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As Africa’s urban centres assume a more globalized outlook, they’re shedding much of the distinctive material and cultural characteristics that tie them to the rural communities in the continent’s hinterland. You’ll find this schism of the rustic and the metropolitan when you compare the affluence of the city’s showpiece neighbourhoods, to the dearth of basic amenities in the villages. Its present even absence of indigenous craftsmanship in the former, and its survival and thriving in the latter.

Made by Rural works to make this contrasting landscape into an opportunity for rural dwellers. They’re an Afrocentric social enterprise which brings the art and crafts of the African hinterland to a global market and puts the proceeds from its sale of these items into improving health education and care in the communities from which the materials are gotten.

This promotion of African art and healthcare initiatives won Made by Rural a place in Connect Nigeria’s list of Top 100 SMEs. It came through a rigorous screening process, which whittled down the thousands of preliminary entrants, and was also helped on by votes from its customers and fans.

Made by Rural operates with a focus on the African continent, as the spread of their products’ origins and healthcare interventions show. The products on sale from Made by Rural range from leather wristbands made in Nigeria, to wooden spoons made of mahogany from Kenya. These handmade items are sourced from local craftspeople in the rural parts of the continent and sold to buyers elsewhere in Africa- especially urban dwellers -and across the world.

If you’re interested in buying locally styled products from Made by Rural, you’ll find them on sale on the organization’s website. It showcases an impressive array of crafts: Masai earrings, handcrafted multipurpose wooden bowls, gazelle wall decors, bone hair clips, and handbags made of raffia and leather. These are designed in styles peculiar to the regions from which they emanate. These products can be ordered from and delivered to locations across the globe.

Apart from online sales, Made by Rural also exhibits its wares at trade shows and commercial events in Africa and the Middle East. These exhibitions are part of its drive to promote African art and craft on the continent, as well as in regions beyond.

The social impact aspect of Made by Rural’s operations involves the devotion of at least 30% of its profits to making healthcare services available in the communities from which their products are obtained. It currently does this in collaboration with Simon Medical Foundation, an NGO which provides health education to communities in Africa. Their interventions cover screenings for diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, oral health hygiene and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment sensitization.

Made by Rural’s enterprise model combines the beauty of art and the practicality of healthcare service provision, in a way that makes a compassionate business out of art. It’s the quintessential social enterprise, one that merits its place on a list of businesses for the present and the future.

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This article was first published on 6th November 2018 and updated on November 7th, 2018 at 5:33 pm


Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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