The artisan industry is the second largest employer in the developing world. Despite its potential, the artisan sector remains fragmented and untapped as a source of sustainable, consistent income for millions of people across the globe. These talented artisans (the large majority of whom are women) do not have the skills, resources, or opportunities they need to participate in the global economy and support themselves and their families. We’re dedicated to changing that for 1,100 artisans and counting by showcasing their beautiful craft and investing in their education.
A woman’s success is her family’s success, her community’s success, her country’s success, and the world’s success. At Indego Africa, we know that women are not only more likely to invest money back into their families’ health and education, but also more likely to hire other women. By educating artisan women and providing them with global employment opportunities to create and sell handcrafted goods, we’re empowering generations of people across Africa.
There are about 61 million unemployed young people in the developing world. In Rwanda and Ghana, youth underemployment is a daunting 63% and 48% respectively. Working hand-in-hand with our artisan partners to train and employ young people, Indego Africa is growing the global artisan economy, closing gender disparities and skills gaps, and creating jobs in communities across Africa.
After fleeing violence and insecurity, the opportunity to work and earn a living is one of the most effective ways refugees can rebuild their lives in dignity and peace. At Indego Africa, we are committed to providing sustainable work and integration opportunities for refugee women at the Mahama Refugee Camp in Rwanda and beyond. By providing female refugees with artisan skills training and business education, we’re helping them improve their livelihoods, contribute to their host country’s local economy, and build long-term careers in the global artisan industry.
Our artisan partners in Africa have big dreams and big plans. We invest in them because we wholeheartedly believe in their ability to achieve (and exceed!) their goals. In choosing Rwanda as our first partner country in 2007, our founders looked at a range of factors, including ease of doing business, corruption, legal systems, artisan skillsets and, most importantly, the social impact needs of artisan communities. We used much the same criteria for selecting our next partner country, Ghana, in 2015!
How do you find the artisans and cooperatives you work with?
Our local teams are our eyes and ears on the ground! They are constantly scouting out new groups to work with and playing matchmaker between our designs, client orders, and artisans throughout Rwanda and Ghana. We are always looking for new raw materials and artisanal skills. We rely on word of mouth, recommendations from our current artisan partners, and the truly expert knowledge of all-things-artisanal by our teams in Rwanda and Ghana to discover new techniques and materials. We identify potential partner cooperatives based on their skills and our product needs, and encourage our Vocational Training students to form their very own cooperatives!
How do you ensure that the artisans you work with are paid fairly?
Providing income-earning opportunities for our artisan partners is at the heart of Indego’s mission. We provide our partners with fair, steady wages that honor the time and skill that go into making each and every product by hand, with heart. Price per unit is agreed upon between our artisan partners and production teams when a purchase order is placed, taking into account the cost of materials and the number of days it takes to make each product.
Who teaches your education programs?
Our education programs are taught by our very own staff in Rwanda and Ghana!
How do you measure your impact?
We are all about proving—and improving—our impact. Each year, we conduct a rigorous Social Impact Assessment and publish the results (see the reports. We track key quantitative indicators—such as income generation, entrepreneurship, food security, and financial inclusion—as well as year-over-year qualitative data to measure our partners’ progress and identify areas for program improvement.
In addition to our annual Impact Assessment, we conduct detailed baseline and follow-up surveys for each and every education program we run, as well as onsite monitoring and evaluation at our artisan partner groups to make sure that lessons learned are being put into action. We are committed to making a long-term, sustainable impact in the lives of our partners, and we hold ourselves accountable to them (and our supporters!) every step of the way.
Your mission is to empower artisan women, but I see some pictures of men on your site. What’s the deal with that?
You’re right—our mission is to empower artisan women in Africa who lack access to resources and opportunities simply because of where they were born and often because of their gender. The vast majority of the artisans that we work with in Africa are women.
That said, we’re all about inclusivity and don’t discriminate against men in the communities where we work. Many people in the communities where we work are young men without technical skills or experience. In Ghana, we partner with some artisan groups that are made up of men (this is because of the unique history of craft-making there—read more about it here!) While we are excited to work with these talented male artisans, our core mission remains to empower and support artisan women. Moving forward, we are stepping up our efforts to integrate more women into the artisan sector in Ghana and helping Ghanaian women become entrepreneurs and start their own artisan businesses.
What does your design process look like?
All of our products are designed in NYC by our Creative Director, Deirdre King! These ideas are then shared with our production teams in Rwanda and Ghana who work alongside our artisan partners day in and day out to explain our vision. The last step in creating an Indego Africa product lies with the remarkable artisans who bring these concepts to life through genuine artisanal skill and techniques. We consider our design process to be truly a global collaboration and we’re proud that this shows in our final products.
Are your products environmentally friendly?
At Indego Africa, seek the highest standards of ethical and environmental responsibility in the production of all of our products. We use a range of natural, raw materials sourced in Rwanda and Ghana including sweetgrass, banana leaf, bolga straw, raffia, organic yarn, palm leaf, and more. We partner with several groups that use salvaged materials in their production processes including recycled tin and upcycled cowhorn in Rwanda and recycled brass in Ghana. We also repurpose scrap fabrics and other leftover materials across our product lines to reduce waste in our production process, and schedule large batch cargo shipments from Africa to New York to reduce our carbon footprint.
From where do your products ship?
All of our products ship from our warehouse in New York City.
How long will it take for my order to arrive?
All orders leave our warehouse via USPS priority within 1-2 business days of your purchase. Shipping times vary based on destination, but domestic parcels typically arrive within 2-3 days of shipment. We also offer expedited shipping options at checkout for an additional fee. Please see our Shipping Rates & Times page for more information.
Can I shop your products in Rwanda and Ghana?
While our products aren’t available for sale in Rwanda or Ghana (yet!), you are welcome to visit our partner artisan groups and shop their own collections of beautifully handmade goods! Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and a shopping guide.
Can I buy a gift certificate?
Yes! To purchase a gift card, please click here.
How do I make an exchange or return?
We want you to love our products as much as we do! If you are not completely satisfied with your purchase, we will gladly accept returns within 10 days of the arrival of your order. Please contact email@example.com to give us a heads up. Once we receive the returned order, we will issue you a full refund. Please note that, as a nonprofit organization, we are not able to cover the shipping costs for returns (unless you received a damaged item). For more information on our shipping and returns policy, click here.
Please ship return orders to: Indego Africa 21-21 41st Ave Suite 2E Long Island City, NY 11101
I’d love to see your products in person! How do I do that?
You can see and shop our products at a range of stores across the U.S. and the globe! Check out our Stockists Page to find out where.
Studio visits are also available by appointment at our showroom in Long Island City. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to request an appointment.
Plus, a few times a year we hold Pop Up Shops and Sample Sales in NYC. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on social media to be the first to hear about these exciting in-person shopping opportunities!
Can I carry your products in my store?
Have a store? We’d love to work with you! Email email@example.com for our catalog and more information on our wholesale policies.
I’m an interior designer. Do you offer trade discounts?
We offer a 15% trade discount for interior designers. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more info on how to place an order!
I’m a blogger/influencer and I’d love to help promote your brand! Do you have an affiliate program?
We love to work with bloggers and influencers whose aesthetics align with our own! Shoot us a note at email@example.com to introduce yourself—we’d love to chat about how we can work together.
How can I get involved?
There are lots of ways to get involved! If you’re based in New York City, Washington D.C., Miami, Los Angeles, or San Francisco, we’d love for you to join one of our Regional Boards (more details here). You can also sign up for our newsletter or follow us on Instagram (indego_africa), Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest to be the first to know about all things Indego. Lastly, by donating online or buying a product, you’ll be making a direct impact on the lives of women in Africa.