All Eyes on Africa: Redefining the Luxury Landscape in West Africa, Olabisi A. Famakinwa

All eyes are indeed on Africa. Irrespective of the financial hardships, food insecurity, and lack of educational opportunities often associated with the continent, major global entities are betting–and moreover, cashing in–on Africa’s economic potential. While consumer-facing industries like tech, music, and packaged goods continue to steadily grow, the luxury industry on the continent is accelerating at an even faster rate. According to the Financial Times, the African fashion industry is valued at $3 billion (Wilson, 2019), positioning the entire value-chain of this emerging industry as a serious economic focal point on the continent for years to come. The outset of this study will begin with my own personal connection to the African luxury industry. This is followed by an examination of the textile market during the pre-colonial era, how colonialism shaped luxury fashion, simultaneously creating a lack of diversity and authentic inclusion of African brands while engaging in cultural appropriation in the context of fashion malapropisms. This examination is complemented by a mixed-methodology triangulation synthesis of in-depth interviews, a comprehensive survey of industry stakeholders, and an assessment on luxury perception. Finally, this study will also discuss opportunities to help African luxury brands to further engage with global luxury stakeholders through substantive agency, e-commerce, social media, and other channels.

Africa is not homogenous. The continent is comprised of 54 recognized countries, over 2000 official languages, and innumerable cultural nuances. Thus, for the sake of clear context, this study will be restricted to the luxury industry in West Africa. Specifically, the study will focus on Nigeria, Ghana, and Senegal as all three countries have established luxury markets. This study is the first of its kind, as there are no research studies that entails an in-depth exploration solely about the West African luxury industry. Africa encompasses an immense amount of both established and burgeoning designers, who are equally talented and innovative as their Western counterparts. They deserve to be seen and heard. This study will serve as a catalyst to help inspire dialogue and spark real change with regards to diversity and inclusion initiatives for African designers both on the continent and within the African diaspora at large.

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