The distribution circuit: a brake for African creators?
The fashion industry encompasses design, manufacturing, marketing, and distribution. We talk a lot about design, marketing and manufacturing, but what about distribution in sub-Saharan Africa? We must not forget that there is no sale without distribution. When a designer creates a product, he obviously expects it to be sold. But it's not just about selling this product locally. Moreover, this is not the best option to achieve a good turnover, especially when you live in a country with less than 10 million inhabitants such as Togo, Gabon, Sierra Leone or Liberia.
On the other hand, this option of selling only on a local market may be suitable for creators living in countries with a large population. Case of Nigeria for example, or Ethiopia. But again, it depends on what we set ourselves as goals. If you want to develop your business in order to be known internationally, you have to think big. And for that, you have to sell on international markets. However, access to international markets is not easy, although steps have been taken by African authorities to facilitate the movement of goods.
Free movement of persons and goods
To promote trade integration within its member states and to promote the free movement of people and goods, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has set up a customs and economic union. The challenge of this initiative is to strengthen the trade capacity of the countries of the ECOWAS region in order to make them more competitive at the time of the globalization of the economy. Since its creation in 1975, ECOWAS has made the free movement of people and goods one of its main objectives. This initiative consists in allowing goods and products originating from the States that make up ECOWAS to cross the various frontiers of space without being subject to customs duties and other taxes. These taxes now only affect foreign products. It must be said that it is an excellent initiative that makes a lot of goods for all those who have products or goods to take out of their homes.
Distribution circuit too expensive
While the free movement of people and goods is a good way to make it easier for product suppliers, there are still problems to be solved before distribution in Africa will be really beneficial. In fact, we don’t always have the time to travel from one country to another while we have a business to manage. To go back and forth between Nigeria and Benin is feasible without having to spend a lot of money. But let's take the example of a Lagos-based designer who wants to sell his product in Cape Town. The order is made, and he must send the parcel to his buyer. But the buyer has to pay the delivery fee which amounts to 30 000 FCFA while the product itself costs 20 000 FCFA. This is reason enough to leave the purchase unless you can afford it. This is unfortunately what we often see.
In fact, creators must use delivery services to satisfy their international clientele. But the problem is that these services are extremely expensive. It must be possible to set up delivery services that make life easier for traders. And that is an initiative that can come from African states. For the moment, this sector is provided by private companies that must also think about making profits like any business. But if a public service is put in place, designers could more easily send their products to remote locations without having to pay exorbitant amounts.
The distribution sector in Africa has undergone several changes in recent years. These are changes that have done a lot of good to this industry. With more initiative like the free movement of people and goods, there will come a time when the creators will be more efficient. Because we must not forget that distribution can be linked to performance. Indeed, when you know that you can sell your creations to people all over the world, it can push to be more successful to be sure to satisfy everyone. Design, distribution, marketing are concepts that are related and indispensable for the development of the fashion industry in Africa.