TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Kenya: Origin Africa takes center stage in New York

Monday, 22 April 2013 Published: | Compete (Kenya)

Source: Compete (Kenya)

On April 22, the East Africa (EA) Trade Hub took its innovative Origin Africa campaign to New York. The EA Trade Hub's message: Africa is the New Frontier for Business.

Held in the famed Paramount Theatre at the Hard Rock Café in Times Square, the event brought together African designers, manufacturers, exporters and U.S.-based buyers and retailers for a panel discussion on how to increase commercial engagement with Africa.

From the emerging designer/entrepreneur to the large capacity exporter to the niche brand in the U.S., Africa presents huge, untapped potential. But how does one translate that opportunity to meaningful, transformational business? The answer from the panel: start small; allow the business relationships to develop; be mindful of the challenges faced in Africa (and yes, incorporate some flexibility in business planning), but with an eye to the rewards. For every large apparel factory in Kenya that is selling in volume to the U.S. under AGOA, there is a small-scale entrepreneur who is demonstrating the design capabilities and creativity of the new Africa. And these entrepreneurs are increasingly attracting the attention of U.S. brands.

EDUN, a global fashion brand founded by Ali Hewson & Bono in 2005, is a good example. Through two different business relationships, both facilitated by the USAID EA Trade Hub, Edun is now producing t-shirts made in a factory in Kenya and selling high-end fashion accessories made by Tanzanian designer Doreen Mashika (www.edun.com)

It is not a cliché to say that Africa’s time is now. Africa today can be found in cutting-edge fashion, in modern accessories, across media platforms, and in the unique foods that we eat. Panelists shared some of these compelling stories – the opportunities seized, and yes, the challenges – and why Africa should at least be on the radar of any global company in the 21st century. The panel discussion was moderated by Annie Balliro, the Senior Director of Global Brand Philanthropy at Hard Rock International, and included both African and U.S.- based business professionals: Hiyaw Gebreyohannes, Founder and Chief Executive of Taste of Ethiopia, a U.S.-based specialty food company; Anill Joyram, Chairman of Candytex Group of companies based in Mauritius; Doreen Mashika, Founder and Designer of Doreen Mashika Zanzibar; Melanie Reichler, Vice President of Product Manufacturing/Sourcing at EDUN, a U.S.-based brand; Jim Thaller, Managing Director of Talier Trading Group, a U.S.-based specialty foods development company; and Mark Walton, Managing Director of Onyx Global Marketing, Inc., an advertising and marketing agency focused on Afri

Why New York? Just about every major U.S. company or brand with business interests in Africa is based there.  Attendees included many of the companies which make up the Friends of Africa Board of Advisors, a cross section of business leaders in the U.S. who are contributing their knowledge and expertise to guide Africa through is growth as a global sourcing destination.  While Origin Africa has held a number of high-profile events in Africa (Trade Expos/Seminar Series/Designer Showcases), and Origin Africa Pavilions are regularly organized at key trade shows in the U.S., Europe and Asia, many of these leading business executives had been calling for a more focused two-way discussion about trade with Africa.

A collective challenge was made to the participants of Origin Africa New York: look to develop or purchase one item produced in Africa.  Companies as diverse as Anthropologie,  J Crew, Nicole Miller and Eileen Fisher are doing just that - small steps towards greater corporate engagement with Africa that incrementally are changing the landscape of U.S-African business ties 

The USAID East Africa’s Trade Hub, through its Origin Africa initiative, has facilitated over $100 million of exports to the U.S. under AGOA in textiles/apparel, cut flowers, home décor and fashion accessories, and specialty foods since 2009.

 

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