(Hello Africa) Zambian fashion designer thinks big after attending China-Africa trade expo
Tanzania's Zanzibar President Hussein Ali Mwinyi delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo in Changsha, central China's Hunan Province, June 29, 2023. (Xinhua/Chen Sihan)
A young Zambian fashion designer said participation in the China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo has enabled him to appreciate and understand the Chinese business model and how to penetrate the market.
LUSAKA, July 22 (Xinhua) -- A young Zambian fashion designer said participation in the China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo has enabled him to appreciate and understand the Chinese business model and how to penetrate the market.
Kabaso Nkandu, creative director and head designer at Nkanda Yatu, a Zambian fashion brand, said his participation at the third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo held in the central Chinese city of Changsha from June 29 to July 2, provided him an opportunity to not only sell his brand to the Chinese market but meet important players in the garment sector.
Nkandu, 34, participated at the expo under the auspices of a China-Kenya marketing agency, Development Reimagined, which is committed to taking African brands into the Chinese market. The agency organized sessions that focused on understanding the Chinese market and business model, as well as marketing and finding business partners.
"And that is very important because it opens our minds to say that we cannot just limit ourselves to the Zambian market. It opens our minds, and we are able to tap even into other markets like the Chinese market which is very good," he said in an interview.
Nkandu, who specializes in custom-made suits for both men and women as well as wedding garments, said during the expo he met with fabric manufacturers, which is important because textiles have been one of the biggest constraints to the growth of the garment industry in Zambia, as most textiles have to be imported.
He expressed optimism that his brand will enter the Chinese market because of the enthusiasm shown during the expo. "The major highlight of this trip was seeing Chinese people appreciating products from Africa. The Chinese market is something that will absorb our brand because I could tell from the interest."
Actors perform African dance during the third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo in Changsha, central China's Hunan Province, July 1, 2023.(Xinhua/Sun Ruibo)
The fashion designer has since urged Zambian companies to take a keen interest in attending platforms such as the China-Africa trade expo, which are of great help in introducing Zambian products to other markets.
Nkandu, who started his business in 2017, was concerned that despite the potential that the garment industry has to contribute to the economic development of Zambia and many other African countries, the sector has not received much support.
Nkandu said small and medium-sized enterprises in the garment industry lack access to affordable finance that could help expand their production.
"We want the government's support; we want the private sector's support for us to be able to be competitive in the global market," he said, adding that there are a lot of trends that are happening in the garment industry in terms of machinery, technology, and many other things.
Audience take photos of a performance at the Changsha International Convention and Exhibition Center during the third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo in Changsha, central China's Hunan Province, July 1, 2023.(Xinhua/Chen Yehua)
Nkandu, who currently employs 15 people, said he has found potential investors but he is struggling to find collateral for the banks.
The investment, he added, will result in improved production for his company which will lead to the employment of about 255 workers.
"I am just a starter. I don't have collateral to offer for them to be able to give me the bank guarantee. My appeal to the private sector and the government is to prioritize the garment industry and provide the necessary attention it deserves," he added.
Nkandu said his future plan is to be one of the top designers not only in Africa but the world.
In September 2022, he made history by becoming the first Zambian designer to showcase at Milan Fashion Week in Italy. Hence his decision to name his brand, Nkanda Yatu, which is derived from one of the local languages meaning "our skin."
He said the name is meant to encourage people to appreciate and take care of local prints the way they take care of their skin.