Soko (not to be confused with Soko Kenya) is an online marketplace that harnesses mobile technology to give otherwise unconnected African artisans, an opportunity to sell their wares online, cutting out the middleman and ensuring they receive more profits.
In Africa, many artisans are self-employed and the majority are women (producing 60-80% of the continent’s goods), who face discrimination and a loss of profits because they need assistance reaching a wider audience. Soko create mobile technology that allows these artisans to take pictures of their handmade wares and directly upload them to the site, removing many of the technological and financial difficulties that come with selling abroad.
The technology works with basic texts (although Soko has also developed an app for Android phones), letting artisans text their information to the site, and receive mobile money via text. They then receive cash when they go to a designated kiosk, where they also ship the goods. Vendors do not need to have a smartphone, access to the internet or a bank account and Soko facilitates shipping and payments, allowing artisans to receive a larger profit than they normally would.
Founded by Gwendolyn Floyd, Ella Peinovich and Catherine Mahugu, the team were inspired to start Soko because they wanted harness mobile technology to address the economic discrimination many African women face. Floyd tells PSFK:
We saw an opportunity for leveraging pervasive mobile technology to disrupt this supply chain to create a new model of international trade – providing access to unprecedented economic opportunity for artisans, and to beautiful, fashion forward goods never before available on the international marketplace for international consumers.
Watch the video below to see how Soko works: