In May 2015, The African Development Bank [Afdb] launched an online initiative called ‘Fashionomics’ and the aim of which, is to push the African creative sector to a renowned global level.
Fashionomics is an online platform dedicated to discovering and financing the new talent in Africa in order to push their creative economy to a higher standard. This initiative is funded by Afdb which is under the leadership of the Office of the Special Envoy on Gender [SEOG]. SEOG has observed and evaluated the African creative industries, specifically fashion, film, music and food, and have come to the realisation that the economical state of the continent offers little or no opportunities for the next millennials to further grow and expand the continents fashion and economic sector.
Lagos Fashion and Design Week
On Friday, 28 October 2016, the African Development bank had their second launch of the Fashionomics initiative at the Lagos Fashion and Design week [LFDW] which is an annual event and this year, it was held at the Federal Palace hotel, Lagos in Nigeria. This event brought over 200 designers, fashion bloggers, investors and entrepreneurs together to discuss the challenges, possible solutions and what fashionomics aims to achieve in the next decade; not with the goal being not just national success but a global one.
The panel included individuals such as the Minister of State for Industry Trade and Investment, Aisha Abubakar, Special assistant to the Commissioner of the Women Affairs and poverty Alleviation Ministry, Chioma Dike and the founder of Lagos Fashion and Design Week, Omoyemi Akerele.
The decision to promote Fashionomics at LFDW was due to the number of creatives and influencers it brought together, both trained and untrained, to one location in order to further spread the word on the aim of Fashionomics.
According to the African Development Bank Group, their executive summary for the Fashionomics platform has four specific objectives, which are to increase access to markets, increase access to finance, provide mentorship and networking opportunities and develop the skills of the target group [youth and women in Africa] operating in the formal and informal sector.
Economic developer, Charlotte Ashamu, graduate of Wellesley College and Columbia University in the U.S, who also studied at the Paris Fashion Institute is working with the African Development Bank to support this initiative and she has quite a few things to say about her contribution to this initiative and how long it might take before we see any changes:
1.What is your role and/or contribution to the Fashionomics initiative?
I am part of a team at the African Development Bank (AfDB) that is working on developing the Fashionomics initiative. Our aim is to support the growth of the fashion industry on the African continent. For over 10 years, I have been working in the field of economic development in Africa and the United States. Specifically, my work has involved assisting entrepreneurs to grow businesses that will contribute to creating jobs and building local economies. One of my first jobs out of university was in Accra, Ghana, where I managed a program for fashion businesses that wanted to begin exporting overseas. The program involved providing fashion designers with business advice, and taking them to international trade show exhibitions to meet with new buyers. Since then, I have continued to stay involved with supporting businesses in the fashion and creative industries through my work across Africa. Last year, I launched a business accelerator called Dabira to train and mentor young fashion entrepreneurs in Cote d'Ivoire who are in the early stages of starting a business. With this experience, I am helping the Fashionomics team at AfDB to design a program that will help address some of the main challenges that fashion businesses face - access to funding, high production costs, insufficient training and skills, etc.
2. What would you say Fashionomics bring to the table for investors within or outside Africa?
Firstly, for investors interested in the fashion industry in Africa, Fashionomics can offer access to
information. Fashionomics is building an on-line information portal where anyone can access up to date
information on the fashion industry in Africa - a business directory of fashion businesses, country
market studies, listings of key business associations and bodies, etc. Having access to this type of
information can help investors to better understand new markets and business opportunities in Africa.
Secondly, Fashionomics can help link investors to businesses in fashion. Investors, in particular, ones
like angel investors are interested in African fashion but need support in identifying businesses with strong potential for growth. It is envisioned that Fashionomics will help nurture and prepare fashion businesses in Africa and then eventually link them to interested investors.
3. When do you expect to start seeing change? How long do you think it will take?
By the end of 2017, it is expected that Fashionomics' on-line information portal will be fully operationalized. Once this is done, the sky is the limit in terms of what people can do with the relevant information. The broader challenges around access to funding, production and skills development will take much longer to address. They require a long-term commitment and support from governments and a range of different stakeholders in the business and fashion community.
Of course it is obvious that Africa is a developing continent and still has challenges such as lack of government support, very little educational institutions or guest speakers to train and enlighten the young mind and develop their skillset as well as lack of long term partnerships with buyers and investors across the continent and internationally.
Despite these challenges, it should be noted that close to 10% of the worlds cotton comes from Africa and the footwear and clothing apparel in the Sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to be worth US
$31 billion according to Euromonitor international in the year of 2015.
Countries such as Nigeria are currently trying to increase their number of cotton mills as they used to have over 175 mills in the 1980’s, which was very beneficial for the country both financially and economically and today they merely have 30 active companies operating the cotton textile sector.
Crossing the borders of Angola, this country seeks the help of the Japanese to reassemble its’ vibrant textile and clothing sector which caved-in during their civil war [1975-2002]. While Angola rebuilds its textile sector, Ethiopia prides itself with being one of the garment producers for Swedish Brand H&M since 2013, with the brand setting up their offices in the capital, Addis Ababa, in order to be close to its suppliers.
With all this going on, the goal and hope for Fashionomics is to have a huge leap in its economic growth as well as job opportunities doubling over the next decade. Fashionomics seems to be an initiative that despite starting late, has created some awareness of the daily problems that African entrepreneurs tackle just to get their businesses set up and recognized. The African creative industry is on its way up due to outside interest in the culture, vibrant textiles and the local ambience and lifestyle.
Image Sources (from top left to bottom): Bella Naija, Bella Naija, The Guardian , Olisa TV , Dabiradesigns' Instagram, Dabira Website , Chuka Ihonor's Instagram.