Welcome to the African Continent Edition of the Elevate Destinations Holiday Gift Guide! Was your trip to Africa canceled or postponed this year? Are you pining for Africa’s wide open spaces, beauty and cultural diversity? We sure are!
We know taking a trip is a much more powerful way to learn about a destination, their people, and their grace and strength, but there are ways to support connection despite our current distance. With millions of tourism dollars gone unspent this year, why not take take some of those savings and support local business in African communities? We invite you to explore the vibrancy of African arts and culture through your holiday shopping. Give a gift to someone who loves a particular country or dreams of traveling there, knowing you are supporting local communities in your favorite destinations.
We have put together a list of organizations and businesses offering beautiful gifts from around the continent. These sellers ship to the US. Happy, impactful shopping!
Image above: An artisan weaves a basket for Azizi Life.
- L’Atelier Kenya – Linen and cotton clothes and homeware inspired by nature, which support a private conservancy in Laikipia, Kenya
- Swahili Coast Design – An organization committed to connect the incredible artistry and talents of East African artists to global markets using the principles of fairness, dignity and respect. Shop in their online store for beautiful, handmade sandals, towels, jewelry and more.
- Sandstorm Kenya – Starting out as a safari tent maker in Kenya, the Sandstorm team sought ways to use leftover canvas. The company has now been selling high-quality, contemporary canvas bags for both men and women for over 20 years.
- Ubuntu Life – Every purchase from Ubuntu Life supports their mission of providing mothers of children with special needs and others in their community with sustainable employment. Their partner foundation, Ubuntu Life Foundation, operates a special needs center and specialty medical program that provide life-changing therapy and medical care to hundreds of children in the Maai Mahiu area of Kenya.
- Sidai Designs – A celebration of traditional Maasai culture and beading techniques, Sidai Designs blends the traditional design with contemporary aesthetics, empowering Maasai women in Tanzania with their own stream of income. Explore Sidai Designs’ handmade contemporary jewelry and homewares and support Maasai women in Tanzania.
- Neema Crafts – A not for profit organization that trains, employs and empowers people with disabilities in Tanzania. Shop with Neema Crafts this holiday season. Anything you purchase from Neema’s is sustainably and lovingly handmade by individuals in Tanzania. Become a part of their story! Shop for unique jewelry, homewares and gifts for kids!
- World of Weaving – A social enterprise that supports Tanzanian women weavers and tailors to develop their skills and design and create contemporary home textiles and accessories. Bring the look of Tanzania into your home with blankets, cushions and beach towels.
- Women Craft – A Fair Trade certified social enterprise in northern Tanzania that increases economic opportunities for women in the post-conflict, tri-border area of Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. Women Craft brings together women artisans to facilitate their growth and connect their artistry to global markets. Support these women by purchasing beautiful woven baskets and homeware that combines traditional and international design.
- Shanga – As a social enterprise that employs Tanzanians with disabilities to create unique, high-quality, handmade jewelry, glassware and homeware, incorporating recycled materials. With every purchase from Shanga, you are investing in communities and creating employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Shop for jewelry and homeware made with glass-blown beads, recycled metals and handwoven products.
- Make it Matter – Supporting more than 1,500 Tanzanian Artisans, Make it Matter provides a marketplace for people to purchase quality, ethically made artisan wares knowing that every purchase empowers a maker. From everything from paintings and homewares to jewelry and books, there is something for everyone at Make it Matter!
- Sifa Threads – Every product at Sifa Threads is designed with purpose. From the hand-stitching, fabric dying, screen printing and design work on clothing, each piece is a one-of-a-kind made by Sifa’s students. Tanzanian women who are a part of Sifa’s team are supported to launch their own local businesses. 100% of sales goes directly to Sifa to students. Shop online for clothing, accessories and homeware all beautifully designed and made using Tanzanian textiles and up-cycled fabrics.
- Adopt a HeroRat from APOPO – APOPO addresses global issues through research, development and the deployment of scent detection technology at its training and research center in Tanzania and seven other countries. Adopt an APOPO rat in honor of your loved ones this year and support their work in detecting landmines and tuberculosis all over the world.
- Akola – Akola is a globally-inspired brand that empowers women by providing job opportunities to nearly 200 women in Uganda. Shop for high-quality, handcrafted jewelry made from local materials in Uganda.
- Sseko Designs – Sseko began as a way to generate income for high potential, talented young women in Uganda to continue on to university.
- Azizi Life – Partnering with over 500 groups of rural artisans in Rwanda, Azizi Life facilitates connections between makers, designers and customers all over the world to offer high-quality, ethically-sourced goods. Their modern and traditional collections of baskets, woven bowls, home decor, jewelry and bags are crafted by using local, natural and renewable sources.
- Inema Arts Center – Located in the heart of Kigali City, Inema Arts Center is one of East Africa’s major art galleries, boating a collection of work from artists around the African continent.
- Umatima – A women’s cooperative in Kigali. From high quality kitenge fabrics, the women of Umutima Cooperative craft products ranging from children’s clothes, women’s accessories, and home decor with a creative style and outstanding quality that can’t be found at other tailors or markets around Kigali.
- Mulberry and Mongoose – Based in an elephant-trodden path in the Zambian bush, local craftsman at Mulberry and Mongoose make all jewelry by hand using natural materials from the South Luangwa valley. In an area where unemployment and poaching are a part of the reality of this community, every piece of jewelry purchased helps support the community and conservation efforts.
- Tribal Textiles – Tribal Textiles works with local artisans to create sustainable impact through creativity and craftsmanship. They go beyond fair wages, reinvesting 5% of each purchase in community strengthening initiatives and supporting local wildlife conservation efforts. Shop online for hand-painted African textiles with traditional or contemporary African designs inspired by the rich culture of wildlife in Southern Africa: throw pillows, bedding, table linens, wall decor, bags and accessories.
- Mungo – Mungo’s mission is to provide a good quality product that is valued by the end user at the same time as providing employment and skills development to the local community. Putting people, their visions and livelihoods is at the heart of Mungo’s work; creating heirloom-quality woven goods.
- Moroccan Pom Pom Blankets from Living Multicultural – Living Multicultural offers a variety of products from all over the globe. These pom pom blankets are made by skilled Berber artisans from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. They are handwoven on wooden looms from cotton using traditional techniques so they are thicker and warmer than most throws.
- SheKudo – Blending traditional techniques and local resources with a contemporary aesthetic, SheKudo produces quality women’s footwear and accessories with a company culture of sisterhood, promoting a sense of caring, empowerment and celeration among women across the globe.
- Vai Girl – Handcrafted designs, bold prints and flirty silhouettes – all handmade in Liberia, West Africa.
- Karama Collection – Karama Collections grew from a desire to provide dignified, meaningful work for artisans in Africa. With its beginnings in Ethiopia, the social enterprise has since expanded to partner with artisans from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar and Malawi. From holiday gifts to jewelry and quality leather bags, Karama Collection might just be the one stop shop for everyone on your holiday gift list.
- Noonday Collection – Noonday Collection was launched in Uganda in a collaborative effort to use fashion to create jobs in a local Ugandan community. It has since expanded all over the world to reach artisans who design jewelry and accessories using traditional materials and skills to create unique jewelry, develop their businesses through fair trade so they can grow sustainability and reach global markets.
- Made Global – Born out of a desire to build human connection in the products we buy, Made Global sources sustainably made, quality products from artisans all over the world and shares stories of local artisans and makers while doing it. With everything from jewelry to homeware and bedding to gifts for children, Made Global has a varied unique online shop. Every item comes with a story of who, how and where it was made from.
- Karoo Consulting – All profits from the purchase of African-made and inspired items are donated to support educational and conservation non-profits in Africa.
- Atlas Coffee Club – Give your loved ones the gift of coffee from around the world with Atlas Coffee Club’s subscription boxes. Atlas will curate the best coffees from Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and more and ship coffee right to your door.
- Ampersand Coffee Roasters – Get your loved ones the gift of rich, delicious coffee and caffeine with a coffee subscription from Ampersand Coffee Roasters, a collective that benefits women who work in coffee production all over the world.
Books That Inspire
- In Bibi’s Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean [A Cookbook], Hawa Hassan – Bibi is the Swahili word for Grandmother. The comfort and joy we find in our grandmothers’ cooking is something people feel all over the world.
- Americanah, Chiminanda Ngozi – “Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.”