VIEWPOINT - FASHIONOMICS: Strengthening Africa's creative industries.
Fuelled by a grow- ing appetite for African art, the rising popularity of African music and the unstop- pable march of African cinema, African fashion is no longer just a sup- porting act for famous global names.
Designers like Nigerian Adebayo Oke-Lawal and his menswear label Or- ange Culture, South Africa's Laduma Ngxokolo, Ivorian Laurence Chauvin Buthaud and Ugandan fibre designer Sarah Nakisanze are now turning heads on fashion runways of the world.
At the height of colonial rule, raw cotton from Africa went into the making of textiles and fabrics exported worldwide. The African Development Bank's (AfDB) vision is one that sees an industry that stretches from Africa's cot- ton fields to international retail shops.
The African fashion industry is al- ready booming and Africa's role as both a consumer and producer of fashion is on the rise. African fabrics are inspiring more and more famous designers. It's a sector that can both create economic benefits and become a vehicle to promote African regional integration and cultural identity.
The global textile and fashion indus- try is expected to double in the next 10 years, generating up to $5 trillion an- nually. In the US alone, $284 billion is spent every year on fashion retail through the purchase of 19 billion garments.
This presents a tremendous opportunity for Africa at various levels of the value chain: from design to produc- tion to marketing, the fashion industry is a profitable business. At each step of the value chain, more value is added, with additional jobs created. Targeting the textile and fashion industry means targeting the whole value chain, from smallholder farmers to retail stores.
Fashion is big business in Africa as well: the combined apparel and foot- wear market in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to be worth $31 billion.
The potential market in Africa is huge both in terms of size and value. South Africa and Nigeria are currently the continent's top fashion markets, but other countries, such as Ethiopia and Mauritius, are on the rise. Lesotho, Ke- nya, Mauritius and Swaziland are the leaders in textile and apparel exports.
Exports from the continent as a whole are low, but more production hubs are coming on stream, with Mau- ritius, Ethiopia and Ghana leading the way. Mauritius accounts for 66 per cent of African textile and clothing imports to South Africa. Mozambique, Angola and Ethiopia are also seeing an increase in African textile factories. Ethiopia at- tracted foreign direct investments of $1.2 billion in the first six months of 2016/2017 fiscal year -- half of which were in the textile and clothing sector.
There is an urgent need for Africa to rapidlyindustrialiseandaddvalueto everything that it produces, instead of exporting raw materials susceptible to global price volatilities. This industry is dominated by micro, small and me- dium enterprises (MSMEs) and holds thepotentialtocreatedecentjobs-- skilled and unskilled -- for millions of Africans, especially women and youth. New information and communication technologies, such as e-commerce, will be key to support this growth and tap into global and regional value chains.
Yet, while the potential is huge, African countries face different chal- lenges: weak business environments, scarcity of skilled and unskilled work- ers, high production cost, insufficient infrastructure and production ca- pacity, lack of clear national policies on textile and apparel, lack of a clear strategy to promote local designers to enter the domestic, regional and international markets and so on.
Moreover, there is a gap in data which needs to be filled by more ana- lytical work that would ultimately al- low evidence-based policy-making and promote a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the various actors, such as governments, local private sector, development partners and foreign investors.
The good news is that African textile and clothing entrepreneurs have begun to gain global recogni- tion as they pioneer strategies to market and brand fashion concepts grounded in cultural heritage -- the "African brand". African designs are no longer perceived as a "tradition- al", ethnic or original input to new collections, but have evolved into a rapidly developing industry within and outside Africa.
In order to develop the African tex- tile and garment industry there is the need to fully valorise local content and workmanship while embrac- ing industrialisation. This is why the AfDB launched the Fashionomics Af- rica initiative. Through Fashionom- ics Africa, the bank plans to raise the profile of the African textile and fash- ion industry on the international stage. The goal is to connect and strengthen each link in the chain, from produc- ers and suppliers of primary materials, to manufacturers, distributors, and of course, investors. The sector must be developed to open up its potential for revenue and job creation, especially for women and youth.
The intention is to encourage Afri- can textile and fashion entrepreneurs and small businesses to source and produce locally with African artisans and stimulate job creation on the con- tinent by focusing on sustainability.
In 2017, the AfDB launched the Fashionomics Africa Masterclasses in Addis Ababa, Lagos, and Johannesburg in collaboration with partners such as Google Africa, Tony Elumelu Founda- tion, Parsons School of Fashion, Nesta, Hub of Africa, Lagos Fashion and De- sign Week and Africa Fashion Interna- tional. The Masterclasses are intended to give a better grasp of establishing and building a fashion brand -- from idea to execution -- focusing on capacity building on business plan development, branding, marketing, and networking, fostering market linkages and providing greater understanding of the challeng- es and opportunities African fashion entrepreneurs encounter in running a fashion business and sharing of best practices and international standards.
Starting from 2019, the bank will im- plement a two-year plan, moving from the prototype phase to the Fashionom- ics Africa digital marketplace and mo- bile app. A pilot phase will start in five African countries -- Cote d'Ivoire, Ethi- opia, Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya. The platform aims to increase access to markets and market intelligence, facili- tate access to finance, provide mentor- ship and networking opportunities and develop skills and qualifications for Af- rican fashion entrepreneurs.
Emanuela Gregorio is an economist, gen- der and innovation expert at the African De- velopment Bank Group
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