Online platform gives luxurious African products a virtual shop window
Lerato Masha’s AmAfrikan.com connects local entrepreneurs who sell luxury art, crafts and fashion brands with a global market
Meet Lerato Masha, an engineer by training, who gave up his high-paying job and position as a company director for a publicly listed company, to start an e-commerce platform that aims to be the go-to place for luxury African art, crafts and fashion brands.
Masha, an MBA graduate from the University of Stellenbosch, saw a gap in the luxury goods industry, which is dominated by global companies such as Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton, for Africans to create their own luxury fashion houses.
To serve a growing need for a commercial platform that connects local entrepreneurs with a global market, he founded AmAfrikan.com. The online shopping platform houses exclusive art pieces, fashion such as clothes, shoes and accessories and homeware and furniture from local creators.
"There are many treasures created by designers, artists and entrepreneurs from our continent that don’t often have the platform to make their ideas commercially viable. We intend to create that for them and introduce them to the rest of the world," says Masha. "We want to change the narrative of luxury brands only being European or American."
To date, AmAfrikan has signed agreements with a range of designers, artists and entrepreneurs, including M-Net Shark Tank investment winner Native Decor and globally renowned artist Bianca Nguema. Masha emphasises that quality and professionalism always come first at AmAfrikan. "AmAfrikan.com connects buyers with sellers. It is big on quality and luxury," he says. And while the company has been on a continuous growth curve since its inception in March 2018, it has not been without its teething problems.
"Our number-one challenge to date has been the concept of ‘Afri-Luxury’. The irony is that people find the concept foreign! We’ve taken on the task to instate it as a category that not only resonates globally, but that can instil local pride and alleviate unemployment," says Masha, noting that it is a valiant but humbling task.
He is working to position AmAfrikan.com as a community of excellence that elevates new entrepreneurs and provides training and coaching to be able to compete with the best brands globally. The company has placed its long-term goal for the next five to 10 years to become a hub for African luxury brands in every category, effectively establishing a gallery of the best brands on the content, available to the world.