The Emerging African Footwear Industry and its Opportunities

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Man has come a long way from being a wanderer. Today, we lead complex lifestyles and believe in maxims like — a man is known by his shoes. So, while our initial footwear primarily comprised of sandals, today they too have metamorphosed into colourful atachés that come in all shapes and colours. 

During the previous century, the global footwear market had remained dominated by European and American footwear designers and brands. However, starting with this century, with the emergence of the Asian markets, the African footwear industry too has picked up the pace. Rich with raw materials required for making that perfect shoe, Africa today counts on its talented labour resources, including its local stock of internationally acclaimed designers, and a massive local demand, that make the industry highly lucrative. South Africa, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria being the countries churning out great footwear designs and leading the competition in the continent.

Two countries that particularly stand out are South Africa, which has established a flourishing $0.37 billion (value produced) footwear industry, and Ethiopia, which is exporting more than $30 million worth of shoes annually. By 2023, it is expected that the combined African footwear industry will cross the $1 billion mark making it the largest industrial sector in the world. 

The continent has lots of international presence as well with leading brands like Nike, Bata, Adidas and Puma, rubbing shoulders with local brands for the coveted most-favoured position. A few local brands that command high brand recall can be listed as:

  • Buqisi-Ruux (Kenya)
  • Sole Rebels (Ethiopia)
  • Della (Ghana)
  • Enzi Footwear (Ethiopia)
  • Sseko Designs (Uganda)
  • Monaa (Ghana)
  • Swaheelies (Kenya)
  • Tsonga South Africa (South Africa)
  • HTW – Heel The World (Ghana)

The entrepreneurs in this segment also have inspiring success stories to tell. One such example being that of Mr Fred Deegbe, the owner of “Heel The World” from Ghana. Prior to entering the shoe-making business, Mr Deegbe worked as a banker. He changed his line of work due to his acute business insights and his trust in the capabilities of the local craftsmen. Being one of the “32 Global Shapers” at the World Economic Forum in Ethiopia, he today inspires the local youth and is hailed as a youth icon. HTW competes with international brands in the high-end luxury shoe category.

Putting it succinctly, therefore, the benefits that accrue to the African footwear industry can be listed as:

  • Emerging markets
  • Growing middle-class
  • Availability of talented resources
  • Booming local demand and
  • Business-friendly environment

Start-ups from India can easily set up a unit in the continent if only with a little bit of creativity, zeal and a solid marketing strategy. The various African embassies in India could become your eyes and ears in the continent to further help you through to a successful business venture.

TOA Correspondent

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