World Fashion Day: AfDB moving the continent up the textile and clothing value chain with Fashionomics Africa
Some stakeholders in the textile and clothing industry have described Fashionomics Africa as a veritable platform to tap Africa’s huge potential for fashion.
They spoke ahead of World Fashion Day, a day marked yearly on August 21 to celebrate and commemorate the glory, spirit and art of fashion throughout the world, and to highlight national, regional and international achievements in the fashion world over the past year.
Through Fashionomics Africa, the African Development Bank (AfDB) aims to support the growth of the African textile and fashion sectors through a focus on building the capacities of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the textile and clothing sector, especially for women and youth.
“This is a platform through which we are able to actually tap into manufacturers, into creatives, other designers that we would like to collaborate with, or even just merely fabric manufacturers that could actually assist us in the growth of our brands. Currently Fashionomics Africa has linked us to a USA-based company that will assist us in selling our luxury products online. We are ever grateful for this introduction,” said Shaldon Kopman, Designer and Creative Director of Naked Ape, a South Africa-based fashion label.
The stakeholders highlighted how AfDB has taken the lead in promoting investments in textile and fashion sector, increasing access to finance for entrepreneurs and incubating and accelerating start-ups.
“Fashionomics Africa is the only platform that takes into consideration African designers and therefore understands their economic impact on the continent. What an amazing feeling to know that we, African designers, count,” said Senegalese Designer Safiétou Seck.
Seck, who owns the brand ‘SARAYAA’ (a multi-ethnic, high-end clothing brand for women), stressed how the platform has helped to expand her network and gave her further exposure and awareness.
She called on African governments to recognize the continent’s competitive and comparative advantage with the creative industries and highlighted how this could be transformed into economic benefit.
Fikirte Addis, Founder, Yefikirt Design, said, “With the right training, with the right organization, Africa can produce a lot of the things within Africa and using a lot of the human resources that we have.”
As part of its Fashionomics Africa initiative, the AfDB and other multilateral development banks such as the Inter-American Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, Caribbean Development Bank and World Bank, organized the first MDB working group on cultural and creative industries this year.
The two-day event was hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) in Washington, DC, on July 13-14, and aimed to leverage the potential of the cultural and creative economy
Fashionomics Africa (the economics of fashion) is an initiative of the AfDB to increase Africa’s participation in the global textile industry supply chain.
Samuel Mensah, Founder and CEO of KISUA (womenswear) said, “The fashion industry in Africa has a high concentration of women and youth, so supporting its development will automatically lead to new business and employment opportunities for youth and women. However, this will only happen if there is awareness of the platform and its benefits.”
Mensah stressed how governments could play a vital role in the programme by highlighting its value to citizens in their respective countries, promoting the use of the platform and showcasing success stories of companies that have effectively used the platform to empower women and youth.
In addition to using its traditional public- and private-sector financing instruments to support the growth of the textile and fashion industry, the AfDB is developing the innovative and technology-driven Fashionomics Africa platform, an online interactive marketplace for medium and small scale enterprises (MSMEs) and relevant stakeholders in the textile and fashion sectors in Africa. The goal is to enable young African textile and fashion entrepreneurs to create and grow their businesses.
“Africa should be exporting finished textile products, such as clothes, suits, dresses, shirts; not cotton lint,” said Akinwumi Adesina, President of the AfDB.
Africa produces up to 6% of the world’s cotton, but the continent has very few textile factories and, due to poor industrialization, much of the fabric is imported from Asia.
Regardless of its challenges, participants agree that the growth prospect of the fashion industry in Africa is promising.
They want governments to foster the development of local suppliers, entrepreneurs, and regional value chains, ensure access to low-cost financing, build a more conducive business climate, buy from locally owned companies, invest in infrastructure and establish more educational institutions.
On how these challenges could be addressed, Emanuela Gregorio, Gender and Innovation Economist at the African Development Bank, explained, “This is precisely why the AfDB launched Fashionomics Africa to focus on the value chain. The goal is to connect and strengthen each link in the chain, from producers and suppliers of primary materials, to manufacturers and distributers, and of course including investors.”
AfDB’s goal is to champion the development of the sector to open up its potential for revenue and job creation, especially for women and youth.
“Each country has a rich heritage and from that heritage comes all these inspirations and ideas for contemporary design,” said Sam Mensah of Kisua.
“The Fashionomics platform is a wonderful opportunity for everybody who’s in the fashion industry across Africa to be able to connect. Problems shared will be problems halved and information that previously was not available can now become available,” said Anita Stanbury, Executive Director of the South African Fashion Council (SAFC).
In the words of Lucilla Boyzen, Designer and Founder of South African Fashion Week: “The African continent holds huge potential for fashion. We all wear fashion. We need to understand the power that holds for every single country on this continent.”