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


November 6th, 2015

Fashionomics: How can the Creative Industries work for Job Creation and Inclusive Growth in Africa?

The rising tide of illegal immigrants from West Africa, the Horn of Africa, and other regions arriving on Europe’s shores is a wake-up call for the urgent need to create more jobs for youth, and for women. The creative industries can offer a way forward.

The creative industries in Africa offer massive potential for continent-wide job and GDP growth, which is projected to be up to 4.5% in 2015 and strengthen to 5% in 2016. Textile and clothing is the second-largest sector in developing countries after agriculture. In textiles and clothing, the largest percent of the workforce is made up of women. What is more, there is great scope to hire more youth.

The labor-intensive aspect of the creative industries offers an opportunity to generate a lot of jobs. It is also the sector in which modern technology can be adopted at a relatively low cost of investment.

The numbers tell the story behind today’s tragic headlines: every year, more than 11 million young Africans enter the labor force. While many African countries have been among the world’s fastest-growing economies, poverty levels and unemployment rates across the region have not fallen as much as expected. Youth unemployment in Africa is over 20 percent. More women than men work in low-paid, or under-valued jobs: in Sub-Saharan Africa, women accounts of 74% of women are more likely to work in the informal employment.

Developing the creative industries, which comprise food, film, fashion, and textiles, would draw on African culture as their unique selling point. To develop one of these areas, such as fashion, would need global and African brands, designers and manufacturers, and governments and development partners to come together, to build global and regional supply chains along the Continent. This would in turn create new trade patterns for African economies.

It’s in this context, that the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Office of the Special Envoy on Gender (SEOG), recognizes the great importance of investing in the creative industries, specifically the African textile/fashion, food and film value chains. To strengthen value chains in the textile and fashion sector, starting this year, the AfDB launched several initiatives:

Fashionomics debuted during the annual meetings that took place on 25th-29th May, an event which brought together fashion designers and development partners to talk about the challenges of getting financing to build up the sector.

-Financing for Impact: Investing in a Sustainable Fashion Value Chain, a side event at the 3rd Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa the 13th July, where it was discussed the catalytic role that official development assistance (ODA) plays in leveraging investment and building the fashion value chain. Participants also highlighted the need for innovative financing mechanisms (including how to attract venture capital investment that can benefit women and youth) to provide incentives to growth the African fashion industry.

-A discussion was held at the Ethiopian Field Office the 14th July 2015 among donors, equity investors, fashion designers and manufacturers on the need for fresh approaches to scale up African design firms through entrepreneurship, providing training and skills development, and boosting access to finance and to global markets.

Screen shot 2015-11-01 at 20.11.50

Above all, developing the Continent’s fashion industry and creative economies requires partners, governments, and the private sector to work together. The AfDB can act as a catalyst in this process, by bringing these players around the table, because to build an African fashion industry will take large amounts of public and private investment, at national and regional levels and all available financial instruments must be brought to the task.

The AfDB has the instruments and the experience to crowd in these investments, by channeling funding through its regional operations, building up the capacities of local fashion firms, mobilizing foreign direct investment, offering guarantees, and providing funding to governments for regulatory reforms.

Building up Africa’s creative industries will ultimately lead to a more sustainable and faster economic transformation – and help stanch the loss of Africa’s most creative young talent.



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