Technical assistance (TA) provided by the USAID West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub) is integral to the recent success of getting toys created by Naïmadolls from Côte d’Ivoire into American homes this holiday season. This woman-led company successfully gaining access to the U.S. market—becoming the first company from Côte d’Ivoire to be listed on Amazon—is largely a result of the Trade Hub’s continued efforts in supporting Prosper Africa’s initiative to increase two-way trade between the United States and West Africa. Naïma Dolls sales from Amazon will directly impact the larger Trade Hub goal of facilitating more than $300 million in exports from West Africa.

Esther Psarakis (left), the Trade Hub’s U.S.-based Senior International Market Linkages Expert, provided AGOA support that was key in positioning Naïmadolls to be the first Ivorian company to sell their products on Amazon. Psarakis arranged this strategy meeting in August 2022 with Manon Karamoko from Naïmadolls (right) and Yoni Lebovits (center) from Albert Scott, Amazon Marketing Experts who are managing the dolls’ listings and sales. Photo Credit: Trade Hub

A key objective of the Trade Hub is to boost regional and international exports to the United States under AGOA. To this end, it provides targeted TA to co-investment partners and other export-ready companies in the region requesting support. Naïmadolls is one such company, which formally connected with the Trade Hub in April 2022. The first toy and game brand in Côte d’Ivoire, the African-inspired toy company was founded in 2015 by Sara Coulibaly, who was determined to allow young African children to gain a positive self-image and develop their self-esteem through their toys. Naïmadolls board games and dolls are intentionally designed to represent the beauty and diversity of African culture.  

Having success in Côte d’Ivoire and France (2021 sales of $550,000), Coulibaly sought to expand the company’s reach to the United States, with its significant African diaspora population. The process proved quite complex as the Trade Hub supported Naïmadolls to break into the U.S. toy market.  With the support of USAID/Côte d’Ivoire, the Trade Hub was vital in helping Naïmadolls learn of and adhere to stringent rules and gain unique certifications that are required in the highly competitive and fractured U.S. doll market.

After identifying, vetting, and enlisting the partnership of Albert Scott, an e-commerce management company with expertise in onboarding international companies for sales on the Amazon platform, the Trade Hub coordinated several meetings to put everything in motion for the dolls to make their way to the United States. Following many months of preparation, the Naïmadolls (with a $17,000 retail value) were shipped by air and arrived in the United States on October 9th. After clearing unexpected holding and inspection measures, the dolls were released on October 14th. Selling for between $30 and $35, four different Naïmadolls can now be ordered and shipped via Amazon. Almost one-third of the dolls had been sold, $5,000 worth, as of Thanksgiving.

Coulibaly marks the successful collaboration with the Trade Hub as a “great victory.” She shares, “We were fortunate to benefit from the support of USAID throughout this process and everything that has been done to facilitate the process and help us understand the American market.

This opportunity represents two “Amazon firsts”—the first company currently receiving Trade Hub support and the first-ever company from Côte d’Ivoire to be launched on the Amazon platform in the United States.