“Everyone Competes”

The African Sourcing and Fashion Week is a vibrant and captivating event that showcases the rich tapestry of African fashion and design across the continent. This annual gathering brings together talented designers, artisans, and creatives, offering a platform to express their unique vision and talent. This event grows in scale and international attention each year, fostering meaningful connections within the fashion industry. One of the standout features of African Sourcing and Fashion Week is its commitment to celebrating and promoting sustainability and ethical practices in the industry. Many of the designers featured utilize locally sourced materials and employ traditional production techniques, ensuring minimal environmental impact. This emphasis on sustainability not only adds depth and meaning to the garments but positions Africa as a global leader in a responsible fashion.

The diversity of African fashion is another notable aspect, with each designer bringing their cultural influences and heritage. Vibrant Ankara prints, intricate beadwork, and other colours, patterns, and textures capture the essence of Africa’s rich cultural tapestry on the runway. Attendees can expect runway shows and workshops, panels, and networking, providing a platform to exchange ideas and collaborate – facilitating growth, innovation, and creativity within the African fashion scene. This year’s 9th African Sourcing Fashion Week has spotlighted African continental free trade, sustainability manufacturing, and AI’s role. EBR’s Eden Teshome sat down with the CEO of organizers Trade and Fairs Group, based in Germany and Kenya, Skander Negasi, for insights.

Please tell us about the history and background of the Trade and Fairs Consulting Group. What type of events do you organize in Africa? Specifically, Ethiopia

Trade and Fairs East Africa Ltd, based in Kenya, represents the East African branch of the Trade and Fairs Group, with its headquarters in Germany. Trade and Fairs Group is Europe’s largest event organizer in East Africa, hosting many events in the East and West African regions.

Can you tell us about your background and how you became involved with Trade and Fairs Group?

I studied economics and worked in different German companies, and I started to work at the Messe Frankfurt group. It is a world-leading exhibition company. Eventually, I became in charge of the international market. That’s how we started doing exhibitions. Later, we outsourced the African activities I took over 13 years ago.

As the CEO of Trade and Fairs Groups, what motivated you to invest in organizing Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week in Addis Ababa?

We organize specific events for specific countries. Through the African Sourcing and Fashion Week, we aim to support garment and textile manufacturing and exports from Ethiopia and Africa to the world.

What can attendees expect from Africa Source and Fashion Week 2023 regarding new trends, innovations and networking opportunities?

So, this event consists of about 300 exhibitors, and we expect 6,000 trade professionals and sourcing industry experts. This year, we made sure that designers were trained about intellectual property. We have international lawyers conducting workshop conferences. In addition, we have organized business meetings and provided international buyers’ certification for those sourcing from Ethiopia. We have even facilitated buyers’ encounters with the Ethiopian government to encourage more orders from Ethiopian factories.

How is ASFW promoting Ethiopia’s participation in the African Free Trade, and what potential can Ethiopian fashion businesses expect from the increased market integration and access to a broader consumer base here?

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement will bring numerous advantages to Ethiopia. With the agreement in place, foreign companies can invest in Ethiopia, produce goods within the country, and then sell them across the entire African market. Furthermore, these companies can tap into the Western and Asian markets, expanding their reach and potential customer base.

Ethiopia has the potential to become a significant production hub due to this agreement. It can strive to be highly competitive in pricing and maintain superior quality standards. This is crucial because the success of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement depends on countries that not only deliver products but also offer competitive pricing and maintain high quality. It is important to note that this agreement will benefit all African countries, not just Ethiopia alone. Therefore, everyone competes.

How does this Fashion Week contribute to the growth and development of Ethiopia’s textile, apparel and fashion industry?

ASFW has significantly contributed to employment generation in the country. Over the past eight years, we have created approximately 50,000 new job opportunities. Additionally, we are committed to supporting emerging designers by providing them with strategic business support and expansion opportunities. One such initiative is our concept called “Walk for Business,” where we introduce these designers to potential buyers and partners who share the same vision and goals.

In your opinion, what makes Ethiopia a strategic location for hosting such a significant trade event?

European and Western countries approach their business decisions strategically, driven by competitiveness rather than emotional attachment to a particular country. In the case of Ethiopia, it has become an attractive destination for them due to its significantly low labour and production costs. This cost advantage allows Ethiopia to compete not only with the Asian market but also with neighbouring African countries like Kenya. Comparatively, Kenya tends to have higher costs than Ethiopia, making Ethiopia an exciting choice for buyers seeking affordability and competitiveness.

How do you envision the future of the textile industry in Africa, and what do you think the ASFW impact will be in terms of collaboration and partnership between African designs and international fashion brands for Ethiopian manufacturers?

Regarding the future of Ethiopia’s textile and manufacturing industry, the Ethiopian government must ensure that investors and buyers can establish a long-term presence in the country. This includes providing assistance with customs processes and creating a favourable business environment. Once these investors have set up their operations in Ethiopia, they would need to import fabrics and machinery to produce finished garments for export. If the Ethiopian government extends their support in terms of customs and streamlines the processes, it would pave the way for a flourishing manufacturing sector in the country.

Regarding designers, we firmly believe there is a promising future for African and Ethiopian designers. The increasing collaborations between European and African designers have opened up new opportunities. However, we must focus on strengthening the position of Ethiopian designers. Despite their creativity, many designers have yet to receive the necessary support and exposure to showcase their work internationally. There should be an initiative, possibly led by the government, to provide support and resources to these designers. In collaboration with our partners, such as GIZ and IDH, we are committed to supporting Ethiopian designers in their journey.

How does the African Sourcing and Fashion Week promote sustainability and women empowerment within the industry?

The issue of sustainability and women’s empowerment is a crucial aspect of what we do. We are deeply committed to supporting and empowering women through our activities, so we collaborate with UN organizations. Women empowerment is a central theme in our conferences, and we organize fashion shows geared explicitly towards supporting and promoting women’s empowerment, particularly in the fashion industry. We recognize that women in Africa are the continent’s backbone, and our mission is to provide them with the necessary support and opportunities to thrive.

What are your plans and visions for Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week regarding expansion, innovation and industry impact?

So, next year will mark our tenth anniversary, and we are excited to celebrate this milestone with all our partners and the Ethiopian government. We have big plans for the future, as our event aims to grow and evolve each year. There will be exciting new topics to explore, ensuring our attendees always have something fresh to look forward to. We are committed to making each year even more remarkable than the last. EBR

12th Year • Nov 16 – December 15 2023 • No. 123

Eden Teshome

Editor-in-Chief of Ethiopian Business Review (EBR). She can be reached at eden.teshome@ethiopianbusinessreview.net

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