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Future of Africa’s jewellery market lies in socially conscious consumers, say industry experts

THE future of Africa’s jewellery industry lies in ethically and responsibly made bling that appeals to socially conscious consumers, industry experts said during Fashionomics Africa’s latest webinar about the continent’s jewellery manufacturing potential.

The webinar brought together experts in gold and gemstones and leading jewellery designers such as Boitshoko Kebakile, a Vogue-featured jeweller from Botswana, and certified gemmologist Amina Egwuatu, who has been featured in The Financial Times and industry publications for her extensive experience in the gemstone industry.

‘What is easiest to translate and tell our story to the world is our culture and heritage,’ Kebakile told attendees at the March 31 webinar.

‘Consumers are becoming more socially conscious in their purchases. They want to be associated with the brand and its story – and feel like they own more than just a piece of jewellery,’ added Egwuatu.

The aim of the session was to highlight the potential of the socially-conscious segment of the fashion industry which, according to jewellery market facts site Statista, is expected to reach a global value of around $290bn by 2025.

There is little data on Africa’s jewellery market, panellists said, but the outlook is bright, with an abundance of forward-looking, sustainable and fine jewellers celebrating the African experience.

Fashionomics Africa Coordinator Emanuela Gregorio said the continent is often wrongly perceived as simply a source of precious stones and metals, but in fact it is home to an array of designers and skilled craftspeople.

‘Africa is not only a source of raw materials which are sent to Asia for further processing. There is a need to invest in downstream activities such as jewellery manufacturing by focusing on sustainable production practices and develop local content,’ she said.

‘There is a niche for ethical and responsible jewellery in Africa, a niche that will create growth towards mainstream jewellery. If we prepare to fill this niche, it is the best bet for the future,’ said Felix Hruschka, a mineral economist with more than 35 years of experience in the sector.

The African Development Bank is investing in high-growth sectors that have the potential to create 25 million jobs and promote women’s economic empowerment over the next decade.

To achieve this, the Bank is conducting a study that aims to stimulate investment in the jewellery manufacturing value chain on the African continent. The study intends to gain a better grasp of the contribution of the jewellery manufacturing industry and its potential for job creation for women and youth in Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Guinea and Mozambique.

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