In 2007, Nigerian businessman Taofick Okoya created a line of dolls called Queens of Africa. The dolls, which come in a variety of skin tones, fashions and hairstyles, came about after he saw the impact that having white dolls had on his young daughter.
“I got into the doll business by chance. At that time my daughter was young, and I realized she was going through an identity crisis. She wished she was white, and I was trying to figure out where that came from. I used to always buy her white dolls, and it never got to me that it was relevant which color her dolls were. On top of that, we have DSTV in Nigeria, where children watch the Disney programs, and all her favorite characters were white. I started to understand why she’d feel the way she did, ’cause it was all that she’d been exposed to,” Okoya told Forbes.
The Queens of Africa have been successful in Nigeria, and now Okoya is going on a U.S. tour to gear clients in the retail industry to making his dolls available across the U.S.
“The U.S. market is structured in a more efficient manner, which allows us to reach more people. In Nigeria, apart from the more highbrow stores, such as Shoprite and the Game Store, it’s difficult to be present across multiple stores across several states. The U.S. has that distribution network, however, and that network is power,” said Okoya.
In the Forbes article, Okoya said that because of the downturn in Nigeria’s economy, sales of his doll had dropped. He also mentioned that not everyone jumped to purchase a doll, and he blamed colonialism.
“There’s still somewhat of a colonial brainwash present in the country, and store owners would tell me, ‘Oh no, black dolls don’t sell; give us more white dolls,’ when I first presented them with the dolls. There’s somewhat of a bandwagon mentality here, where people simply follow trends without asking themselves why. They were used to dolls being white by default, so taking a chance with a black doll was quite difficult for them at first,” he said.
Although the dolls aren’t yet available at retailers in the U.S., they can still be purchased on Amazon.com. But not everyone has been bitten by the e-commerce bug, so it'll be great for someone to be able to just walk into, let’s say, a Target and be able to purchase one.
Hopefully, while in the U.S. this summer, Okoya will reach the right people in order to bring his dolls stateside.