One of the key initiatives in the region that concentrates on business matchmaking is Walk for Business (WfB), an event that takes place during the Africa Sourcing & Fashion Week (ASFW ) held yearly in Addis Ababa. ASFW (including the fairs Texworld, apparelsourcing and Texprocess licensed by Messe Frankfurt) was started in 2014 to develop a global hub for the industry, by connecting designers and manufacturers from Africa with buyers and boutiques from around the world, while also driving regional trade between businesses based on the continent.
WfB was a response to the lack of cross-over that existed between designers and manufacturers in Africa. “The Walk for Business Initiative was launched in 2016 when we realized that designers lost business as they could not produce the amount requested by bigger buyers”, explains CEO and Founder of ASFW Skander Negasi.
WfB’s main purpose is to connect designers from Africa with various business opportunities. These range from meetings with international buyers and press, and connecting with manufacturers and suppliers, all the way to match making projects with large multi-national companies. Each year designers from Africa are chosen via a selection process to participate in Walk for Business. The event features a fashion show catwalk presentation of the designers’ collections, followed by their presence in individual booths at the trade show itself.
ASFW also acts as a facilitator for these designers by working with international sponsors who take on the costs of exhibiting that many of these young brands cannot afford.
Since the launch of WfB, over 100 designers have been featured during ASFW, representing East, South and Western Africa. WfB has helped many take their first steps in the development of their brands. This year’s edition will feature 30 designers from Eastern and Western Africa.
A brand that had its beginnings at WfB is the Ethiopian brand MAFI MAFI. The brand has gone on to make a name for itself as a champion of sustainability, not only environmentally but also economically and socially. As founder Mahlet Afework explains, “MAFI MAFI is a social enterprise celebrated globally for empowering and upskilling young artisan weavers, designers, pattern makers, seamstresses, and factory workers with livable wages, apprenticeships, and personal development in a familial workshop setting.”
WfB and its pragmatic approach has helped to empower designers from Africa and their brands. As Skander Negasi tells it, “Walk for Business is the only one and unique triangle between designer, manufacturer and buyer which guarantees the win-win for all partners.” African Sourcing and Fashion Week plans to continue building on their success with WfB, and develop even more ways to ensure that the complete fashion chain, from design all the way to the consumer, is strengthened in the ever-growing landscape of African fashion.
The next Africa Sourcing & Fashion Week will take place from 4 to 7 November 22 in Addis Ababa. As part of Texpertise, the textile business network of Messe Frankfurt, ASFW combines the trade fair brands Texworld, apparelsourcing and Texprocess and forms the largest event for the sourcing and fashion industry in Africa.