Fairtrade organizations have certainly made some progress towards improving the pay of the farmers who produce much of the Western world’s consumer goods. Since most of these businesses act as middlemen, however — making a significant profit from the resale of the goods — the actual improvement to the wages of farmers and workers leaves a lot to be desired.
Aiming to address this, Anou is an Etsy-style online marketplace which enables Moroccan artisans to sell their wares directly to western consumers, drastically improving their position and expanding their potential customer base. The platform was created by Dan Driscoll and Tom Counsell, who are hoping it can help to keep the wealth, generated from the sales of artisan products, within the community.
The platform is designed to be simple for artisans to use, and after a little training these makers will be able to upload their own products. Notably, the marketplace is language free, so artisans can upload and sell their handmade crafts such as jewellery, rugs and kitchenware, without having to overcome the language barrier which prevents them from using existing sites such as eBay or Etsy. Artisans can access Anou via internet cafes and 2G and 3G cellphones, which are becoming widespread in Morocco. They photograph their goods and can then list their items using the icon-based interface, selecting what category their product falls under and setting their own price. Anou employs local ‘artisan leaders’ — literate makers who can train and manage newcomers, teaching them the skills they need to manage their own business.
The consumer facing side of the site is simple and colorful. Items are accompanied by a photograph of their maker and a list of materials and techniques used. They are grouped by product type or artisan association. Driscoll plans to step out from Anou very soon, leaving behind an artisan self-run operation within the next few months. Are there other platforms which could be made language free to enable more users to access them?