In an article of May 2015, Business of Fasshion deemed Sub-Saharan Africa’s combined apparel and footwear market was worth $31 billion, according to data modelled by Euromonitor. Opportunities arise. So in order to help fashion designers succeed into the African fashion market, FXF interviewed Dr. Karan Khurana, PhD, Assistant Professor at EiTEX, Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia.
How is fashion doing on the African market?
The African continent has shown an immense potential in socio-cultural and economic growth and hence has attracted a lot of interest from various other trading nations in the last two decades. According to European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS, 2015) the Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries have experienced sustained economic growth, with growth rates often exceeding 5% per year over the past 15 years. The latest World Bank report on SSA, ‘Africa’s Pulse’ shows economic slowdown in Sub-Saharan Africa, with growth decreasing in 2015 to 3.7% from 4.6% in 2014. Growth is expected to pick up gradually again in 2016 and 2017, pushed up by domestic demand generated by consumption, investment, and government spending. Internally also African Fashion designers made a mark in contemporization of traditions (prints from west Africa or traditional weaving from Ethiopia) and brought a new edge to the fashion market. Increasing consumer demand and awareness of clothing as a way to exhibit culture and the inclination towards the west makes a very strong consumer base in Africa. China is currently the dominant trader in clothing in Africa. In the HS 61 category, the value of Chinese exports to Africa expanded to a whopping US$560 million in 2011, accounting for 61.8 percent of the traded volume in this category (Kamau, 2013). According to UN figures (https://comtrade.un.org/) 2013, South Korea and Canada combined exported $59m worth of used clothes to Tanzania while the UK alone exported $42m worth of used clothes to Kenya.
This leaves way for a very intense challenge against Chinese and used garments for the new designers in Africa.
What are the opportunities for fashion brands in Africa?
Africa stands today as a land of opportunities for fashion brands as sooner or later the consumer will look out for options in all fashion segments. A.T. Kearneys`s 2015 African Retail Development Index (ARDI) reconfirms that there is potential in dynamic countries such as Gabon and not only Nigeria and Ghana. Zara the Spanish garment giant is already present in Africa with around 21 stores. H&M, which has stores in Egypt and Morocco has set up a base for production in Ethiopia. ‘Made in Africa’ label is the future of young and emerging designers as they know the consumer best.
African fashion brands such as Rethaka, a South African female-owned ‘green innovations’ repurpose schoolbags: 100% recycled, solar-powered backpacks that can be used as study lamps at night; Dumebi is Nigeria’s first homegrown and sustainable bespoke fashion brand; Soul rebels from Ethiopia 100% recycled shoes are a few notable examples of flourishing local trade.
What will it take to succeed in the African fashion market?
One of the biggest advantage to African designers is the knowhow of their land. Africa is a land of complex cultures and creates an interesting mix of consumers which is quite a task for international brands to understand. This opens infinite opportunities for the local trade to make a mark. Design innovation in Africa has always been a very desirable strategy as the local designers shall realize the need of the consumer precisely in terms of the marketing mix. Social entrepreneurship shall see a strong impact on African business as it’s the way to sustainable development in social context which is the need of the hour.
African Fashion rises. What would you recommend African fashion designers to help them thrive globally?
Fashion is a highly segmented business, where “a size does not fit all,” and is open to the implementation of different business models from luxury to mass retail, to niche targets (Khurana, Ricchetti ,2016). The world of African design awaits contemporization where the designers shall find novelty to supply to the west. As discussed earlier the west is moving towards sustainable production and supports objects in this line. The battle against Chinese and second hand garments is surely the way to success in terms of cost and selection of dressing ideologies. Finally, the domestic credibility in local markets across Africa shall be the pathway to successful businesses as the middle class consumer is the future of investments in the coming decades.
Africa’s Pulse, World Bank, October 2015. (http://www.worldbank.org/en/region/afr/publication/africas-pulse-an-analysis-issues-shaping-africas-economic-future-october-2015)
Karan Khurana Marco Ricchetti, (2016),”Two decades of sustainable supply chain management in the fashion business, an appraisal”, Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, Vol. 20, Iss 1 pp. 89 – 104
Lionel Zamfir, Africa’s economic growth, European Parliamentary Research Service, January 2016. (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/IDAN/2016/573891/EPRS_IDA(2016)573891_EN.pdf)
Paul Kamau, 2013.
Chinese ascendancy in the global clothing industry
Dr. Karan Khurana, PhD, Assistant Professor at EiTEX, Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia. He currently holds a teaching experience of seven years in fashion management studies in India and Ethiopia. He also holds a dual master one in Fashion Marketing from I.E.D, Milano and another M.B.A(Retail Management) from India. His research interests are sustainability, Eco- Branding and marketing and social responsibility in fashion.
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