Mike Cassidy had the chance to talk with San Jose State University graduate Chris Folayan about Mall for Africa, an interesting global e-commerce enterprise that he started with his brother Tope, who attended Stanford University.
Take Chris Folayan. He grew up in Nigeria and attended San Jose State University. Every time he’d prepare to travel home from the Bay Area, his friends and relatives would supply a list of top brand clothing that they wanted him to cart along with him. Did he see it as a pain?
No, he saw it as an opportunity. Why not build an e-commerce platform that would provide a way for Africans to shop online at Macy’s, American Eagle, Aeropostale and various retailers that did not have an online presence on the continent?
And so, Mall for Africa, which he runs with his brother, Tope Folayan, who studied engineering at Stanford University, did his graduate work at Northwestern University and now lives in Nigeria.
“Nigerians are more brand-conscious and fashion-conscious than most people would ever think,” Folayan, 37, tells me when we chatted last week. “They know style and fashion probably more than your general public in America would know. I noticed you’re wearing blue jeans (busted). I’m wearing jeans, too. Over there, suits, that’s what’s in. Dressing comfortably and casually? That’s not.”
Mall for Africa currently works with 82 retailers in the United States and the United Kingdom. The trip from the U.S. and U.K. doesn’t exactly lend itself to free or same-day shipping. Folayan says delivery rates start at $11 and that it takes five to 15 business days for orders to arrive at homes in Nigeria.
You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't own a t-shirt; in fact, the ubiquitous garment is a mainstay in most wardrobes.
Nevertheless, Olga Mugyenyi and Nahida Beghani have injected new life into the plain white "tee" with Definition Africa, a t-shirt store based in Kampala, Uganda.
Bright prints, sharp slogans and youthful energy characterize Definition's alternative approach to fashion, where everyday Ugandan life inspires each new design.
"The concept of Definition came up in and around 2009," Beghani recalls.
"We felt like there weren't really any products or apparel in the market that really celebrated the local experience," she adds.
Following its successful launch on Facebook, Definition Africa eventually evolved into a bricks-and-mortar retailer, growing a loyal and enthusiastic customer base since the store's opening in January 2014.
Read: 6 weird African eateries
Despite the seemingly globalized nature of the fashion world, Definition's success is largely inspired by regional quirks and local collaborations rather than the latest throwaway trend.
"The t-shirts that we design are in theme with life in Uganda, things that we come across, statements, food, and people," says Mugyenyi.
"We also have a line that's called 'Signature Tees' where we invite people to submit their designs and if they go through the approval process then they get printed," she says.
Having recently received the Young Creative Entrepreneur Award from the British Council, Definition Africa has firmly cemented itself as one to watch.
However, the practicalities of producing and manufacturing locally-made clothing has proven to be just as difficult as they had anticipated.
"It would've been much easier to source our t-shirts in China, it would be much easier to get our stationery produced in Dubai, but we had to kind of stick to what we started with and that has been difficult," says Mugyenyi.
Currently, all of Definition's products are made and sourced in various African countries -- with blank t-shirts sent in from factories in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania to be printed in-house. Ink, zips and embellishments, however, are mostly sourced from outside the continent, but the company aims to ensure that all components are 100% African-made in the future.
This commitment to homegrown design is part of a greater ambition to support local and regional industry, the entrepreneurs say, and so far, consumers have been taking note.
Mugyenyi adds: "One of the things that makes Definition what it is, is that the products are supposed to be entirely African in subject matter and as well as where the material comes from."
Johannesburg - A former African Bank executive, Tami Sokutu, has turned his back on those drowning in debt due to easy loans from the bank.
According to the Sunday Times Sokutu, who made over R50m in share options and earned another R35m in salary and bonuses while he was Abil’s chief risk officer, showed no sign of remorse for the reckless lending to millions of South African’s who could not afford to repay their debt. This, say analysts, has led to the collapse of the bank.
During his interview with the newspaper he reportedly boasted about having made millions and said he was now globetrotting.
Sokutu reportedly owns three houses in South Africa and another in Portugal.
He said he did not need to ever work again and according to him he also owns six luxury cars, including a Porsche and a Bentley.
He said he lived a lavish lifestyle and had no regrets and blamed borrowers for their predicament and said they should not have applied for loans if they were not able to repay them.
Sokutu, a former director-general of the department of public works, was sacked last year as South African Biodiversity Institute chairperson after arriving drunk at the Chelsea Flower Show in London where he was meant to be welcoming guests.
South African Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus last Sunday announced that African Bank had been placed under curatorship.
She said a consortium involving major banks had committed to underwrite a R10bn capital raising and would engage with shareholders and other participants.
The consortium comprises Absa, Capitec, FirstRand, Investec, Nedbank, Standard Bank and the Public Investment Corporation.
African Bank's shares plummeted recently after it warned of massive losses and said it needed about R8.5bn in new capital.
Marcus said African Bank served 3.2 million people.
The Debt Counselling Industry said on Monday the NCR should be probed for not properly investigating African Bank.
"Over the past few years, debt counsellors have lodged thousands of complaints, many relating to reckless lending... against the country's major credit providers, including African Bank," founder Deborah Solomon said in a statement at the time, according to Sapa.
"These complaints have repeatedly been sent to the regulator who has chosen to ignore them and the plight of desperate consumers."
However, Motshegare said the NCR conducted an investigation into the bank's lending practices and their impact on consumers last year.
"We investigated the bank last year for reckless lending and entered into a settlement agreement in terms of which the bank paid R20m."
Motshegare said the bank's unsecured lending had declined in 2012, after the regulator "expressed concern" about it in 2011.
However, she admitted that the bank's recent growth in impairments and bad debts "went a lot further than expected".
Motshegare said the NCR would engage the curator of African Bank to ensure the bank's clients were served in a manner that met the terms of the National Credit Act.
The regulator would also continue to work alongside the Sarb to ensure that the bank's lending practices were "sound and fair".
In case you missed it during the U.S.-Africa Business Forum last week, the International Trade Administration (ITA) published a report that shows that the U.S. trade relationship with Africa is growing at an increasing rate.
ITA’s Report on U.S.-Africa Trade and Investment examines the economic statistics related to U.S. commercial involvement in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) – one of the world’s fastest-growing economic regions. The report is part of the Doing Business in Africa (DBIA) campaign, through which federal trade agencies are joining forces with U.S. businesses to take advantage of the growing export and investment opportunities available in the region.
Here are the five key takeaways of the report:
1. Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world. Average GDP growth has surpassed 5.2 percent three straight years. The International Monetary Fund estimates that this will increase in both 2014 and 2015.
2. U.S. exports to SSA are at record levels. Merchandise exports reached $24 billion in 2013, an increase of $8.8 billion from 2009. The past decade saw the largest increase in value of U.S. exports to sub-Saharan Africa in history; U.S. goods exports have increased by 130 percent since 2000, or an average of 6.7 percent annually.
3. Small and medium-sized businesses are finding success in SSA. More than 92 percent of businesses exporting to Africa are considered small and medium-sized enterprises—those with fewer than 500 employees. They accounted for a 53 percent increase in the value of exports to the region from 2009-2012.
4. Most export growth originates from Texas, Louisiana, New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Georgia. In total, these states accounted for 60 percent of total exports and more than 70 percent of growth in exports to SSA in 2013. Mineral fuel and oil drilling, automotive parts and supplies, precious metals, and boilers and machinery parts are the top export sectors to SSA common among these states.
5. Total U.S. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Africa has grown by 37.5 percent since 2009. While world foreign direct investment position in 2012 was 27 percent greater than in 2009, U.S. FDI position grew by 40 percent during that period.
As evidence of the report’s positive outlook for U.S. trade with Sub-Saharan Africa watch this short video of many of the deal signings that happened last week at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum.
If your business is ready to do business in Africa, visit Trade.gov/dbia or contact your nearest Export Assistance Center.
SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft is rolling out a $25 phone for consumers in Asia and Africa in a clear bid to expand its presence in emerging markets.
Microsoft on Monday introduced the Nokia 130, which is priced at 19 euros and billed by Microsoft as “an ideal handset for first-time mobile phone buyers, or for people seeking a reliable backup phone to complement their existing smartphones,” the company said in its announcement.
The technology giant said the phone is expected to become available in the third quarter of this year in select markets, including China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Vietnam.
“As demand in the affordable mobile segment continues to grow, Microsoft remains committed to delivering market-leading mobile innovation at each and every price point,” Jo Harlow, Microsoft vice president for phones, said in a statement.
“It is estimated that at least 1 billion people in the world still do not have a mobile phone, while at the same time there is increasing demand for reliable backup phones in both mature and high-growth markets.”
The company said 300 million phones priced below $35 are sold every year.
IDC analyst Ramon Llamas said the move is not surprising given Nokia’s strategy of “courting emerging market users with inexpensive devices.”
“For Microsoft, this is new territory,” he told MarketWatch. “But they are not going into this blind. Nokia has a lot of experience in this area.”
Microsoft completed its acquisition of Nokia’s handset business earlier this year.
However, Llamas also noted that the Nokia 130 runs on Nokia’s Series 30 operating system, not Windows Phone, and it’s not clear how the move could meaningfully boost Microsoft’s overall position in the mobile market, in which having a robust operating system user base is also key.
Microsoft faces stiff competition in the mobile market from Apple AAPL +0.13% and devices using Google’s GOOGL +0.15% Android operating system
“What is the path from Nokia 130 to a Windows phone? That is not clear,” Llamas added.