Why You Should Pay Attention to Africa’s Retail and Fashion

For us, today, Africa is more important than the U.S. In five to 10 years, Africa can become the new frontier for luxury. – Ermenegildo Zegna

While reading this Quartz piece on Africa’s fashion opportunity, I came across this Global Retail Development Index put together by A.T Kearney. The Index ranks the top 30 developing countries for retail investment based on market attractiveness, country and business risk, market saturation, and time pressure. Time pressure relates to how quickly a country’s retail sector is growing. If it is growing really quickly, a retail investor needs to move fast to take advantage of growth before it’s too late.

Botswana (18th), Nigeria (23rd) and Angola (30th) are on the list for 2015, with Ghana, Zambia, and Namibia on the verge of breaking onto the list.

The report points to Sub-Saharan Africa mirroring China in 1987 when retail brands were beginning to enter the country. Nearly 30 years later, retail growth is extremely fast and retailers are beginning to really focus in on profitability now that they are approaching scale. The authors of the report believe Africa could be at this point in 2040 or so, though it will probably be a bumpy ride.

One of my mentors was recently telling me about the tens of thousands of dollars of champagne his clients bought during a night on the town in Lagos a few years ago. It’s no secret that Nigeria’s wealthy have a lot of disposable income and that champagne is in demand on Banana Island. I had no idea, though, that retail sales of champagne in Nigeria was second only to France. The report authors point to this as an anecdote on the opportunity for luxury brands in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Speaking of luxury, Hannel Rupert, a South African entrepreneur, wrote an op-ed in Business of Fashion calling for luxury brands to partner with Africa’s fashion industry, moving beyond fashion for charity campaigns or one-off collaborations. A good place to start, in her opinion, is to bring some end-process manufacturing to countries like Ethiopia, Cameroon and South Africa which have strong capabilities in areas like leather crafting.

I worked on a retail project a few years ago, working with a client who had quality issues with its product lines but wanted to figure out a way to tap in the U.S. retail market. Established brands bringing their expertise on details like this could help deal with issues like this. At the same time, there are already a burgeoning number of African fashion shops that put out really high quality material. Having access to end-process manufacturing that matched their products could help them reach scale in Africa and the rest of the world.

As an aside, I finally watched Jidenna’s Classic Man music video. Does anyone know if Ikire Jones made the white blazer Jidenna wears in the film?

As a further aside, Angola made the list for the Global Retail Development Index. I’m sure a lot of folks immediately thought about Luanda’s high cost of living. The New Yorker has a piece in its June 1 issue on the inequality of Angola’s oil boom. The author cold have spent more time on the U.S.-Russia proxy war. Over the decades that Angola was in civil war, how U.S. support did Jonas Savimbi and UNITA get? What more detail can we get about the Heritage Foundation, Grover Norquist and Jack Abramoff supporting Savimbi? How was President dos Santos able to maintain control in the face of a U.S.-supported rebel group? How did all of that contribute to Angola’s current political and economic environment? Just a few questions the author could have explored.

Back to fashion. The Quartz Africa piece mentions McKinsey’s Lions on the move report that came out in 2010. The authors forecasted spending power in Sub-Saharan Africa reaching $1.4 trillion by 2020. Perhaps a halfway-point check-in on how the continent is doing relative to that forecast is in the works?

This African fashion conversation is very exciting and I look forward to seeing where it goes. As of late, President Muhammad Buhari’s swagger has had me thinking about taking Traditional Wear Fridays to the next level and pulling out the Fugu.

Photo credit: Daily Mail | Nigeria

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Kwame Som-Pimpong

My name is Kwame Som-Pimpong. This is my blog. You can email me at kwame (at) afaraglobal (dot) co.

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