Queens of Africa Dolls Outsell Barbie in Nigeria

by Isis Madrid

January 19, 2015

When Taofick Okoya's daughter told him that she wished she was white, the Nigerian entrepreneur decided to help her fall in love with her natural black beauty. Sensing that her fair-skin worship was due to all of her favorite storybook, cartoon, and toy characters being white, Okoya began to imagine a world where Nigerian girls played with, and looked up to, black characters. 

That was in 2007. Eight years later the Queens of Africa dolls outsell Barbie in Nigeria. Modeled after the three biggest tribes in the country, the dolls each represent a different progressive value meant to empower black girls in their youth and in their careers. Nneka is Igbo and represents love. Azeezah is Hausa and is the queen of peace. In the music video created for the dolls, the Azeezah doll is seen holding a #BringBackOurGirls sign. Finally, Wuraola, the Yoruba doll represents endurance. “Water is soft, this is true, but it can break a rock,” she sings in the “Queens of Africa” song. The dolls are available in various outfits, though the traditional attire is the most popular.

Though the project is successful now, initially Okoya had a tough time convincing Nigerian toy stores to stock his dolls. “They said, ‘black dolls don’t sell,’” he told Elle South Africa. “I then embarked on an educational campaign via various media, telling people about the psychological impact dolls have on children, and [effect] dolls in the likeness of the African child can have on them. It took almost three years.” He also says that in order to get little girls who'd already been conditioned to value European standards of beauty to buy his dolls, the Queens of Africa dolls were designed without the curvy bodies, “fuller facial features,” and rougher hair textures that many of his consumers have come to demand. He promises that these “identifying African characteristics” as well as an animated series and movie are coming. He also hopes to expand the doll line to include at least one doll for each African country, as well as a limited-edition doll range to raise funds for an African education charity. 

The Nneka, Azeezah, and Wuraola dolls are available for sale in Nigeria's toy stores as well as internationally online. Okoya also sells three princess dolls and a series of books, comics, music, and cartoons that expand on the Queens of Africa world.

Recently on GOOD
Sign up to receive the best of GOOD delivered to your inbox each and every weekday
This $146 bottle of wine is so good you'll go to prison for it.
Queens of Africa Dolls Outsell Barbie in Nigeria