This online marketplace is connecting creative talents in Africa with customers

Lagos, Nigeria What if you could find and book creative professionals in Africa for their services with the click of a button?

Nigerian entrepreneur, Fade Ogunro, started Bookings Africa, a digital platform with access to service providers like accountants, makeup artists, and social media influencers.
Founded in 2019, it now has a database of more than 8,000 registered artisans across South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya, according to Ogunro.
It works like the ride-hailing service, Uber, where anyone that requires a cab can log onto the Uber app, book one, and pay at the end of the trip.
    Ogunro told CNN that through Bookings Africa, users can search for a variety of talent, compare prices, book online and pay securely.
    She added that so far it provides access to creatives in 25 different fields.

    Identifying a problem

    Ogunro, who is also a TV and documentary producer, first got the idea to create the digital marketplace in 2015 in the course of her work.
    “I own a production company with my brother. And at the time, we had to shoot a lot of content and documentaries for brands and music artists across Africa,” she said.
    Ogunro noticed over time that the company was losing a lot of money and time during pre-production because it was challenging getting talents such as photographers, makeup artists, and hairdressers for their videos and documentaries.
    “You know as a business owner I was looking for ways to increase my profit margin and make the process smoother. The only thing I could think of was to access or book the crew, talent, and equipment needed on time. I thought things would be easier for me if there was a database to access these guys in different countries” she said.
    Fade Ogunro is a documentary producer and founder of Bookings Africa.

    It was much later, after a bizarre dream in February 2016, that Ogunro decided to tackle the problem head-on. She would start working on creating a digital platform that would provide access to creative talents on the continent.
    “I had a dream about a TV commercial, it was an ad about Bookings Africa.com, including the name. In my dream, I was listening to the ad say ‘log on to bookings Africa.com, a platform where you can find and access workers,'” she said.
    Ogunro researched the technology industry and ways to set up an online platform like Bookings Africa.
    Eventually, in April 2019, she got the company running in Nigeria. That same year, she raised $ 20,000 in funding from the Unicorn Group, allowing her to expand to South Africa and Kenya.

    How Bookings Africa works

    Any artisan can register on Bookings Africa as a service provider for free, Ogunro said. Similarly, anyone in need of a specific service can register on the website or app and book providers.
    However, after being paid by a client, service providers are charged a fee by the company for using their platform.
    There is an approval process whereby anyone who registers on the site as a talent provider is checked for authenticity, according to Ogunro.
    “It’s a four-stage process. You complete your bio, the services you offer and your prices, your work portfolio, and then your ID and Bank Verification Number,” she said She said the approval process takes at least 48 hours.
    “We make sure to check the quality of your work, we check to make sure you are not putting anything offensive. And then there’s also a background check based on your social media handles and email address to make sure everything matches,” she added.
    Payment happens on the website or app as Bookings Africa has an integrated e-wallet system.
    Clients pay ahead of the service but the money is held in the e-wallet, and only deposited in the bank account of the provider when the job is done.
    This, Ogunro said, helps to give the client assurance that they can get a refund if they are not satisfied with the job.
    Bookings Africa currently has 12 staff members across three countries including Ogunro.
      In the next few years, the producer and entrepreneur said she wants her platform to be the go-to space for digital services.
      “Part of the plan is that over the next three to four years, I’d like to be in at least 20 more countries on the continent,” she said.

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