Have you ever tried finding African images for a project on any of the major search engines? Chances could be that you were left disappointed with the search results. It was out of one such disappointing experiences that the idea for Iwaria was born.
While working on a digital marketing campaign for an Africa-focused apps project, Aurelle Noutahi turned to the internet to source for images. She wanted images depicting people and scenarios her target audience would be familiar with. Most of the results returned negative.
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Her business partner and project overseer, Médrid Barrincio, recalls the experience: “even when we got positive results of Black people, the style and environment usually weren’t African.”
In 2016, Iwaria.com, a stock photography resource for Africans was founded. Although it won’t be the first to attemp such a venture in Africa, it is the first to do it differently.
Iwaria offers its images free of charge. sourcing photos from contributors submitting under the Creative Commons Zero license, users can download and re-purpose the images as they please; without charge and or compulsion to credit the contributor.
There’s a simple idea behind the free model — quickly grow the platform before trying to capture value. For an African startup, that may be a strange model but, it is working.
“We want Iwaria to become the Google Images of Africa. We want that anyone who is looking for authentic photos for Africa can find them on Iwaria.”
After two years in operation, Iwaria is now host to over 5000 photos from over 700 contributors. Figures could have been more impressive had they been selling the images, Médrid admits; as that would have been an incentive for photographers. For now, photographers will have to settle for making a difference while getting some valuable visibility.
In future, Iwaria intends to generate revenue. Part of the plan is to embark on aggressive digital marketing targeted at reaching under-served regions and growing the collection of stock photographs to at least 25,000.
As Médrid says they “believe Anglophone Africa can bring a lot of value to Iwaria. If we currently we have these many contributors from Francophone Africa, I think it will be interesting for Iwaria to have people that come from English-speaking countries too”.
In the long term, the startup is looking to expand beyond images to offer other media including audio, video and vector graphics. They also hope to get external investors on board in the nearest future. For more on Iwaria, visit this link.