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There Are Four Barriers Preventing Africa From Becoming A Fashion Sourcing Hotspot.

Posted On : November 17, 2023

Ann Mumbi


Africa may have “all it takes,” according to a UNESCO report, to emerge as one of the fashion world’s rising stars.
In addition to exporting textiles worth $15.5 billion a year, the African continent is a significant producer of raw materials, with 37 out of 54 countries producing cotton, according to a UNESCO analysis titled “The Fashion Sector in Africa: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities for Growth.”
Africa is witnessing fast growth in the digital sector, which facilitates intra-African trade and the emergence of young talent, according to the UNESCO report, and Made-in-Africa is trending, especially among the continent’s youth.
Over the next ten years, it is anticipated that demand for African haute couture will rise by 42%.

People are searching more and more for “Made in Africa” goods across the continent because they view them as a source of pride and a means of reaffirming their identity. However, strengthening the entire production chain is necessary to meet this increasing demand. Director of Lagos Fashion Week, Omoyemi Akerele, says, “This UNESCO report is useful because it maps out the path to achieve this and it will increase the awareness of public decision-makers.”

In its report, UNESCO identifies four obstacles that policymakers and governments need to overcome in order to fully realize the potential of Africa’s fashion industry:

  1. Legal protections for designers and professionals need to be strengthened in terms of intellectual property rights, remuneration levels, working conditions, the ability to organize into professional unions, and social rights.
  2. Investment must be made in small and medium-sized enterprises, which today account for 90% of businesses in the fashion sector in Africa. Covering the entire continent, they are the gatekeepers of the diversity of cultural practices and expression. Generators of local employment, are also a powerful lever for giving young people who want to enter the sector a chance.
  3. Environmental standards need to be set. While the fashion industry remains one of the most polluting industries, Africa can make greater use of local materials, innovate around sustainable textiles, and raise awareness of sustainable consumption patterns. Production of organic cotton fiber in Africa has already risen by 90% between 2019 and 2020 and now accounts for 7.3% of global production. The second-hand clothing market is one of the most dynamic in the world, representing a third of global imports, but still suffers from a lack of recycling channels, with 40% of these garments ending up in landfill sites or even in oceans and rivers.
  4. Both the transmission of savoir-faire and formal training need to be improved. Africa is rich in traditional skills and unique textile techniques, some of which are already protected by UNESCO. The report encourages countries to set up mentoring schemes to ensure that these practices are passed on from generation to generation and can continue to inspire young designers. At the same time, UNESCO is calling for an increase in the number of qualifications available in key related professions – quality control, commercial law, and marketing – and in training in new technologies, such as 3D printing and e-commerce.

Content courtesy of Just Style & NFH

Ann Mumbi

An expert in style and image, Fashion Addict focuses on brands worn by showbiz stars who have large numbers of fans worldwide Member Of #NairobiFashionHub Team

Ann Mumbi

An expert in style and image, Fashion Addict focuses on brands worn by showbiz stars who have large numbers of fans worldwide Member Of #NairobiFashionHub Team


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