Step Aside Barbie, Introducing Queen of Africa
For decades, little girls around the globe have grown up playing with Barbie and her friends. We all had collections of Barbie’s with assortments of her accessories; we desperately longed for the day where we could have long, blonde silky hair with pale skin and blue eyes.
In a bid to encourage black beauty and emphasize a need for diversity in dolls, Taofick Okoya, Nigerian father and budding entrepreneur, created a line of dolls that showcase the uniqueness and beauty of African figurines. Driven by his daughter’s admission that she wished she was white, Okoya was emboldened by the need to create characters that black children would be more than proud to play with.
Currently, the Queens of Africa dolls are the highest grossing dolls in Nigeria, outselling Barbie. The three flagship dolls are representative of the three dominant tribes in Nigeria. Nneka is Igbo and represents love; Wuraola is Yoruba and symbolizes endurance; finally, Azeezah is Hausa and embodies peace. All three dolls come with their own individual books that explore the individual cultural ethnicities and historical backgrounds.
According to Reuters, Okoya sells roughly 6,000 to 9,000 dolls every month, and he estimates that he now holds “about 10-15 percent of a small but fast-growing market.” The dolls are currently being sold for about N1, 300 to N3,500 per doll.
Okoya told Elle Magazine that one of his principal challenges was explaining why black dolls were important to young girls:
“The ‘Queens of Africa’ definitely fill a void in the market. I say this because the first reaction we got from retailers was resistance. They said, ‘Black dolls don’t sell.’ I then embarked on an educational campaign via various media, telling people about the psychological impact dolls have on children, and dolls in the likeness of the African child can have on them.”
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