African Continental Free Trade Area: Opportunities for African fashion entrepreneurs

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THE African Development Bank’s latest Fashionomics Africa webinar attracted well-known designers and industry experts to discuss the potential of the newly launched African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to support the growth of the African fashion industry, regionally and globally.

Among the established designers were Laduma Ngxokolo (pictured), the founder of MaXhosa Africa, whose designs are the main wardrobe feature of the movie Coming 2 America, the much-anticipated sequel to Eddie Murphy’s 1988 classic, and Mahlet Afework, the creative mind behind the Ethiopian brand, Mafi.

‘I believe the African Continental Free Trade Area will help us a lot because duty fees and logistics are a big headache to get our products to our customers in our neighbouring countries,’ Ngxokolo said at the webinar held late February.

Afework told the online audience of about 200 people that digital platforms were key to connecting Africans across the fashion and textile value chain. ‘Social media tools can help new fashion entrepreneurs, creating a unique DNA and history for their brand,’ she said.

Emanuela Gregorio, coordinator of the Fashionomics Africa initiative at the African Development Bank, said the African Continental Free Trade Area would ‘bring together an exceptional diversity and creativity of talent, material, fashion design and production methods, that will serve both African and global customers.’

Dr Francis Mangeni, head of trade promotion and programmes at the AfCFTA Secretariat, said the trade agreement would bring down tariff and non-tariff barriers for African trade. He told webinar participants that African producers must meet the required standards for the Made-In-Africa label, which brings together all creations from the continent.

Barnabas Jatau, a senior official from Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, said one of the greatest challenges for the African fashion industry was promoting the use of local raw materials.

One of the Bank’s flagship initiatives, Fashionomics Africa promotes investment in the textile and fashion sector by leveraging data, information and communication technologies as drivers of development. In this context, the Bank has launched the Fashionomics digital platform, which is available on both iOS and Android.

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