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Growth and spending of African consumers (video)

December 8th, 2010 | 2 Comments | Posted in Business, Fashion, Film/Television, General

Here’s a very  informative video interview on African consumer growth, spending and attitudes. Courtesy of ABN Digital.

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Do we need an African version of Vogue Magazine?

May 18th, 2010 | 5 Comments | Posted in Books/Magazines, Business, Fashion, General

Vogue-Africa-Mario-Epanya

Recently, Paris-based Cameroonian photographer, Mauro Epanya, created a layout of what a possible African version of the trend-setting fashion glossy, Vogue Magazine would/could look like. The images, though creatively done, have sparked a debate about the merits of an African version of Vogue. In a well thought out analysis, Uduak at Labybrille Magazine, outlines the reasons why an African Vogue is not a good idea:

  • VOGUE Does Not Need to Validate Africa Before Africa Becomes Fashionable
  • The Internet has Created an African Fashion Media Revolution, So Why the Continued Need for Validation with a VOGUE Africa?
  • VOGUE Africa is Bad Business For Africa
  • VOGUE Africa Will Not Eliminate Racism in VOGUE’s Fashion Pages

For her part in the debate, Vanessa Raphaely, editor of Cosmopolitan South Africa and editorial director of Associated Magazines (Marie Claire, O, the Oprah Magazine, etc.) also writes an insightful commentary on her blog.

Then there’s the nuts and bolts of the business: Magazines generally follow where the cosmetic and fashion industry lead. On this continent, there are only two Vuitton stores. They are in Jozi and Cape Town, not in Gaberones, Brazzaville, Dar es Salaam or Libreville.

There is no High Street to speak of in Africa (not even in South Africa,) there is not a proliferation of shopping malls and high end international clothing giants littering the Sahara, North, Central, Western or East Africa,  ergo, little demand for advertising pages.

In South Africa, the powerhouse of the region, local manufacturing is floundering due to a failure to compete with Asia and The Far East with regard to price.

That is why there is, to date, not even a South African Vogue. While fashion magazines like Marie Claire and ELLE are both well-established in the country, neither has the advertising riches to thrive that their sisters in the more developed parts of the world enjoy.

Both, it can be argued, require less very high-end advertising than Vogue to achieve the expectations of their European principals.

It’s not rich pickings here on the wild frontier.

So, even though it irks me to be so pedestrian, I have to ask: who would advertise in this Pan-African Vogue?

In the short term, a Vogue Africa would get many people excited and even generate a bit of revenue. Soon enough though, the novelty will wear off and the realities of organizing, producing, and shipping an African glossy in a global economy which has not been kind to print media will take hold. From platform (print vs. digital) to talent (African writers vs. Western writers) to business strategy (South Africa headquarters or not), there are different factors to think of when planning Vogue-type content for Africa; and corporate accounts will not ease the pain. That’s not to say an African fashion and style magazine cannot exist, but rather the strategy to launch and maintain one would need to take into account certain factors which aren’t an issue in the West.

One of the side-effects of the marketing and advertising activity around the upcoming World Cup is that in an effort to  cash in on the African renaissance multinational corporations are again attempting to transplant their business models to a continent that lacks the same context that made those strategies successful in the West. They are looking to what their western experiences dictate and overlooking the unique opportunities that Africa has to offer – mobile  proliferation being one of them.

If major publishers like Vogue/Conde Nast want to enter African markets they should look to partner with “local” businesses who have already dealt with the challenges and figured out what African audiences want and need. As I said in the comments section of the Ladybille Magazine blog, there are many many African media and content creators whose efforts are still being overlooked because their success is judged by Western perspectives. It’ll do Africans and global partners well to recognize and capitalize on what makes African stories, contexts, and perspectives unique.

Read more on the debate:

VOGUE Africa? No. Thank you Very Much I’ll Pass!

Is the World Ready for an African Vogue?

Fashion Enthusiasts Ponder Vogue Africa

Vogue Africa Creator Mario Epanya Responds to Critics

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African youth and the African brand (presentation)

A few weeks ago, I was honored to be invited to Harvard University to give a short talk and participate in the  Rebranding Africa through the Youth panel as part of their Africa Focus series. The panel was a lively, collaborative one with both panelists and attendees providing perspectives on the topic. As a follow-up, I’ve put together a slide deck of my prep notes and am sharing here. Hopefully, the presentation embedded below will allow those who couldn’t attend the event a chance to join in and continue the conversation here and elsewhere. Feel free to download and share the presentation. You can contact me here or on Twitter (@GKofiAnnan) for further info or to discuss. Thanks to the Harvard team, especially Essie Yamoah and Julia Mensah, for having me up.

The youth and branding Africa

If you can’t see the presentation above go here to view
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Notes from Columbia U’s 2010 Africa Economic Forum

2010-AEF-Logo-300x223Last week I attended Columbia University’s annual African Economic Forum (AEF). The two-day conference was a diverse and insightful one with discussions ranging from Branding Africa to the growing, sometimes controversial China-Africa relationship. The organizers put together a great program with much discussion during and in-between panels. While I couldn’t attend the full program, I was able to participate in some great discussions with attendees and panelists in the Africa Arena. I’ve provided my notes from the discussions I was able to attend below. My notes cover a mixture of discussion topics and perspectives from the esteemed panelists and attendees. Please keep in mind that the notes below are portions of the hour plus long discussions from my perspective as an attendee. If you have any insight into any of the topics in my notes please feel free to comment. For clarification on any of the points in my notes please shoot me an email.

ATTENDANCE NOTES:
Panel: African Fashion Going Global
Moderator: ZANDILE BLAY, Market Editor, Paper Magazine
Panelists: OLUCHI, Supermodel and the Original Face of Africa; BUSIE MATSIKO, CEO and Co-Founder, Fashion Indie Media; AISHA OBUOBI, Designer & Founder, Christie Brown; MIMI PLANGE, Designer and Founder, Boudoir D’huîtres

  • Should Africans sell primarily to Africans?
  • African designers are more torn about designing Africa-inspired clothes vs. other western designers designing Africa-inspired clothes
  • Western designers are not limited or stigmatized when using African influences in designs
  • Should there be an African fashion capital? Some panelists say no
  • Is there a viable African consumer enough to support African fashion industry?
  • Designers don’t want to get pigeonholed as an ethnic designer; need room for growth
  • There is very limited support (i.e. factories, retail outlets) for African designers on the continent
  • Some panelists say African designers should focus on African consumers rather than targeting global consumers first
  • There is lack of business expertise among designers on the continent
  • Designers need to partner up with business professionals on the continent
  • Pricing African designs is tricky
  • Not too many Africans will pay high prices to support African designers
  • There are two types of African consumers: 1) those that travel and buy high-end western clothes 2) the locals who can’t afford couture and buy mass
  • It’s hard to produce on the continent particularly if you’re not doing mass production
  • Many African designers aspire to go to South Africa fashion week because it’s the top African continent fashion industry
  • Just like you don’t only have New Yorkers in New York Fashion week, South Africa’s Fashion Week has Africans from all over continent
  • African designers get inspiration from everywhere just like other designers
  • Some African designers are more drawn to cultural design than others

More »

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Top 6 African business and culture trends to watch in 2010

Africa_fireworksIf, like me, you’ve been watching people and events surrounding Africa in mainstream and non-mainstream news, you’ll know that 2009 was a big year for Africa, From President Obama’s visit, to the new fiber-optic cable in Kenya, there was a lot of president-setting efforts going on in Africa. While there were the instances of political unrest, in all I think African countries had one of the better years. Looking forward to 2010, Africa seems in line to be put through some vigorous tests, From politics to agriculture and technology, in 2010 Africa will be challenged to show the world what is brewing under the hood for the next decade. Here are a few trends I think will greatly influence how Africans live and work in 2010:

1. Trickle-up innovation/reverse innovation

In 2007 C. K. Prahalad, author of The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits, highlighted five ways that developing nations are often ahead of the curve and how multinationals can adapt to the the changing product development lifecycle. In 2010, though some analysts say the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 is in recovery, we’ll continue to see an increase in businesses looking to developing nations, including Africa, as ground zero for new product and service innovation. Organizations will not neglect consumers in developed nations though. Rather, developing nations will take precedence in business development, with markets in the west getting re-targeted efforts already proven elsewhere. The big question is will African nations also turn their innovation sights into Africa to bolster African business and gain a home-field advantage against foreign businesses.

Watch: Google, GE, Microsoft, Nokia

2. Mobile and connectivity growth and standards
At this point, mobile technology is synonymous with connectivity in Africa. From government to industry, Africans are growing more reliant on the mobile phone for all aspects of life. 2010 will see a continuance of this trend within communities, and more importantly, governments will increasingly begin to use the mobile phone as a way of reaching African civilians. We are already seeing that in Kenya’s Obama-inspired mobile campaign to educate Kenyans on public policies. Beyond mobile technology, we’ll also see a surge in government-funded connectivity efforts and legislation around Africa. With the new fiber-optic cables launch in Kenya and other regions moving more services from analog to digital, Africa’s connectivity will be a priority for forward-thinking leaders. Case in point is the Kigali government’s recent launch of a $7 million wireless hot spot facility. We can expect to also see a lot of foreign investment in development and organization of the African mobile sector. I, for one, am looking forward to the growth of mobile innovations by African entrepreneurs. Hopefully African private and public sectors can engage the independent developers to accelerate the mobile industry in 2010

Watch: Government data centers,  2010 Fifa World Cup mobile marketing, Netbook market growth, M-pesa, Fiber-optic cables usage, MTN, KenyaAirways on Twitter, Zain, Safaricom

3. Rise of the African creative class
For the past several years, young Africans have been struggling to define a new identity for the themselves in the connected global community. As political stability has solidified in many African countries and African youth have begun to exert their influence at home and abroad, a community of independent creators have strengthened their voices and come to the forefront to re-define Africa for the 21st century. Fueled by connectivity, voluntary repatriation, international travel, and the growth of African cities, Africa’s creative class will be at the center of shaping Africa in 2010. In 2009 we saw African blogging reach it’s peak and a surge in African style and design multi-media channels. From Arise Magazine, to BHF Magazine, to Design Indaba, the exploration of what it means to be African in the 21st century continued to influence all areas. In 2010, with the debut of the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa, we will see Africa’s creative class flexing their influence on everything from technology, to government policy, to international business. With so many African and foreign private and public organizations hoping to capitalize on the event, Africa’s creative class will be at the center of it all. As the core drivers of Africa’s urban areas, the creative class are the ultimate influencers. 2010 will be the year when they will be thrust into the limelight internationally. Let’s hope they (we) are ready.

Watch: Arise Magazine, Fela on Broadway, Design Indaba, Maker Faire Africa 2010, The Blk Jks, FESPACO, African Gay & Lesbian groups, Paul Sika, African Avante Garde

4. The Africa brand and tourism
The 2010 Fifa World Cup will have a major impact on Africa whatever the end result is positively or negatively. Most importantly, the World Cup will challenge African tourism, marketing, infrastructure and related industries to develop and maintain a consistent African brand identity. With the advent of high-profile global events like this and a need to share resources, African governments will have to re-visit and form cross-border alliances. While we have already seen regional groups like the East African Community strengthen their intergovernmental ties, 2010 will be the year when all African countries will have to answer the cross-border alliance question at the behest of foreign political engagement.

Watch: 2010 Fifa World Cup, African government summits, Cross-country tourism packages,  ICT sector, “Made in Africa” labeling

5. Africa and African-Americans
Not much has been said about the growing relationship between Africans and African-Americans. By and large there is still a communication rift between the two groups. But slowly, the relationship between the two groups is becoming symbiotic. While I don’t see a major shift in opinion between the two groups happening in 2010, I do expect a continuation of the rapid growth of African-American wealth to playing a part in African development. Resourceful and wealthy African-Americans will continue to invest in African culture and politics both on the continent and abroad, while Africans borrow from African-American history for lessons on developing an international identity. Particularly, a growing number of African-American entertainers and business people will see Africa as an extension of their life in the United States. some will even maintain plans to buy and move to the continent seeking a more personally and financially fruitful life. Africans will also begin to formally recognize this trend and capitalize on the brain gain. As more African-Americans look to Africa, African will become more high profile in African-American press pushing Afropolitan culture further into American pop culture.

Watch: Fela On Broadway, African real estate development, Africa correspondents in urban media, African-American foreign invetment groups.

6. China..and India
In November 2009, China pledged a multibillion-dollar package of financial and technical assistance to African governments over the next couple of years.  This was among one of the many efforts by Chinese government and business to form a tight alliance with Africa. China’s relationship with Africa will continue to dominate Africa news in 2010, with support and objections from many diverse groups as we’ve seen in 2009. The new year will also see an increase in Indian alliance with countries within the continent though it will continue to pale in comparison to China’s efforts. India and Africa will strengthen their ICT development relationships as African countries continue to push themselves as outsourcing destinations.

Watch: India-Africa learning trips, Chinese import export from Africa, Sino-African cultural conflicts.

What do you think? What other trends will influence Africa’s growth and development in 2010? Please share your comments.

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Liya Kebede stars in Somali supermodel Waris Dirie’s biopic

Supermodel Waris Dirie’s book Desert Flower: The Extraordinary Journey Of A Desert Nomad, published in 1999, helped fuel the open discussion of female genital mutilation in her native Somalia. After spawning two follow-up books, Desert Dawn and Desert Children, the original book is now premiering as a feature film starring another supermodel, Ethiopian Liya Kebede. Watch the trailer for the new movie “Desert Flower (“Wüstenblume” )” below. More about the movie here.

If the video is not visible below click here.

(via Africa_Visual_Media)

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Designer Ozwald Boateng on dressing President Obama and his Made in Africa wealth initiative

August 31st, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted in Art, Business, Charity, Events, Fashion, Film/Television, Politics, Travel

In this three part series fashion designer Ozwald Boateng talks with CNN about outfitting President Obama for his recent Ghana visit and the designer’s new initiative “Made in Africa”.

Part 1: Tailoring for the President
CNN’s Monita Rajpal talks British-Ghanaian tailor Ozwald Boateng about his rise to fame and tailoring for President Obama’s Ghanaian visit.

Part 2: Made in Africa Ozwald Boateng talks about ‘Made in Africa.’ An organization designed to promote wealth and self sufficiency in Africa

Part 3: Designer to role model
British-Ghanaian tailor Ozwald Boateng explains his plans to help tailor Africa’s image problems.

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Birth and boom of a new African design industry

Design Indaba 2009 setup
Image by mallix via Flickr

A recent article in African Business magazine looks at the recent boom of modern African designers on the continent and internationally. From February’s ThisDay Arise Magazine African fashion event at NY Fashion Week to architect David Adjaye being appointed to design the new African-American National Museum in Washindton DC, the influence of modern African design in global culture continues to solidify. But while there are more and more role models for budding African designers, there’s still a long way to go before Africa itself recognizes and taps into it’s strong creative capital.

To become truly competitive though, the continent must do things in
its own way, with its own brand of excellence and innovation. Africans
can grasp the best of design worldwide, as well as the best the
continent has to offer and transform it into something new, compelling,
beautiful and sustainable. Small pockets of success show that African
design development has reached the point at which it can play a very
real role in addressing poverty and unemployment throughout the
continent. From craft initiatives in rural villages to
multi-disciplinary industrial projects that boast global collaboration,
design can boost a nation’s GDP. (more)

CNN also reports on a new contemporary African design aesthetic in the video below shot at the 2009 Design Indaba in S. Africa.

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L’Oreal sets sights on African women

June 2nd, 2009 | No Comments | Posted in Business, Fashion, General

L'OrealThere’s no shortage of criticism of the fashion and beauty industry for not recognizing the diversity of what is considered beautiful. Cosmetics giants in particular have had it hard, trying to accommodate skin tones. In their effort to generate more revenue and gain market share globally, L’Oreal has announced plans to expand their product line and – most notably – make an effort to cater to African women’s beauty needs. Not being a cosmetics industry veteran myself it’s hard to tell if L’Oreal is trully addressing some of the issues it’s diversity critics have.

..the company, which has 26 international cosmetics brands and a presence in more than 130 countries, already has a presence on the continent upon which it aims to build. A key market is the African woman, and L’Oréal is seeking growth and expansion into this market, that will require balancing technological innovation with the need for prudent spending. – L’Oréal South Africa MD Philippe Raffray, more

What do you think?

photo by epicharmus

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Prada space captures rural Congo experience

January 12th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted in Art, Charity, Events, Fashion, Featured, General, Travel

Influx Insights points us to an interesting marriage of Congolese and Western culture in the form of an art and entertainment experience space. The Double Club, a 6 month project collaboration between Fondazione Prada (Prada’s art foundation), and German artist Carsten Höller opened in London. The space, which is literally spit in two – is a “bar, restaurant and dance club where the Congo meets the west; A bar,
restaurant and dance club where the west meets the Congo.” The project is meant to spark dialogue between Congolese and Western contemporary culture and will feature. All profits are slated to go to The City of Joy charity, which provides
shelter and services to women who have been targets of violence during
Congo’s long running civil warIf you’re in London before May 2009, check out this culture mashup.

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