Fashion’s opportunity for Africa’s small businesses

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Fashion holds significant opportunity for Africa’s small businesses

Leveraging Africa’s textiles and clothing industry, interspersed with the fashion industry, the African Development Bank’s (AfDB’s) new Fashionomics platform has the potential to create more jobs, stimulate the development of small businesses and generate millions in economic contributions over the next few years.

The initiative comes at a time when there was a “huge need” for Africa to rapidly industrialise, AfDB economist Emanuela Gregorio told delegates at the Small Business Indaba on Monday.

In Africa, small, medium-sized and microenterprises (SMMEs) create 80% of the continent’s employment, with 24% of the working age population starting a new business – the highest rate in the world – establishing a new middle class and fuelling demand for new goods and services.

Some 44% of African entrepreneurs started their own enterprises to exploit opportunities and 33% started up small businesses as they could not find other jobs.

In line with Africa’s entrepreneurial spirit, Fashionomics, or the “economy of fashion”, she told delegates, could support the rise in SMMEs in the fashion and textile industry, providing a platform to open up potential in an industry that had not yet touched its revenue and job creation capabilities.

Fashionomics was born as an AfDB Pan-African programme to support the development of the textile and fashion industry following the conclusion of two case studies on Côte d’Ivoire and Ethiopia, which proved the programme’s viability.

According to the AfDB, the aim of Fashionomics is to “connect and strengthen” all the links within the supply chain, from producers and suppliers of primary materials to manufacturers and distributors.

It is estimated that Africa’s fashion industry could generate €15.5-million over the next five years, paling in comparison to the €1.3-billion generated worldwide, but a start nonetheless.

When developing the concept, AfDB said Fashionomics found during its case studies and research that the clothing textile industry could create some 400 000 jobs in sub-Saharan Africa and exports from the continent could even double in the next ten years.

On its own, AfDB said sub-Saharan Africa’s textile and clothing market was worth around €31-billion and accounted for the second largest number of jobs in developing countries, after agriculture.

However, the ten largest African exporters in the industry represented only 0.5% of worldwide textile production and, while Africa produced 10% of the world’s cotton, it was home to “very few” textile factories.

This alone presented a tremendous opportunity for Africa to pursue the textile/fashion link and develop the value chain from design and production to marketing.

The platform included the launch of a dedicated website equipped with a networking platform for all the links in the value chain, including designers, suppliers, brokers, distributors and investors within the sector, to assist the industry develop and grow businesses.

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