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    How Egypt and Nigeria are leading Africa’s fashion industry



    The fashion industry in Africa is booming, and the two leading countries in this growth are Egypt and Nigeria. Both countries are expected to collectively generate $2.5 billion in revenue from the fashion segment by the end of 2023. Interestingly both countries have experienced different approaches to this lead.

    Nigeria has always been a fashion hub

    Nigeria’s fashion industry has a long and rich history, dating back to pre-colonial times when different ethnic groups developed their distinctive clothing styles using local fabrics and embellishments. Although the industry was not very large or profitable in the early 1960’s, it caught on shortly after, when the industry experienced a surge of creativity and innovation. Fashion then was blend of traditional and modern styles, influenced by colonialism, globalization, and modernization. There was a growing demand of domestic and international items. By the 1980s and 1990s, the fashion industry witnessed a boom with the introduction of ready-to-wear clothing by local designers. This time there was a growing demand from the domestic and international markets. According to the report by PwC, the Nigerian fashion industry was valued at $50 million in 1991, a significant increase from $10 million in 1985. Unfortunately, as the years went by, factors like economic recession, political instability, and import restrictions made the industry take a back seat. Consistent inflationary situations made the demand for fashion items fluctuate.

    However, fashion has always been a melting pot of cultures and external influences. This means it is a complex and ever-changing industry that is influenced by a variety of factors. For example, in the mid 2010s, there was a renewed interest in African culture and heritage that ignited interest in indigenous African pieces. According to Euromonitor, Nigeria accounted for 15% of a $31 billion fashion market in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2015, and the industry grew 17% between 2010 and 2019. In recent times, the entertainment industry, particularly Afrobeats, has brought attention to its fashion industry.

    The Nigerian fashion industry is not only influenced by its own traditions but also by global trends and innovations. Recently, a TikTok y2k trend brought attention to vintage thrift outfits. According to a report by Statista, Nigeria’s resale market is growing rapidly, as circular fashion is becoming a priority for environmentally conscious consumers.

    Fashion meets industrial revolution in Egypt

    Egypt on the other hand has had a technical influence on its fashion industry. Firstly, Egypt has been known for their outstanding cotton production, a reputation they have maintained over the years. As of 2009 and 2010, Egypt had contracts with 23 international countries for cotton exports amounting to $140 million. To help its case, the North African country has always been a leader in the industrial revolution, with manufacturing taking front and center. Even when it had a few setback for years, Egypt was still ahead of most parts of Africa. A ranking to prove this. A few years ago, Egypt began re-investing in its manufacturing sector, with the introduction of 10,000 factories in the last seven years. Currently, the country is planning to establish the world’s largest textiles factory in the Delta city of Mahalla, with a production capacity that amounts to 30 tons per day.

    Egypt investment in other sectors that potentially align with its fashion industry also helps the industry’s growth. A good example is its tourism sector. The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities recently recorded over seven million tourists in the first half of 2023, a record number. This status as a premier tourist destination, has drawn visitors from across the world. Beyond regular tourism, this year, Egypt held its first fashion week event, a grand event that attracted fashion leaders from across the world. Egyptian journalists, Mirna Abdulaal and Farah Sadek, poise that Egypt would not have been able to host such a grand event if it weren’t for its burgeoning market, which witnessed significant growth over the years. According to the Apparel Export Council of Egypt, the country’s fashion exports rose by 41 percent in 2021 to $2.49 billion.

    This demand is perhaps why Egypt is home to several fashion tech startups that are using technology to help designers and manufacturers connect with customers and make African fashion more accessible. According to StartupList Africa, the country has the most fashion tech startups, with 11 operational fashiontech startups. One of these platforms Gahez, connects local fashion designers and manufacturers with customers. Another, La Reina, allows Egyptian women to rent designer outfits for special occasions.

    Both countries growth in represents the diversity and dynamism of the African fashion space. Egypt’s economy is currently Africa’s second-largest with $363.1 billion in nominal GDP, right behind Nigeria’s $432 billion. Both countries have a growing young population with an increasing disposable income. Meanwhile, both countries are just a few of the fashion hubs of Africa. From Dakar to Ethiopia, Africa’s fashion industry is poised for a global takeover.

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