Category: Para-Entrepreneurship

Type: Accompaniment to Business plan drafting

Title: Cooperative for the sale of African art objects


AL QUASAR is a Cooperative for the sale of african art objects. Matching network and selling african masks. authenticity – diversity – fair price –fair trade – simple delivery.


Project summary

AL QUASAR a Cooperative for the sale of African art objects is a business project that will be promoted and be active online. The idea to set up this business came to BLUES* during a trip to Mali. He Consulted THE WISEMEN COUNCIL on the opportunity to assess viability and sustainability of this kind of idea. A draft of the model structure was established, and the business simulation designed.

This project has two main challenges:

  • Create an attractive, efficient and practical website to develop a network of acquisition and distribution of art objects managed by qualified and motivated associates.
  • This website can be both a catalog site but also an informative site on masks, batiks, statues and other arts objects to assist the customer in learning about African culture and better identify their needs in terms of African crafts.

The Web technology can meet these expectations. Indeed, the importance of a quality online portal for the cooperative operations gives a support for sales and a reason to invest in authentic product. Building a network of procurement and distribution is the responsibility of the partners who should be selected carefully for their commitment, knowledge of African art and market prices. Although a minimum membership fees may be required to benefit from the network, the distribution of benefits will allow everyone to take advantage of its activity in the cooperative network. Material resources are mainly the tools for packaging and distribution of objects. Partnering with companies specializing in the delivery of packages allows the network to focus on its core business which is selling and counseling on African crafts. It is also important that the partner can take photos of their items available for sale to allow the site to have the exact image of the products in the catalogue regardless of storage location.

Collecting information

At the end of his visit to Mali during the summer of 2009, BLUES* had the idea to set up a company to have a complement activity to his job in the North America. We suggest a distribution network of African masks around the world to promote the craft and culture of this continent. We made a study, share our vision and built a project based on the available resources and the potential of the market to create. A cooperative was the structure fitting the most with the operation of the project and was based on a network of local correspondents involved in the selection, packaging and transport of art objects in their regions. This cooperative still need to identify a sound legal agreement to allow coordination by a team based in the State and the membership of seller in Africa

That partnership includes a holding with sole proprietorship companies of the sellers of the network, allowing them to meet legal compliance, welfare and commitment of adequate provisions to ensure fair trade. BLUES*, as manager and owner, wanted to keep the leadership in the structure and define the conditions at the entrance in the network.

Mapping the structure

Human Resource

Associated sellers in the cooperative network are business people linked jointly and responsible for the benefits and losses. The choice of matching the profiles is the responsibility of a committee headed by the manager. The associate sellers are equal in several liability. However, they are entitled to a profit distribution in accordance with the activity generated by their commercial area.

External partnerships can be forged with diverse business to allow the network to expand its business: distribution, packaging, legal service, customs operations and banking service strategic consulting, market research…


As leading manager and initiator of the project, BLUES* met the desire to promote African art but also to lead a healthy business structure for sustainable and complementally revenue.

Objective of the project

Creating an extensive activity that can generate a strong income and allowing the development of commercial structures in Africa and the distribution of African culture worldwide.

Legal Aspects

The statutes of the company will be coming from the right of the country of registration of the company where a close form of cooperative structure is available and licit. The model of partnership includes for example:

  • Minimum number of shareholders: 2
  • No minimum capital
  • The manager have a management role and network representation
  • The partners are traders and held jointly and severally for the debts
  • Distribution of profits is fixed by the annual meeting. A proportionate share of the assets on dissolution.
  • Unanimity (to be adapted to the number of board member) is recommended for decision-making and written necessary act.
  • If the company is in a state of insolvency, reorganization proceedings and liquidation is open against the partners.
  • In principle, all partners are managers but in practice one or more managers are appointed from among them. The manager (natural or legal person) may be forfeited.
  • The control is provided by the partners or by an auditor
  • In the event of termination of the activity of a partner, the continuation of the company may be provided by the articles or a unanimous decision of the partners


The structure consists of associates located mainly in Africa acting as traders or business people. They are the network of correspondents for acquiring the marketing and distribution of African art.

A management team based outside Africa to administer and coordinate sales distribution network

The initial capital is provided by the members of the management team.


External business partners are those generated as follows:

Distribution, packaging, legal service, customs operations and banking service strategic consulting, market research …

Planning the operations

The African art can take many forms. Those used for marketing are the one that is best suited to the customer need and conditions for the acquisition and distribution across the network. Products to market can be:

  • The traditional masks and masks collection
  • Masks craft contemporary
  • Traditional statues
  • Statues of contemporary craft
  • Batiks or other tissue based material
  • The fabrics worked by the expertise of each producer country

These are the starting materials. The product range can be extended. However, that it is held not to sell items whose value does not monetize the delivery or acquisition costs.

Respect for Cultural Heritage

The idea of a selling cooperative supported by a network of correspondents is initiated by THE COUNCIL WISEMEN and BLUES*. Sales of African art object must respect the cultural heritage of the continent and not to participate in the escape of collectibles or highly important objects for the cult or history.

The goal is to promote the production of new object of imitation or creation of new craft Base in African countries. The sale of old artifacts when it can detract from the heritage of the country, such as: Sell authentic Dogon Kanaga and even old can worship as Kono always generates the production of new ceremonial mask. This allows for a profitable exit door to the abandoned masks (Being aware however of the spiritual presence!!!)

The advantage of the sale as a cooperative allows each artisan and every trader to remain independent in its activity and only spend a small amount of their business time to the network correspondence activities. The work load depends on customer need and product catalog set up for the year by the management team and after the recommendation of sellers.

There is no minimum qualification for the respective partners. One of the competitive advantages of the network is that the network relies on the strength of the African informal trade which everyone is entitled. Administrative task management requires technical and commercial skills.

Material resources to implement the structure are simple to obtain:

For correspondents: a minimum capital for purchases of early activity, storage, product packaging reliable access to a camera, the ability to manage money transfers (Western Union, Money gram, PayPal, local banks, bank access on mobile…)

Adapting to the environment

The retail sector of African art online is not contrary to widespread store direct sales particularly in the context of fair trade. This may be due to the number of available business. The right effort for the heritage of a country is to master distribution and acquisition. Several websites offer catalogs of objects (most often masks) that customers can easily order. The auction sites online are also significant players in the sector. They allow the individual to store or sell works of art in line with the advantage of benefit payment methods offered by the site (eg PayPal on eBay). Having a website and a separate network is useful to control the type of product sold and the quality of service.

The market is mainly segmented into sub-groups:

  • Internet sites dedicated sales lines
  • The websites of direct sales shop
  • The websites auction accessible to individuals and stores
  • Internet ad sites

Customer need is to access to a wide range of art objects (which will be stored on site acquisition or pool to reduce the delivery time), to have information on masks purchased, and have a shorter delivery time.

The difference with what has been done so far, is that this project can be implemented with the professionalism of a small structure type applied to the field of crafts.

Pricing policy promotes the definition of three categories of products with an average price centered value.

The quality of the website and its practicality will allow standing out from the competition and exploring other avenues of services and facilities in this type of business.

Several websites of the categories mentioned above are very active in this type of activity. The fact to distinguish and provide a quality service different from the other will create a barrier to entry for newcomers.

The main competitive advantage, is the ability of the cooperative sale of African art that can be set up and operate a business model offering a high potential for generating income, contribute to the development of activities of its partners and investors and provide a level of quality customer service online while recognizing themselves as African business footprint of a new dynamic. Customer will benefit from knowledge and authenticity as long as customized offer based on trend and tradition.

Generating revenue

The initial capital will be used to finance the creation of the website, for redemption of the first acquisitions (each seller will manage its own budget to purchase and send objects to customers, costs and a part of the benefit it generates)

The estimated start-up capital should be low and affordable.

To complete the structure of capital, a loan is recommended for the acquisition of equipment (camera, shipping supplies …), commitment to a contract with utilities and other costs is to be incurred for the year of starting. There may be a line of credit associated with the account of the company for flexibility.

The estimated budget includes the projected monthly sales quantities (sales target) associated with the margins by price are not included in this sample of the case.

Conclusion and outlook

This cooperative project of selling African art object is part of a dynamic of Africa who wants to play a significant role in world trade. Initiatives coming from players with a history of many mixtures enriched with different cultures and traditions, many professional and life experiences. The economic model to implement demands long-term chances of success for a new business. The ultimate goal of this project is to redistribute income to investors and partners. It is up to the management team to imbibe the characteristics of this type of activity in order to make decisions that will allow for development of the business and why not the application of this model to others sectors activity.

*nickname for the purpose of the case

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