New co‐operative brings African produce to Nottingham

A co‐operatively owned shop in Nottingham, which celebrates African culture and tradition, is buying new stock thanks to a loan from The Co‐operative Loan Fund.

AfriCo‐operative is a new community shop specialising in African food, cosmetics, hair products, music and DVDs. Nottingham has an emerging African community, which totals over 3.6% of the city’s population, but traditional African goods have not been available in the area until now.

The group came together as a co‐operative earlier this year after recognising a gap in the market for a shop specialising in African products. The co‐operative opened a share issue in early 2012, which attracted substantial investment from 750 members. The money raised was used to refurbish the shop, which is situated on Radford Road in Nottingham, and it opened in May with a limited range of stock.

Finance from The Co‐operative Loan Fund supplements the money raised in this share issue, and the co‐operative is using it to broaden and diversify the range of products on offer in the shop. AfriCo‐operative currently stocks produce from three countries in southern Africa, but the members aim to eventually cover the entire continent. The co‐operative is passionate about supporting poor communities and farmers, and is working towards sourcing 80% of the stock directly from African producers.

The co‐operative hopes that the shop will become a hub for members of the African community in Nottingham, helping to integrate African culture and tradition, providing an information point, and improving overall quality of life for people in the area.

AfriCo‐operative also received business advice from The Co‐operative Enterprise Hub, making it one of a number of co‐operatives to have benefited from the services of both The Hub and The Loan Fund.

Osmond Okungbowa, a member of AfriCo‐operative, said: “We needed the loan to support the advice and guidance we received from the Hub; to help us diversify our range of stock and allow us to cater for people from all over Africa. We would not have been able to do this without their help.”

The members of AfriCo‐operative want to copy their model elsewhere in the country. After the Nottingham shop has become well established and integrated with the community, the co‐op plans to open another branch in London.
Ian Rothwell of The Co‐operative Loan fund said: “I was very impressed with the support the co‐operative got from the local community. The Co‐operative Loan Fund was delighted to supplement the very substantial sums already raised.”