Fashion is an industry capable of fundamental economic transformation for Africa

The FEDISA Campus, Cape Town

Press Office: Honoris United Universities

By Allen Leroux, CEO of FEDISA Fashion School, an Honoris United Universities institution

As the second largest sector in the developing world after agriculture, the fashion, textile and clothing industry has the potential to transform lives, particularly for women and youth. Global value chains are integral to inclusive growth across the world, and a clear indicator of economic transformation. In Africa, despite this potential, challenges remain. The majority of fashion businesses across the continent are informal, with limited access to finance for growth and high costs of shipping and transportation of raw materials. But though there remains work to be done in strengthening the value chain of the African fashion industry, the rapidly rising awareness and recognition of our extraordinary creative talent on the global stage is something to be celebrated and nurtured.

This starts with our young people. Over 60% of our 1.25 billion population is currently under the age of 25, and by 2050 two in every five children will be born in Africa. This opportunity is staggering, and it is limitless. The task that we as educators always come down to is twofold: skills, and jobs. Much has been written about this urgent need, but little is cited about fashion’s contribution to the mounting task.

The fashion industry is a creator and provider of meaningful employment. An industry encapsulating multiple vertical sectors and business skills, from manufacturing to retail, marketing to design. These are now powered by a global focus on sustainability and innovation, led by a more engaged youth stepping forth with courageous optimism towards building a better world. As we know, all the more important living amidst the shifting pandemic environment.

With 13 million young Africans joining the labour market every year, the development of labour-intensive sectors is imperative for a prosperous Africa. This is reflected in the African Development Bank’s initiative Fashionomics, launched in 2015 to promote investments in the fashion sector, increasing access to finance for entrepreneurs and incubate and accelerate start-ups. As part of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and in support of the recent African Continental Free Trade Agreement, this actively stimulates job creation in the fashion industry in Africa, heightening regional and global integration with the unique selling point of African culture and creativity.

Perhaps ahead of our time, we founded FEDISA Fashion School in 2005 shortly after the launch of the Woodstock Creative Hub, a booming transformation of a once delapidated area of Cape Town, South Africa that now serves as an inspiration for arts, food and crafts for local and international creatives. Now entering our 18th year with an additional campus in Sandton, our industry-leading institution has trained more than 1,000 young people in fashion and design tertiary education, providing them with work-ready skills for high impact employability across the world.

FEDISA offers a range of specialised accreditations in a holistic approach to the business of fashion, connecting advertising, design and marketing. This provides our graduates with a readiness for a variety of positions, whether they wish to be designers, entrepreneurs, creative directors, archivists, buyers or marketing executives. The preparation of our exceptional young talent in Africa gives future professionals the ability to add value and expertise to the rapidly growing ecommerce sector in Africa, estimated to be worth $20 billion – supported by the rise in African consumer spending power.

An increasing focus on the theme of return from the African diaspora who seek authentic African-made apparel powers attention to digital innovation for creatives on the continent, who diligently drive to build a more reliable and well-equipped sector, capitalising on extremely high mobile saturation rates through the use of social media and ecommerce platforms. Internationalisation is a mission close to our own purpose, with our alumni representing over 34 countries – graduates who take the tailored, transformative education to their home countries along with globally relevant, African-centric design and creativity.

As we harness this movement into the FEDISA curriculum, we now embark on the next stage of our growth with an organisation aligned in purpose. Becoming part of the pan-African Honoris United Universities network is a milestone moment for us at FEDISA, connecting us to the educational group’s 14 further world-class institutions across the continent and the collaborative intelligence of the 61,000+ students and 3,500+ faculty members.

As founders ourselves, one of the most anticipated areas of this new partnerhip is preparing students for entrepreneurship. At FEDISA, we do things a little differently, encouraging students and staff to continue side projects and businesses aligned to their passion in fashion and design. For our faculty, this means the application of what they are teaching is up-to-date, relevant, and innovative in today’s context. We could not have found a better partner to assist us in this mission, as Honoris continues to provide students with a competitive advantage in the world of work to allow them to succeed in the ever-changing, demanding and increasingly digitised labour and start-up markets.

We believe in excellence and opportunity, in the power of moulding culture through fabric and creating limitless potential to transform lives. The fashion industry holds considerable capacity to motivate and bring change to some of the most disadvantaged people, especially women and youth, and plays an important role in Africa’s economic revolution. Through the power of partnership, we can’t wait to do more alongside Honoris.