Africa Fashion Guide was founded on a passion to promote Africa’s full supply chain of fashion and textiles. As the founder of this enterprise I am excited about Africa and its future in this field and so feel it needed to highlight a few points that have been going around in discussion around the future and the impact of Africa’s fashion and textile industry and development in Africa.
The World Economic Forum tells us that:
This is based on The Economist magazine online report on growing economies in particular countries stating that:
Africa’s projected growth rate for 2012 is calculated to be around 6%. Though we must also be aware of the need for political stability, strengthening of Africa’s leaders to deal with challenges with unemployment, food and also water scarcity. Large business investment is needed to continue to drive economies in Africa’s frontier markets. The textile industry is just one of these markets where change is impacting communities. But as well as potential, there are challenges to deal with.
Starting with African cotton farming, at present over 95% of the cotton grown on the continent exported in its raw form which means that the value of cotton leaves the continent. Due to research stating that in the whole continent of Africa only around 1 million spindles exist compared to 65million in China. So cotton, in its fabric form, must then be imported back to Africa. The lack of mills and factories for processing is dire and causes Africa to have difficulty competing with the Asian giants in this industry.
For example according to Franca Sozzani of Vogue Italia, in the 1990s Ghana had a textile industry that employed over 25000 people, today this has shrunk to 3000. In comparison Nigeria in the 1970s and 80s had over 250 textile manufacturing units, which have been reduced to less than 25 units today and less interest with the budding designer industry for local sourcing and production. South Africa at present is dealing with labour rights in its textile industry where small clothing factories are unable to pay their workers the minimum wage, which is due to larger retailers demanding cheaper manufacturing rates.
On the flip side and what has been a huge topic of discussion of late, are designers such as Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Marni who have used African inspired print fabrics for recent collections that they sell to their luxury consumer market. Also to mention projects such as designer Vivienne Westwood with the Ethical Fashion Africa project. Vivienne Westwood along with the International Trade Centre (ITC) works with disadvantaged women artisans in the slums of Kenya to produce desirable recycled bags for the Vivienne Westwood brand. The press this has received has raised the profile of Africa as a place of production though it has been debated that it continues to cement the vision of Africa as a place of poverty and aid.
Franca Sozzani, the Editor of Vogue Italia works with Fashion 4 Development as their Ambassador and recently visited Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda sitting with designers and artisans. Her aim is to bring more products made in Africa to new international markets and retailers.
On top of this, Africans on the continent, and in the Diaspora have opened more and more online boutiques. These showcase and sell garments made in Africa or using African material. E-boutiques such as Agnesandlola.com, MyAsho.com, Heritage1960.com, Le Tabouret D’Or to name a few as well as new stores in Africa such as that by Christie Brown in Ghana and Bow Boutique by Sika Designs also in Ghana showing that designers are selling to their local African consumer markets as well.
With shows happening on the continent like Arise Magazine Fashion Week, Africa Fashion Week in South Africa and now New York, London and Los Angeles and events such as Origin Africa trade show and conferences, is now bringing African fashion and textiles to the forefront of the global textiles industry.
Books such as Fashion Africa – a Visual Overview of Contemporary African Fashion by myself, as well as New African Fashion by Arise Magazine Helen Jennings, blog sites such as Shadders, Haute Fashion Africa, Style House Files and more telling the story of African fashion to the international eye is celebrating a contemporary persuasion of the fashion industry in Africa.
Africa is seen now as a new market for consumers, for business expansion and economic growth. International retailers are recognising this such as Inditex owned Zara, as well as Mango, Gap, Wallmart, Converse and more are opening on the continent. From Nigeria to Morocco to Kenya to South Africa – the full continent is seen as the retailers new playing field and the smart ones are getting in there sooner rather than later.
What I will be discussing further on Africa Fashion Guide, is the full supply chain in this industry and how the Diaspora can engage with this and encourage develop and implement change for the future. This website was founded to highlight and to discuss the above mentioned areas – African cotton, large and small-scale manufacturing in Africa, Ethical Fashion projects in Africa, African fashion in African AND non-African fashion publications, the rise of African fashion shows and trade events, the new market for e-boutiques selling African fashion and the consumer market.
But I will also discusss and include relevant policy factors such as trade not aid / aid by trade – where African countries are helped by having trade with them, Fair-trade, labour laws – to increase this especially in regards to the cost of living and living wages in relation to the producer countries; the AGOA policy and its possible looming end; the lack of skills and the need to employ external people to do the technical work; the lack of equipment and materials; the impact of secondhand clothing sent to Africa; the threat of China’s influence and it taking over trade in Africa, as well as lastly African intra-continent trade over international trade. These are all factors which contribute to Africa as a potential strong player in the global fashion and textile industry.
So as we continue on this journey I encourage your input, your thoughts and even your contributions.
As I keep saying and I do highly agree with the so named brand – Africa IS the future!
(main image copyright – Africa Is The Future – brand)