Panelists call for support to Africa’s fashion industry

29/05/2015
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The global fashion industry is worth $1.5 trillion, and while Africa is making contributions to the sector, the total value of African fashion is not known.

Speaking at the “Fashionomics” session on the final day of the African Development Bank (AfDB) 50th Annual Meetings in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Special Envoy on Gender, AfDB, made the point that in addition to the economics, the fashion industry in Africa also creates inclusiveness.

She noted that there is the need for governments to support the fashion value chain through policy and legal frameworks to help create jobs.

Other panelists on the session agreed that the industry in Africa needs financial and other forms of support to grow it.

However, Samuel Mensah of Kisua pointed out the fact that “we don’t have a fashion industry in Africa, what we have is a cottage industry.”

He acknowledged the fact that fashion has potential, but needs to be restructured, otherwise it would “still remain a cottage industry,” he said.

Mensah, who once worked as an investor, said because of the nature of the industry in Africa, investors do not take the sector seriously. To grow the sector on the continent, he said, “financiers must begin to take the industry seriously.”

Some of the other challenges to the industry that came to the fore during the discussion were the lack of financing, training and legal regimes to protect local designers and producers.

The challenge of shipping fabric or raw materials within the continent was also cited. The panelists and contributors on the floor all mentioned the difficulty in shipping goods within the continent. It was observed that it was cheaper to ship goods from China to an African country than it is to ship from one African country to another.

Calls were made to African governments, the African Union and the AfDB to work to ease the process and cost of shipping goods within the continent, and for a paradigm shift in the fashion industry.