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Industry News: 5 African Trends 2018

Upturn in Africa

Africa is gaining confidence. TrendWatching author Lola Pedro provides an outlook of 2018 in her market report “5 African Trends for 2018” and sees a continent that will prove to be a talking point.

The African market will gain momentum in 2018, predicts Lola Pedro. In her article for the international trend agency TrendWatching, she breaks this down to five overarching developments. She sees political transitions, social trends, sustainability, social engagement and smart technologies as sources of new African innovations that will attract global attention in 2018.

In 2017, economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa virtually doubled on the previous year, from 1.3 % in 2016 to 2.6 % in 2017 (World Bank, 2017). There have also been several transformations in Africa’s political landscape, e.g. through Kenya’s presidential elections, where the government and oppositions have yet to reach agreement, and in Zimbabwe, which saw the end of President Robert Mugabe’s lengthy reign.

In these revolutionary times many Africans are no longer prepared to accept products or services that embody the spirit of post-colonialism. Instead, they are on a mission to establish a new global image of Africa and how it is perceived worldwide. One consequence of this, the author states, is that looking towards Africa today, the West can already find innovations and novel ideas.

In July last year for example the Serpentine Galleries commissioned architect Francis Kéré from Burkina Faso to design the temporary Serpentine Pavilion in London. And in September 2017, as part of the Music Matters campaign, the department store Selfridges in London hosted a collaboration with the superstar Davido and the designer Orange Culture, both of Nigeria. As such, the Serpentine Galleries and Selfridges are both well ahead of the curve. Structural racism and cultural appropriation were hot topics in 2017, writes the author. Growing numbers of celebrities, political representatives and activists are no longer willing to accept backward misrepresentations of culture and race and call for greater media awareness and attention. Just a few weeks ago for example, a photo on the website of H&M that showed a black child in a green hoodie bearing the words “Coolest monkey in the jungle” unleashed a wave of outrage worldwide.

Lola Pedro predicts that, in 2018, the decolonisation of consumption will continue to play a major role. Adopting a nuanced stance and factoring in African aesthetics, craft or cultural heritage while avoiding exploitation and acknowledging the owner of the cultural property – through partnerships, use of local know-how or crowdsourcing platforms – will play a profitable role for businesses.

The West could learn a great deal from Africa. Recycling and upcycling have long been a way of life in African societies and are important for a sustainable future. Africa is not left behind the rest of the world in terms of digitalisation, either: a growing start-up scene is leading leading businesses in the IT industry like Google and Facebook to invest in Africa. “Africa is liberating herself, the African way”, writes Lola Pedro. 2018 will be exciting.

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