The continent of Africa has long had burgeoning talent in the fashion design field but there has been a lack of investment to fuel designers for the long haul. But this has been changing in the past years with women like Roberta Annan working tirelessly to support this talent. During Paris Fashion Week the first long-term capital support for African creatives was launched and this is just the beginning. At the end of the spring summer season in the City of Lights, the Impact Fund for African Creatives (IFFAC) gathered in central Paris to host a press conference on doing something about the untapped talent and commercial power of Africa’s creative industries.
Founded by Roberta Annan, daughter of the late Kofi Annan, the IFFAC’s investment portfolio includes companies and brands from Kenneth Ize, Ethos Members Club, Chef Coco, GM & Ahrens, MANSA by Ebony Skincare and the Ambassador’s Collective. She’s based in Accra, Ghana and is the founder of the African Fashion Trust, which she founded in 2011 to empower designers in Africa, and where she got the idea to launch IFFAC. She has been advising some of the world’s top funds and corporate investors for over ten years. And she’s on the Advisory Council of the Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design, and keeps up with UN sustainability issues.
“It took me three years to bring this into fruition and today we’re excited to unveil the businesses under IFFAC. Kenneth Ize opened fashion week and we’re actually closing it with these African creatives. I’m a scientist by training and I’ve worked with the United Nations in development. Africa is blessed with a lot of young people and we have a population with sixty-five percent under the age of twenty-five. That is a huge investment potential with innovative and creative minds that has access to technology of people who are able to do amazing things. It’s this sector that will drive and grow the continent. We’re investing in fashion, film and music.
Fashion designer Kenneth Ize attended the event and sharing his thoughts on being an African designer from the events notes he states, “when I was just starting to build my brand, the support I received from Roberta and the African Fashion Foundation was essential.” His show opened the SS22 season last Monday, “and that support has allowed me to elevate my work to a global audience,” he continues.
For those who have been following Africa for a while, it’s no secret that opportunity is booming in many countries, as the continent’s cultural capital has never been higher in fashion, literature, entertainment, and culinary arts. But investment and intellectual property rights have hindered the right foundations getting set for these sectors to thrive legacy-wise. In 2019 only, 1.1 percent of investment in African startups went to creative industries, and a lack of formal education and business know how has hindered commercial talent from getting off the ground.
Riva Levinson who spent over thirty years in dealing with post conflict issues in west Africa attended the event, sitting on the panel of experts. “Fashion and creatives can be as transformative as a good leader, as sound policy, giving the opportunity for women and youth to emerge,” she noted.
Also speaking was Chinelo Anohu, Senior Director of the African Investment Forum. “We’re designed to create business deals and unlock opportunities for African fashion talent, and close business deals,” she spoke. “When we bring creative talent, we’re looking for financing to scale the nuts and bolts because creativity knows no boundaries or barriers. We want to transform creativity into actual impact on the continent.”
“Africa is experiencing a renaissance of sorts in the creative space,” spoke Cheryl Ankrah-Newton a woman behind luxury brands establishing in Africa, and Ethos Project Director. “All eyes or on us now as a source of inspiration or major projects and for brands. If you think of Dior, Louis Vuitton, Apple, and Twitter the collaborations that they have done with African creatives has been magnificent. As Africans we have always know our power and influence and now is our time.”