Coming out to my parents
There are certain moments in a young mans life — which mark an inflection point — “coming out” as a Fashion (and textiles) entrepreneur to an audience of two traditionally studious African parents is one of them.
Engineering, Finance, Law, Medicine…Fashion — Can you spot the odd man out?!
There are few generalisations that truly cover a diverse continent of 54 countries, however the fetishisation of the traditional professions is one of them.
To a man — African parents worship at the alter of a buttoned down white collar existence.
- The same retirement planning structure as Asian parents (albeit masked under more layers of affection)
- Ultra conservatism
- Social status
Probably all the above and a few more. The short answer is that — they care — African parents have an intrinsic desire to ensure the future of their children is better than their past, for this reason some African parents, like my own, will literally work night and day to send their kids to that fee paying school, to come up in the world slowly but surely, generation after generation — this is the African way.
This is admirable and very practical — however, not the stuff rapid acquisition of generational, artistic or industrial wealth is made of.
Which if you think about it — is missing a trick…. (Ask the Picassos, The Laurens, even the Trumps)
I remember when I was in Ghana — A guy called Panji Anoof — ex BBC worker and CEO of pidgin music and fellow global African- told me something I would never forget:
“Art is the only infinite resource, everything else fades” I repeated it over and over to myself — how true, so I thought — intellectual property, trademarks , assets that can be bought, sold, commercialised, licensed, appreciate over time; all sources of great wealth.
Fortunately there has been a sea of change and working in the creative industries is no longer the derision/ shame / exile causer it once was — Africa has woken up.
I believe it is quite obvious to all now, creative business is a huge wide open blue sea of infinite opportunity and value creation — being an African businesses in this space provides not only a solid USP in a crowded market, but it also allows the brave entrepreneur, particularly those in the diaspora, to fulfil the tacit agreement we all have with our parents to play a role, however small in Africa’s development story.
The veracity of this is confirmed by the African Union and African Development bank , vis a vis agenda 2063 and the Fashionomics program.
African creativity is being promoted as a vehicle for economic and social empowerment (soft power).
Creative destructive, at its best — Schumpeter would be proud , about time too.
To see more about the African Development Bank Fashionomics program see here:
And if you’re very interested see here too:
Article written by Chi K Atanga
Chi Atanga is a British-Cameroonian textiles entrepreneur based in Portugal
In 2016 Chi raised a six figure grant from the government to build ‘Made in Africa’ brand Walls of Benin-relaunching in 2017