Africa Fashion Guide
A social enterprise promoting sustainability within Africa's fashion and textile industry.


January 31st, 2020

Brexit, UK-Africa Summit and African Fashion…What’s the Link?

The British people have spoken and a decision has been made by the U.K government and on Brexit. We will leave the EU (unofficially) today, 31st January 2020.

Why am I telling you this?

What does this have to do with your business?

How does this relate to Africa?

Well, let me give you some context.

Early 2020 I attended meetings around the U.K. Africa Investment Summit. I joined as much as I could and was even invited by DFID to moderate a panel with CDC, Hela, Unilever, Helios Partners to name a few of the top specialists on the panel

You see the U.K. is building new ties with Africa for business, trade, manufacturing and more!

Right now you may have seen the influx of African Americans who travelled to Africa exploring and also becoming introduced to opportunities on the ground.

I predict for 2020 there will be a surge of U.K. businesses doing the same. Mark my words.

So, I wanted to give you some feedback to what happened at the events I attended and share my feedback so you can see why having a fashion business in Africa this day is one of the best moves you can do right now.

Prefer to watch the video?

Then do see this here: just make sure to SUBSCRIBE to my channel when you get there!



The Main Summit

A strong feeling was given about giving back and supporting the next generation especially of African leaders. Whether through giving seed capital or through trainings but with a mind to change the continent. Imagine the next Mark Zuckerberg coming from Africa, or better yet the first to come up with a cure for cancer! But an urgency was felt that there is a need to create opportunities for the next gen. By addressing existing challenges and helping women, youth and vulnerable groups to access training and grow careers, could support them in building their own pathways out of poverty. Not enough to talk of jobs creation but we must speak also about alleviating poverty and transforming it into prosperity.

Worth $2.3trillion USD combined GDP, Africa holds 8 of the world’s fastest growing economies at 6% and above. The continents population of 1.2bn is only growing and also growing are the opportunities which outweigh the challenges. Agenda 2063 is the African Union’s mandate for Africa to create and build the Africa We Want. This is Africa’s blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future.

Africa can lead because it can leapfrog. There’s lots of hunger among company CEOs and so we will see certain things coming from Africa that many can learn from. Standard Chartered Bank’s speaker said they believe Africa is an adopter of technology rather than a follower. And so the U.K Government announced that they planned to launch a one stop shop to support those who want to go to Africa.

The continuous recognition that Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world, with prospective female entrepreneurs. That there are more women than men doing this, despite the challenges of business. Such as being denied access to finance and technical support and also lack of access to markets. But again, this all takes investment support from FDIs over charities or governments to move things forward.

AfDB President Adesina calls Africa his own back yard and with a predicted 12 megacities by 2025 the African opportunity is prominent in ones’ mind. But the continent wide trade will be key.

We will need an extra $2.5trillionUSD yearly, up to 2030 to meet the SDGs and this will take investment. The U.K can do that as they partner with Kenya, Ghana, Uganda and Egypt initially.

But AfCFTA and our work here at Africa Fashion Guide help frame this conversation. There will see lots of leapfrogging and ultimately finding solutions will come from Africa. The world must focus on partnership with African government and seek opportunities to work with local investors. This next decade is a decade of growth opportunity, one to move to realise potential where ultimately the people of Africa are positively impacted and empowered to realise their potential


U.K Africa Investment pre summit event – Manufacturing topic – FMCG Panel

I was invited by DFID to host the panel on FMCG in Africa and it was a delight to moderate such powerhouses some who gave a presentation.

CDCs representative Belinda started with a question she hears often

Can I afford to be in Africa you ask?

In response she questions, can you NOT afford to be in Africa?

She urges companies to geographically diversify and highlights that urbanisation, on the continent, is causing Africa to grow. African cities will cause consumer growth in Africa. Growth opportunities are happening and FMCG is leading the way and with this labour costs are comparable, especially in garments. She tells us that consumer products and goods is where people are seeking to invest and where growth is being projected. The African consumer base itself is growing.

But there was a mega topic of discussion. Climate change. It is a topic that is dominating the market and looking at its impact on Africa and how consumers think was important to know as well as seeking ways to reduce carbon footprint

Dougie of Unilever spoke and told us that 2.5bn people use their products. In relation to their presence in Africa he also highlighted that Africa is a volatile region but that Africa reporting can confuse people as it gives an overshoot of optimism followed by an overshoot of a very bleak picture. What he saw was that right now Africa has the purchasing power of South Korea and that SubSaharan Africa has a population that is as big as India.

He advised those entering to do business in Africa, to invest in cities, over countries

Informing us that Africa is made up of sub millennials reminded the room that there is a new growing demographic in Africa today. Mentioning how charities see the big brands coming in through their own lens of reducing poverty and development. But that modern African consumers don’t see themselves in that way – instead they are very resilient and used to areas of lack for example of water in poverty-stricken areas. So a need to think slightly differently about what you are producing but without prejudice.

Few trends on production he mentioned was

  • Shifting global production
  • African technology and understanding of this
  • Rise of African brands

Challenges around import costs and logistics can force you to be in hubs so he gave these tips

  • Think with a long game horizon – not short term – this will be rewarding
  • Recognise it’s a fast-changing dynamic environment so build this into your planning
  • Eco system – smart talking can create scale


Lionesses of Africa Start Up Africa Night

The event hosted by Emma Wade-Smith OBE, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Africa, together with Melanie Hawken, founder and ceo of Lionesses of Africa,

It was interesting to hear from the speakers and this was good to note the tips and advise they gave to the many women businesses that attended the packed-out event.

Megan McDonald at Standard Back shared what do they look for as an investment bank when speaking to businesses. These were to have the X-factor, to show Scaleability, to be Sustainable, show that you make Impact and have Governance and give transparency. But that you don’t need all to be present at the same time, just don’t wait for things to be perfect to start. Do look for long term investment and long term partnerships is key.

There is a saying that the bank will give you an umbrella when it’s not raining. So what we need to change is the decision makers. Change the diversity. Not just to have women but to also have a cultural sensitivity. There’s a need to train decision makers AND to challenge the decision makers and hold them accountable to do it better and faster

Ms Adenike Ogunlesi of Ruff n Tumble a powerhouse in the garment industry shared her strong passionate thoughts that personally got me pumped up. She said that you have to convince the bank that you’re a bankable product, show them figures and know your books.

For her she passionately told the audience that nothing is going to change if you don’t support women that you must put money into women in Africa. Economic empowerment gives woman a voice and this allows things to change, because when an African woman has financial independence the laws of the land that don’t support you as a woman is forced to shift. When you support the women you change the narrative.

But being that Woman, We need patient capital because in realistic terms conditions don’t always allow the speed that the VC would like. To get good returns you must also build capacity so you can leverage the investment

This was followed by pitches by amazing women. Two of them were from the fashion industry. Nicola Luther, creative director and ceo of South African brand Lunar, a sustainable fashion design house, manufacturer and retailer; and Mariam Hazem, co-founder of Reform Studio, an innovative fabric manufacturer that turns recycled plastic into exciting durable fabrics for the production of a wide range of luxury and commercial products.


Ghana Investment Summit

Focus of this summit was on Technology, Agriculture, Manufacturing and Digitisation

Ghana High Commissioner in the U.K. reminded us that Ghana holds the location of AfCFTA HQ and the importance of the U.K that is taking a fresh look at Africa right now. He declared that this is the time where U.K will rediscover itself and become more global and so encourages Ghana to form closer linkages with investment committee in U.K. for joint ventures and linkages

Common themes for this event was on the topic of value addition to Ghana and its raw materials, on creating more jobs for youth and of support the Presidents’ vision to contribute to Ghana’s future.

Being the HQ for AfCFTA means opportunities for Ghana to become the gateway of Africa and to fulfil their vision of accessing a common market through Ghana. The aim is for Ghana to become a service provider for the entire continent and for the U.K. and Ghana to select our collective narratives in a cultural exchange for technology and digitisation.

Speakers raised the importance of Government, Compliance, Sustainability and the mantra “Grow green, grow fast, grow together”.

UK’s DIT speaker Graham Stuart shared how last year’s bilateral trade between Ghana and U.K. accounted to a significant 1.3bn. BUT said that we’ve got to do more to bring the attention of what Ghana does and foster partnerships going forward. The U.K. Government is backing this and hired a U.K. firm to help with building the Kumasi airport.

U.K is already one of biggest investors in Africa and there hasn’t been a better time to invest in each other’s economies, yet it’s key to reduce barriers to trade and to drive growth. He announced that with Brexit the U.K will strengthen our ties with Ghana and will support the vision of Ghana “beyond aid”.

Overall 2020 is promised to be an even better to what was an amazing 2019 for Ghana but the challenge now is to prioritise and work towards clear directives.

Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo then gave his keynote speech. He proudly welcomed the idea of having a common voice and a common purpose to exploit raw materials for the benefit of African people. He recognised that trade between African nations has been low compared to other continental trades but that African trade showed great opportunities.

He saw that economy will be shaped not by exports of raw materials but by things we grow and that this required to think outside of the box and approach for solutions must be different to what brought problems

Two things he said he wanted to achieve at the start of his presidency when he started and he is now doing them.

1 – to Make Ghana a hub for Africa

2 – to HQ AfCFTA

And also for Ghana to be the best place to invest and do business in Africa.

Next up for him is tourism. Low hanging fruit which they have capitalised on this.

Then also Manufacturing. To transform from a country exporting raw materials to value added and increased industrialisation.

He just shared how 150bn a year is the worth of the chocolate industry. With all their cocoa beans that Ghana should OWN some of that!

I totally agree Mr President!

Ghana wants to participate in growing their market place at the top of chain with Ghana made products.

Other areas of discussion was the number of youth as apparently Africa will have the largest number of youth by 2050, to grow jobs and so Africa will need the private sector to support.

For business they will look to take steps to cut down on bureaucracy and reduce tasks of doing business and business regulations

He wants to formalise the economy, increase mobile payment systems, build up the national ID system, quicken the pace to bring Ghana to the digital era, to bring economic transformation, to take advantage of the digital economy.

Ghana is fully committed to the implementation of AfCFTA and will proceed for rapid growth of Africa’s economies and spearheading the African renaissance.

With the proclamation of Ghana “beyond aid” he shared this as an instruction for the rest of continent. This is wrapped up with what they call the “WISER society” meaning to create a Ghana that is

  • Wealthy
  • Inclusive for all
  • Sustainable pleas of growth
  • Empowered people
  • Resilient economy

And they will build this trough the three O’s




Ghana’s government declared they are ready to engage, ready to do business and say all must feed, eat, wear and feel Ghana when you travel to get the full and right story

Ken Ofori Ghana’s Minister of Finance shared how AfCFTA will bring scaleability and the ability to do more but questioned if the current global infrastructure is suitable for the transformation of Africa. With the largest consumer market by 2050 what infrastructure and structure is best and most relevant? He asked.

There is now the African premium and this has been seen by the consumer power through the “year of return” with local money too.

So Ghana wants to revolutionise its agriculture industry from production to consumption to put it on a sound foot but this is a long term – ten year strategy so they are looking at climate smart agriculture from Irrigation, Greenhouses and processing field


The three key takeaways

1- A common voice and a common purpose – Africa working together trading and building one strong Africa

2- You have to have face time – businesses can’t stay in London. Africa is a place with the expertise and it takes going out there meeting people, yes it takes a lot of hard work and focus to do business in Africa but getting there Is key

3- To exploit raw goods for the benefit of African people comes with trade between African nations and from consumer power. Economy will be shaped not by exports of raw materials but by things we grow. As well as Ghana’s Beyond Aid there’s Another narrative around backing locally made product. This is an opportunity for “The African Premium” story.



World bank says 40% of the world population will be African by 2100 and for growth opportunities one needs to think long term but also to have local market thinking too. You must also be aware of demographic shifts and ask yourself can you NOT be in Africa right now. But note that partnerships are key do not do it alone. Lastly there is a strong need for governments to help implement standards but they must equally get out of the way and adjust AND adapt for the economy of the future.


So where does this leave you as a fashion business owner?

You realise that Africa is a KEY location for your fashion business sourcing.

That Africa is NOW.

In my opinion delaying starting is simply giving up your seat at the table.

Africa is calling but will you answer?

Okay maybe this is your challenge…

You have a great African fashion business idea but maybe you are concerned as you have no fashion experience.

Or you are frustrated as you lack connections on the ground.

So, can I give you the solution?

It’s the last day of the first month of the new year and new decade. Start your 2020 with the right support to help you make your unique product in the right country in Africa with the right suppliers.

I have the tools and the connections to cut your time, cut your overwhelm and destroy the myths surrounding fashion business in Africa.

Let’s talk about how together we can get your business on the right road through my 1:1 support, my business coaching support, my supplier networks and even our trips taking you direct to the makers!

See the link below for more details and book a call in to speak with me

Remember, how this decade shows up in your life, will largely be based on the decisions you take today.

So make 2020 Your African Decade

Author, Jacqueline Shaw – Your African Fashion Business Coach




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