Fashionomics and the High-5 Agenda
Drawing on its High-5 Agenda, the Bank is investing in high-growth sectors that have the potential to promote women's economic empowerment and create 25 million jobs over the next decade.
In this context, the creative industries offer massive potential for continent-wide job and GDP growth.
Sustainable energy is now part of the production equation, each industry has a role to play.
The cotton, textile, fashion industries and agro-businesses offer the possibility of renewable energy powered businesses and green jobs which is a big step towards sustainable development.
Examples are recycling of textile products, minimization of toxic substances, alternatives for existing raw materials, waste reduction, reduction of energy usage, renewable energy, and considering the product life cycle.
Close to 10 percent of the world’s cotton comes from Africa. Most of this cotton is then however taken to Asia for further manufacturing.
Cotton is one of Africa's most important agricultural commodities. Cotton production is widespread across the continent. 37 of the 54 African countries produce the crop, out of which 30 are exporters.
However, the African continent accounts for only about 16 percent of the vast global textiles market, valued at $1.6 trillion in 2015 – a 32.5% increase from 2010. Asia-Pacific accounts for almost 60% of the global textiles market.
The development of niche cotton markets offers brighter prospects for smallholders looking for fairer market returns. For instance, organic cotton has several benefits for African producers because it provides a premium price which is higher than the standard market price for regular cotton.
Organic farming is also known to cover a broader farm base which particularly favours women farmers who are typically marginalised.
Africa currently accounts for just 1.9% of global manufacturing.
There is an urgent need for Africa to rapidly industrialize and add value to everything that it produces, instead of exporting raw materials that make it susceptible to global price volatilities. The fashion industry is a case in point. Instead of exporting raw cotton, Africa needs to move to the top of the global value chain and produce garments targeted at the growing African and global consumer class.
By fostering value chain development, the Bank prioritizes, among others, the agriculture and agro-processing industries, given their potential for value addition, and close interactions with the textile, fashion and clothing industries.
Working with informal sector while supporting industrialization.
Like many other economic activities in Africa, large segments of the creative industries are mainly informal. For example, in the fashion segments you will find: mass production, high-end garment production, design fashion, couture, etc. that have different entry points for support. However, they all require a minimum infrastructure to flourish and reach scale.
Innovation centers/business incubators can provide the necessary infrastructure and environment for informal entrepreneurs to become formal and grow their businesses, connecting them with other producers, suppliers, retailers, etc. These can be complemented by product development centers and mentorship programmes for young designers and established designers - this can be from a creative, financial or simply motivational perspective.
Regional and continental policies need to support creative industries in order for them to grow into viable economic sectors.
A reliable high-quality supply chain is currently not existent within Africa where a lot of inputs are being sources from abroad. Strategic support and investment in local manufacturers may allow African producers to enter regional, continental and global supply chains.
Building an industry requires investing in the skills and qualifications of people.
Achieving high quality production flexibility while raising productivity is only possible with a workforce that has the necessary skills. As governments become increasingly aware that apparel production offers large-scale employment opportunities, they need translate this awareness into investments in their people.
The continent’s arts and crafts industry has always been a key aspect in tourism revenue and exports, but requires more financial support from the private and public sectors to reach a globally-competitive level. They have an untapped potential in terms of job creation especially for women and youth.