UN report: Africa is set to lead the world in fashion

UN report: Africa is set to lead the world in fashion

According to a recent UNESCO report, the African fashion sector is thriving thanks to several key factors, including a youthful and innovative population, a growing middle class, rapid urbanization, and increased government support.

The report, titled ‘The Fashion Sector in Africa: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities for Growth,’ was unveiled during the 13th edition of the Lagos Fashion Week on October 26.

The report suggests that Africa has the potential to become a major player in the global fashion industry, offering economic opportunities, empowerment for young people and women, and the promotion of African culture worldwide.

The African fashion industry primarily consists of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) catering to local markets with ready-to-wear and made-to-order clothing.

However, there is a rising number of high-fashion brands concentrated in key markets like Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, and South Africa, serving a select clientele with significant purchasing power.

In the past year, the luxury goods market in Africa generated nearly $6 billion in revenue, with one-fifth of this income attributed to high fashion.

This high-fashion segment is expected to grow annually by 0.79% from 2023 to 2028, indicating significant potential for the sector’s development.

African countries are also major producers of fashion raw materials, including cotton, wool, silk, artisanal fibers like raffia, and tree bark, along with sustainable fibers such as jute, kenaf, coir, and more.

This diverse resource base aligns with the global fashion industry’s efforts to reduce emissions and seek sustainable materials.

A growing trend in consumer demand for fashion made in Africa, particularly among young people, is evident in the increasing number of fashion exhibitions and events held across the continent.

These exhibitions serve as platforms for African designers, stylists, and entrepreneurs to showcase their creations and attract investment.

Despite the rising local demand, affordability challenges limit the full economic potential of the African fashion industry, leading designers and stylists to export raw or semi-processed designs and later import finished products.

However, various initiatives, including textile processing plants and government support, are poised to transform the sector.

Private sector players, including global fashion brands like H&M and Levi’s, are increasingly investing in African fashion, with some setting up manufacturing facilities on the continent.

Ethiopia, in particular, has attracted significant attention from investors due to its historical expertise in textile production and favorable economic conditions.

Senegal is also making strides in its domestic and foreign fashion industries, hosting both local and international fashion labels.

As the global fashion industry is projected to double in the next decade, African countries must focus on building capacity within intra-African supply chains to ensure the stability and growth of the sector. This will help make African fashion more accessible and affordable to a broader audience.

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