FASHION, LUXURY AND THE PROMISE OF AFRICA: FOUNDATIONS FOR THE FUTURE
Speech by Dr. P. Moloi-Motsepe at the IHT Luxury Conference
Given my background being a doctor, I have always been passionate about creating fundamental change in people’s lives, their health and employment in Africa.
As such, I am excited to be here to talk about the Africa growth story and share some of what we are doing on our continent to showcase talent and in so doing generate employment.
I am thankful for the opportunity to have met Suzy and her team at the International Herald Tribune during her recent visit to South Africa and to be invited here to this beautiful city to discuss in true Ubuntu culture not just about our owns skills but how Africa can collaborate with incredibly talented established people from areas like the Mediterranean.
On our side, African Fashion International, which is managed by our team from our headquarters in South Africa, is proud to be widely recognised as an innovator on the African continent in the incubation, development and building of international presence of creative fashion from the north of Africa through to the southern most tip.
What drives AFI is the belief that by building African Fashion Brands we will not only be rebranding Africa but we will also be contributing positively to economic growth for our our continent and job opportunities for our people.
Our organization provides a world-class platform for established and emerging designers of African provenance to be recognized and celebrated in their own markets and by the global fashion industry for their talent.
· We do this through 3 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Weeks, with one focused on Cape Town, Johannesburg and Africa.
· We seek out ways to accelerate talent through our Fastrack program
· We find ways to celebrate and praise talent through the AFI Awards
· We are passionate about giving young people the means to reach their dreams and develop to their full potential. Over time that has involved everything from PR support through to strategic alignments and helping them to commercialize their businesses.
· And close to my own heart, we help to raise funds with fashion designers to help those in rural communities to identify and overcome cancer thus giving designers a voice that uses their skills in fashion as a vehicle for change.
Under African Fashion International, we have some incredible talent at different levels of market readyness. Over the last few years we have showcased over 100 different designers and we constantly strive to find new and emerging talent from all walks of life who deserve to be found. At last month’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa we also attracted an incredible media response with over 100 international media and interested buyers.
I felt it would be worth sharing a few in our stable of designers:
· In South Africa, Gavin Rajah is a master of silk and detailing.
· Marianne Fassler is the doyenne of fashion and constantly reinvents her view of Africa whether it be in modern weaves or translating leopard prints into modern motifs.
· David Tlale is already a national star and he has built up an incredible global client base already due to the finesse of his collections.
We are really proud of how far the designers have come with us and how far we believe they will go. With us here, thanks to our amazing sponsor Mercedes Benz who truly believe in giving talent a chance to shine…., we are really excited to have Taibo Bacar from Mozambique and Laurence Airline from Cote D’Ivoire whose beautiful pieces are on display outside.
We constantly seek out strong new talent, and through our Fastrack program, we find ways to develop new talent and strengthen the industry for the longterm.
· We are confident that this new league of African designers will develop lines which incorporate elements of unique creativity, our love of our cultural heritage, our diversity and our rich history;….. but most importantly, given the wealth disparities in our part of the world, we believe it is paramount to develop a new type of luxury that is founded on the principles of sustainability and that incorporates a social conscience.
· Artisan talent can be found outside of fashion too. Africa’s raw materials can also be taken from their raw potential to finished goods.
o Anglo Gold Ashanti.
o De Beers Shining Lights, invest in talented designers working with raw materials.
But Suzy has also asked me to decode and explore whether there is A REAL GROWTH STORY OR AN IMAGINED FUTURE?
Given a lot of my work with the World Economic Forum and various government support initiatives, I could share a small book. Instead, allow me to spin through a few statitsics.
1. Firstly, the sheer numbers pertaining to Africa is a testament to its potential.
2. Africa is almost as urbanized as China and has as many cities of 1 million people as Europe
3. We are the world’s second fastest growing economy ….and 7 out of 10 of the fastest growing economies are African.
4. If one looks at foreign capital inflows, this has already risen to 85 billion US Dollars by 2010, surpassing aid & remittances.
5. And most importantly, if one looks at what most investors look at in terms of return, Africa now offers the 2nd highest return on investment across emerging markets which is second only to Asia.
6. In real terms, this paints a picture that Africa is open for business. There are more than 230 companies with Africa based revenues that are over a billion US Dollars with many being Fortune 500 Companies.
As a person who is from Africa, who has lived through the incredible changes over the last few years, I am excited that my children and many other African children will live in a country which is realizing its promise and is no longer seen purely with eyes of pity but is increasingly painted with a view of possibility and the hope of prosperity and pride in being African.
Whilst many of the speakers yesterday have shown videos of the hardship that can occur in Africa that they are actively addressing, I also think it is important to know that Africa is changing for the positive in terms of consumers of luxury. Those on the top live an exceptional life, they shop in world-class malls and, most relevant to us in the room, that growing affluence has seen an interest in fashion and pride in self which is making us appreciate quality style.
Whilst the foundation of a middle class is critical, I am sure many of the luxury brands in the room are keen to understand, what is the market for their luxury goods in Africa. Well, the picture is good. From 2010-2011, the percentage change in HNWI was the highest in the world. Albeit off a low base, but offering great hope for change.
Where does that leave us?
· We are here to ask for trade, not aid.
· We are hoping to use this forum to not just talk…but rather to seek out long-term partners to nurture skills and mentor young designers so that they are oriented to demand and business growth.
· We are hoping to use this forum to find a way to profile our incredibly talented designers and find ways for them to be distributed on a global stage.
· We are equally, here to open our arms to you, to welcome you to Africa to seek out ways to work with us in the future.
· I would like to conclude by sharing my heart-felt belief, underpinned by research and market understanding, that Africa holds the promise of a positive future for the production and consumption of luxury goods and fashion. Africa is willing, ready and working towards positioning itself as a active participant in the global luxury fashion market.
· From Africa has come great talent and these incredible individuals are beginning to claim this century as innovators, consumers, and business leaders. From the continent and stage of those Nobel Laureates through to designers taking to the catwalk: our time has come.
· The possibilities of Africa’s development and economic growth, the youthful nature of African societies, the growth of urban cities and upward mobility of its people tells us that “Africa is alive with tremendous possibilities”.
Thank you and best wishes to you all.