. When this platform was launched, Flutterwave held an event with the theme “The Business of Growing Customers”, to help empower local digital businesses with growth tools.
The businesses involved in this launch had the opportunity to learn about how to grow communities, create viral content, storytelling, maximizing digital payments and more.
The commitment to ensuring the progress of African-owned businesses with digital transactions is evident in Flutterwave.
Does Flutterwave Stand a Chance in the Global Economy?
Short answer: YES.
Flutterwave started with an office based in San Francisco before setting up one in Lagos Nigeria, and in other countries where it is established.
In a release on Flutterwave’s blog, the company mentioned how it was about time they connected Africa to the world and just within African countries.
This led to a partnership between Flutterwave and Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba’s Alipay and according to what Olugbenga Agboola- the co-founder- told TechCrunch, “This means that all our merchants can accept or install Alipay as a payment type to accept payments from its billion users”. This partnership simply helps African merchants accept payments from Chinese customers with no hassle.
With Alipay integration, Flutterwave merchants now have access to over 1 billion Alipay users.
The Bottom Line
Flutterwave is fast becoming a top digital payment solution in Africa to help businesses thrive and easily make transactions. This is one platform every business owner in Africa should embrace and with time, the challenge of digital payments in Africa will be resolved.
Soyez Fleek , a street style fashion Brand, has just launched its t-shirt collection, using a unique blend of creativity and belief systems to share the rich and vibrant Nigerian culture. Soyez Fleek’s mission is clear: to express Nigerian’s dynamic street culture with the world in a very distinct, creative, simple and relatable way, and at an affordable price.
Founder & Brand Inspiration
Asked about the inspiration behind the collection, Nkechi Nwosu – founder of Soyez Fleek said “living abroad for close to four years. I saw that the conversation around Nigeria was stereotypical and hardly ventured beyond corruption, poverty, terrorism, and the “Nigerian Prince” story! It was almost impossible to share our vibrant colorful culture when we were constantly defending ourselves from these generalizations. I began to imagine a different type of conversation where each encounter would be a chance to share something new and unique about Nigeria.”
This was what inspired the creation of the Soyez Fleek clothing line. Through the use of Nigerian’s popular street slangs, the fashion collection offers Nigerians in diaspora a strong feeling of connection to home and the opportunity to tell their story in their own unique way.
With an urban casual aesthetic, the collection appeals to both Nigerians and ‘friends’ of Nigeria who love and identify with its culture. Using popular slangs and expressions that have become a part of the Nigerian identity, the collection distinctively and boldly says NIGERIAN. It paves the way for a new narrative; one that celebrates culture, the resilience of the Nigerian people every day and the beauty of the Nigerian Pidgin English language.
The collection includes creative illustrations of Nigerians most popular expressions such as Up NEPA, Chop Knuckle, Wetin Dey Happen, Tear Rubber, and No Wahala. It is a way to encourage a positive narrative of the Nigerian spirit and way of life. The product range includes many variations of sweatshirts, hoodies, t-shirts, and shopping bags, available for men, women, and kids.
The collection is for the bold Nigerian who is unapologetic about the country’s rich vibrant culture and loves to share it. Soyez Fleek is a street fashion brand for friends of Nigeria who want to stay connected to the Nigerian energy, vibe, and spirit.
Based in France, Europe, Soyez Fleek’s products are produced in Europe, assuring only the best in quality. The entire collection is exclusively available online and ships worldwide.
What’s even more? The fashion brand offers the option for clients to customize their own designs.
Shop the Street Fashion Collection
Since the collection launch on April 1st, 2019, Nkechi disclosed that they have been overwhelmed by the positive reception of the brand and especially with the ‘Up NEPA’ design – an expression which most Nigerians have used more than once in their lifetime and is still in use even till date.
She adds “beyond the products, we are excited at the possible impact that a simple slang or expression can have in reshaping the narrative about Nigeria and opening the world up to a new perception of what it means to be a Nigerian”.
“During our product testing phase, we recognized that a lot of our customers would love to customize their products with their own favorite slangs, different from the range we currently offer. We also received a lot of interest from corporate organizations who would love to customize gift items with unique expressions that reflect the culture and value of their organization”
Sprinble is a Nigerian-based agency that consists of domain experts in Web & Mobile technology, UI/UX designs, and digital marketing with a goal to connect people and brands in more meaningful ways. Founded in April 2018 by Goodness Kayode and Mide Olayinka, Sprinble is concerned about delivering a masterpiece to individuals and businesses by focusing on the actual people who use the products.
About the Founders and Inspiration Behind the Brand
Goodness Kayode, a graduate of English from Obafemi Awolowo University with his roots in Ibadan, Oyo state, found light in tech and decided to use it to solve problems. Over the years, he has fueled his passion for tech by working in and for several fields in the tech industry. This includes being a Software Engineer at Acounteer; an Organizer of Codepen Africa; Author on Scotch, FreeCodeCamp, Codementor and Codeburst; Expert mentor at Codementor and also a Technical Consultant to businesses in different industries. Goodness has also worked in startups like PubCulture and Norman (Al Health Startup) and also founded a company called Codebag that trained students in software development, digital marketing, designs, and project management remotely. Today, he is the Founder of Sprinble.
Mide Olayinka, a Co-founder of Sprinble alongside Goodness Kayode, is also a graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University. A voyager and traveler, Mide is curious about entrepreneurship and tech in building an ecosystem and its importance in creating a sound and viable support system. He is familiar with words and likes the clarity they bring; in line with this, he writes occasionally for Millenial Poets on Medium. Also worthy of note is that Mide is passionate about nation-building and the indisputable connection in ideas, access, and stature.
Sprinble started with a passion to know more about different industries and solve problems after the founders found loopholes in some of these industries. In an interview with ISOKO Africa, Goodness Kayode pointed out that when he found this passion, with the aim to pursue it, his job back then did not allow him much freedom, as he had to focus mainly on the space they were in.
When he finally decided to kick off with Sprinble, there were certain concerns, including being unique among competitors and having a strong motivation to drive the brand. While speculating on this, one word- “Masterpiece” came to mind; the will to win, the desire to succeed and the urge to reach their potential. According to Goodness, “We don’t want to follow the norm. We want to make less noise and make more impact”.
Sprinble functions primarily to solve one problem- to bring businesses from their hidden corners, digitize them and set them on the path to achieving a higher revenue, higher credibility, and faster growth. The target audience includes all categories of business ranging from startups, SMEs to big organizations.
A Breakdown of the Service at Sprinble:
Web & Mobile Development: they build web and mobile applications that suit the specific brand’s business goals and something that the target audience will love.
Digital Marketing: this is set at delivering results-driven solutions to clients across Africa and ensure it reaches the hearts of the target audience.
UI/UX and Creative Designs: this is where they turn imaginations to awesome visuals by creating masterpiece designs ranging from branding, illustrations, motion graphics, UI/UX designs and so on.
The price range for each of these depends on the requirements of each brand opting for their service. These services are also not limited by location, as Sprinble has successfully worked with companies in Kenya, Dubai and the United States.
Sprinble currently has about 13 staff members and this includes the Creative Designers, Developers, Digital Marketers, and Project Managers. There are 7 full-time members and 6 as Interns and NYSC members. The business environment works semi-remotely, such that the team members are allowed 2 of 5 days in a week to work from anywhere and there are also full-time remote team members. The goal for Sprinble is to ensure that the clients are happy with the masterpiece outcome and that, exactly, is the focus.
The Future for Sprinble
Sprinble currently promotes its service by riding on the relationships that they have built over time with clients. In their 9 months of existence, they have been able to work on over 40 brands, including Glo, DriversNG, Kudi.ai, Cranium One, FitFamFest (Africa’s Largest fitfam festival), ALML Group (Services Virgin Atlantic, GSK amongst others), and Africa Franchise Institute, among others.
Sprinble currently has a goal to be one of the biggest agencies in Africa by 2025 without losing the meaningful connection they constantly aim to achieve with every brand they work with. They also plan to grow bigger, while providing excellent solutions for businesses.
Sprinble has a goal to constantly ensure that the success of a project is the joy of a client and they do not intend to stop until that is achieved, regardless of what it would cost. They also ensure that they help their clients see what they can’t see themselves by building products that exceed their expectation.
A A K S is a handcrafted luxury handbag brand founded in 2014 by Akosua Afriyie-Kumi. It is her name that forms the acronym A A K S. The Ghanaian brand started with Akosua’s goal to introduce the world to her favorite weaving techniques! Her bags are made by local artisans in Ghana. Some of the things A A K S seeks to address include:
Detailed attention to craftsmanship, authenticity and ethical values
A strong sense of identity and quality
Creating collections that tell a different story through detail, color and shape
To give a unique A A K S stamp to every piece
About the Founder and the Inspiration Behind the Brand
Akosua Afriyie-Kumi is a Ghanaian native with a BA (Hons) Fashion degree from Kingston University London. She grew up in Ghana with a passion for art. This led her to leave Ghana to study in England to broaden her mind and gain more experience. Once finished, she returned to Ghana to support the creative industry in the country and to build a luxury African brand which led to the birth of A A K S. The drive to pursue her passion came from noticing the gap in the market for beautifully handcrafted luxury bags made with locally sourced materials.
Akosua is currently based in Ghana and occasionally travels to and throughout Europe and Africa to collaborate with other local artisans and also gain more inspiration for her brand.
In addition to designing and weaving bags, Akosua loves photography. She draws inspiration from the things she photographs whenever she travels. She also says she is inspired by the strong desire to create a unique kind of handcrafted bag. Something unique she can twist to her taste – softer, foldable and with blends of colors.
What makes A A K S Proudly African?
The A A K S products are made by local artisan weavers who sit under a baobab tree to create woven bags together while having fun. The women make these bags with raffia which is soft and creates softer and foldable bags. Raffia is a great choice, not just because it is soft, but also for its organic, natural, renewable and biodegradable nature. Raffia comes in different colors and is woven with leather. With a dedication to modern style, while incorporating handed down traditional skills, it takes about a week to make a bag. In this way each bag tells the story of the artisan who made it. There is a signature tag to every piece to guarantee authenticity.
The raffia is harvested from local farmers in Ghana, which helps to grow the economy. The brand also helps reduce the unemployment rate. They create sustainable jobs for the women who constantly weave the bags.
A A K S aims to renew some of the old traditional skills and techniques to compete with the international standard of design. This will help them be fit for the modern fashion individual!
Achievements so far:
Shortlisted as an emerging designer from Africa by Vogue Italia
Featured by Elle Decoration, Vogue, CNN Forbes Women Africa, Guardian UK and more
The woven bag collections are now in about 60 stores worldwide
The Future for A A K S
Akosua has plans to venture into clothes and print designs for her brand and also intends to explore the home interior area in the fashion industry. But before that, her plan is to build a solid foundation and make an indelible mark with her bags.
Agriculture has always been a major mainstay in Africa. From the early times when individuals practiced sole subsistence farming to the times when markets were built for the sale of agricultural produce, and of course, modern times when we desperately need farmers to plant and rear a vast majority of the food we eat. In recent times, however, agriculture in Africa has not been able to adequately plug the gaping holes that our growing population needs, hence, we have to resort to importing both agricultural produce and processed food. The implication of this is a massive reduction in the GDP of African countries and a general loss of revenue, both to the government and individuals involved in the overall process of food production.
Successive governments have tried to combat this problem by using various schemes to incentivize farming and making attractive enough for more people to come in. Ultimately, this will yield results, but one vital part is constantly left out: The link between the farmers and their markets. And this is the heart of what Agrocenta, a Ghanaian technology startup, is working actively on.
Agrocenta is a technology company focused on solving market linkage and financial inclusion problems in the agricultural value chain. It was founded by Francis Obirikorang (CEO) and Michael K. Ocansey (CTO) in 2015. Their aim was to tackle two critical areas of importance to the farmers: access to a viable and profitable market, and access to finance and credit facilities. They decided to solve these problems by leveraging on technology through three outlets which they developed: AgroInfo, AgroTrade, AgroPay, and the Truckr app.
This is how these technologies work individually and in synergy: Imagine a small farmer in rural Ghana, for example. We’ll call him Sam. Let’s say Sam has a small farm that grows beans. An Agrocenta agent approaches Sam and signs him on to the Agrocenta platforms. Within the process of farming – planting crops and tending before harvest – Sam gets updates on the weather, how the micro-climate might affect his crops or turn out and more through Agrocenta’s AgroInfo platform. Based on the information he has obtained from AgroInfo, Sam plants his crops and takes precautions and safeguards that eventually make him have a great harvest.
Before his contact with Agrocenta’s agent, Sam would usually sell his products to one middle man – who had little or no competition – from one of the major urban centers. But now, all Sam has to do is notify the agent that he has produce in stock, and his information is updated on the AgroTrade platform, which is a virtual marketplace that links farmers to potential buyers. All of a sudden, Sam has different people calling him to buy his products. He eventually sells to the highest bidder.
Agrocenta, through the Truckr app, also helps farmers get their goods to their intended destinations in a very short time. Agrocenta partnered with the Ghana Private Road Transport Union, who has a horde of commercial drivers that can help to transport farmers’ products on short notice. Sam quickly calls a transporter on the Truckr platform and in very little time, his goods are on their way to the paying customer.
If Sam needs to expand his farm, or boost productivity in a particular stage of production, by obtaining a loan from the bank, then AgroPay is the answer. Because banks would usually need to know that the farmer can pay back his loan in due time, they usually require a paper trail of the transactions that he has made through his business – the farm. Sam’s former transactions with middlemen were mostly cash-for-produce, and there was no established paper trail, except, perhaps, whenever he went to put money in the bank. With AgroPay, however, all his transactions can be re-traced and used as a verifiable history of transactions to be presented to the banks.
Agrocenta’s work is cut out for them, and they’re doing it well. Currently, over 12,000 farmers are registered on the platform and the number is growing. More than ever, Agrocenta is giving more autonomy to the African farmer – a move that helps him to make a better decision as to where, how and at what price his produce is sold. The exploitative middleman is one less problem to worry about now, which ultimately means more money in his pockets.
To find out more, you can visit the Agrocenta website at Agrocenta.com .