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I pay homage and celebrate a good friend, a former classmate and a consummate professional this week. Abdul Rashid Abdulai is the Chief Executive Officer of www.afroconstruct.com, an online digital marketplace based in New York, USA. Born and bred in Tarkwa, Ghana he currently lives in Bronx, New York.
Startup and entrepreneur success stories motivate me greatly as setting up a business isn’t quite easy as often perceived and preached by social media fly-by quotes. It is even more uplifting when small business owners break the glass ceiling and take it a notch higher to position themselves in a way to rub shoulders with global giants. Their stories are often a mixed bag of relentlessness, sheer will, desire, forlorn, failure, and losses.
The stories of African immigrants in Europe, America and elsewhere trying to build back home has often been a checkered one, the kind which leaves much to be desired for. Culturally, Africans come from lands with powerful ties to tribe, clan, and family. Someone to build property back home is perceived by many to have achieved a “cultural coming of age”. I had a conversation with the CEO of Afroconstruct, it was a profound and riveting engagement.
Abdul Rashid: AfroConstruct primarily is a young burgeoning business, an e-commerce digital marketplace that connects future homeowners directly to manufacturers and suppliers of building and home remodeling materials and also connects future homeowners with trustworthy artisans, architects, contractors while AfroConstruct plays the third wheel as overall oversight role and the main goal is to simplify the process of building your dream house in Africa by connecting you directly with trusted suppliers of building and home remodeling materials, eliminating bedtime stories from intermediaries.
How many countries are you currently in operation?
Abdul Rashid: We are currently operational in two countries. Ghana and Nigeria. Our long-term goal is to be operational and be present in every country in Africa, but with targeted emphasis in West Africa.
How did AfroConstruct start?
Abdul Rashid: The story began in the South Bronx, in NYC where my close friends, Saikou Ceesay, Adeola Musemiu, and Dr. Shakrullah Aregbe and I used to meet pretty much every night to converse about a whole range of issues. We used to talk a lot about issues plaguing the West African immigrant community. Specifically, from the stories we’d heard in our communities about the struggle to build homes, we began to idea and conceptualize solutions to address this problem. As immigrants ourselves, we discussed building in our respective home countries, but the stories we heard about the process were disheartening and disconcerting, to say the least. Many rip-off stories and accounts from many West African immigrants in the diaspora on how they have been swindled and hoodwinked by family, friends, contractors, mostly by taking monies for projects that were never started or abandoned in the process, oftentimes with little to no explanation, accountability? Zilch. Transparency? Nada! Just stories. It discouraged us in a way, but we needed to a find line of best fit to address this issue, we needed to bring our ingenuity and creative ideas to the fore, and this birthed AfroConstruct.
How is the reception so far?
Abdul Rashid: We’ve been profitable in Nigeria, and we are taking steady steps to emerge from the woods especially as a fully self-funded start-up. The global building industry supply chain has been massively hit by COVID-19, hindering our marketing strategy in that regard. However, we remain resilient and will keep pushing till we come to full circle.
Where do you see AfroConstruct in the next few years?
Abdul Rashid: The vision is to empower African immigrants in the diaspora to take charge of their building projects from start to finish. Encourage young people to start something back home. Ultimately, I want to see AfroConstruct as a major force for development of infrastructure on the continent while most importantly eliminating the bottlenecks, lack of transparency, and the fear of African immigrants in the diaspora being ripped-off when building their dream home in their respective countries of origin.
Thank you Rashid.
According to Statista, e-commerce will account for more than $6 trillion in sales by 2024, the singular driver for this extraordinary growth in digital commerce is marketplaces. Online shopping is one of the most popular online activities worldwide indeed, technology has come as a real game-changer and the importance of platforms like this can’t be undermined, Small businesses leverage their products, grow, expand and providing additional market channels. Having an online marketplace such as Afroconstruct.com offers buyers the opportunity to see a wide variety of building materials options and do extensive research before they purchase any item. Sellers/ Vendors want marketplaces that provide a one-stop shopping experience to a massive, loyal customer base. This means that sellers and manufacturers can start and grow their business on such a platform. Moreover artisans, architects, engineers etc listed on this platform get to increase their visibility and open up for wide array of job opportunities.
Let’s collectively roll in and support black owned enterprises. Let support African owned businesses. Ayekoo, Afroconstruct.