Innovation Equals Prosperity

When people think of innovation they often think of new technology. However, innovation is a process of converting ideas into goods and services that have recognizable values that persuade consumers to pay for them. In order to be called innovation, ideas must be produced with an economic cost and must satisfy a specific need.In the business context, innovation mostly results when a company applies ideas in order to satisfy the expectations and needs of a targeted consumer base. In fact, it is innovation that makes businesses vital and relevant.
This is one of the reasons soleRebels has found success – we embrace the idea that tradition and innovation go hand in hand. We understand that yesterday’s fabric weaver is tomorrow’s textile innovator; yesterday’s cobbler is tomorrow’s added value shoe artisan. When we look at artisan crafting through this prism we can see a whole new future of possibilities.
This is the ethos we employ at soleRebels and it is an asset that makes us a unique company. It is also one of the key reasons people all around the world love our products and our brand.
Not only have we re-imagined the selate/barabasso, but soleRebels has re-imagined what artisan footwear and artisan craft can be. We never did, nor do we now, just simply employ artisans. We have refined and redefined their craft to help them reach new levels of craftsmanship, so that the input or product they create for our shoes is something totally new.
The experience and achievements of soleRebels shows that innovation is critical to enhancing and changing Africa’s image. But for this to happen, Africans must dominate the narrative of the continent. We must tell our own stories, market our own innovations, companies, cultures and products. To do so, we need to stop the relentless and ridiculous noise, made by people who have little if any connection with Africa, or who certainly do not have the interests of Africa at heart.
Thankfully if we look at Africa’s creative entrepreneurs – especially those who are reliant on brand and brand image – they have already seized the initiative and are takin`g full ownership of all our resources –- physical, mental, spiritual, cultural and creative – and are moving forward with huge ambitions.
As our entrepreneurs forge new markets, create global companies, award-winning brands, jobs, growth and unmatched prosperity, they are repainting Africa’s image.
The most exciting element is that these entrepreneurs are also exposing the true brand of Africa: a brand that bubbles with innovation, creativity and industriousness; a brand that is buoyed by reservoirs of talented and cultured peoples; and one that is enriched by Africa’s soil and its untapped treasures.
I am proud that soleRebels has been leading this effort, presenting a much needed counter narrative to the shibboleth that Africa and Africans don’t know how to innovate and create their way to prosperity.
But this needs to happen on a much larger scale and that’s one of the reasons why I have taken the soleRebels brand globally through our rollout of branded soleRebels retail stores.
It is now more difficult for someone to create a solely negative image of Ethiopia, when there are now soleRebels stores and outlets in major cities and shopping districts around the world. That is the power of having a truly innovative global brand – in addition to delivering great products and services to people, which enables you to be global. People in turn understand that the brand is an extension of the place of origin. That origin place then becomes imbued with the success of the brand. That is why I say innovation, beyond being a means of prosperity, is also a very powerful image changer.

3rd Year • June 16 – July 15 2015 • No. 28

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu

is CEO and founder of soleRebels, an ecosensitive global shoe brand from Ethiopia. She can be reached at

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