There is a popular saying that in every African family, there is at least an SME. Nowhere is this more valid than in Nigeria where, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), there are more than 37 million SMEs, which means that at least 1 out of every 5 Nigerian owns or runs an SME. The same is the case with Africa’s fashion industry where the full stretch of the value chain is dominated by different types, shapes and sizes of small businesses.
However, the impressive number of SMEs have not necessarily translated into a commensurate level of output in the broader economy of the continent, especially in the fashion industry. A great deal of the reasons for this shortfall between the number and value of SMEs can be found in the infrastructural institutional challenges that continue to plague virtually all aspects of life and all means of livelihood on the continent.
Yet, SMEs in Africa have shown themselves to be more dogged and nimble than their foreign counterparts with their ability to withstand, or find ways around, challenges that are almost nonexistent elsewhere. SMEs have particularly made their mark in the fashion industry, with many small business owners finding the creative blend between pursuing their passions and facing up to the challenges in their ventures. The issue though, is that quite a lot of time, these small businesses are just about surviving, not thriving.
Getting SMEs in Africa to do more than just survive is not only good for small business owners, it is essential for the growth of the Fashion industry, and indeed the continent’s economy at large. Currently valued at just over $30 billion, Africa’s fashion industry contributes a tiny fraction of the nearly $2 trillion value of the global fashion industry. The good news is, from the designs steeped in our rich cultural heritage to the innovative ideas of our indigenous talents, there is a lot of potential with regards to how much more Africa can contribute to the global fashion space. The key is in empowering SMEs.
Oftentimes, when people talk about empowering SMEs, they only see it within the context of funding. However, there’s a lot more that is required to get SMEs reaching their full potential, ranging from capacity building for the small business owners and employees to provision of access to markets for their products and services. This is where the GTBank Fashion Weekend, organized by foremost financial institution, Guaranty Trust plc, serves up a very important and significant example.
Created to showcase the best of Africa’s Fashion to a global audience and promote the effervescent enterprise of the continent’s growing fashion industry, the GTBank Fashion weekend is a free business platform that brings together indigenous SMEs in the fashion space to learn from and interact with fashion leaders from across the globe whilst making record sales to tens of thousands of consumers who throng to the 2-day event to experience the best of Africa’s fashion. Last year, the 2016 debut of the consumer-focused event attracted over 30,000 guests, creating the biggest, most thrilling exposé of African fashion to take place on the continent till date.
“The GTBank Fashion Weekend is an initiative that is unlocking growth opportunities for small businesses and putting African fashion on a global pedestal,” said Mr Segun Agbaje, the Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank while announcing second edition of the event which will hold on the 11th and 12th November, 2017. “The Weekend will not only give visibility to the amazing talents and entrepreneurial drive of our people at home, it will also connect them with fashion leaders abroad, in order to build local capacity and expertise across The entire Fashion Value Chain,” he added.
It is not difficult to see the massive impact of such an expansive and inclusive initiative. Among the global fashion experts set to feature in this year’s event are reality TV personality and runway coach J Alexander, best known for his work on America’s Next Top Model, to award winning fashion designer, Giles Deacon, Kenyan-born Vanessa Kingori, publisher of British Vogue Magazine, Editor in-Chief of Essence Magazine, Vanessa De Luca, multi-talented Nigerian photographer TY Bello, professional Makeup Artist and Educator, Danessa Myricks and Fashion Editor & Style Consultant, Shiona Turini, amongst others. With our indigenous SMEs being exposed to and connected with such experienced hands in the global fashion industry, the SME route to Africa’s fashion growth is being paved and tarred for rapid growth and sustainable development for not just the industry, but our economy as a whole.O