Believing in the potential of a developing market
One of the things MOYO stands for is the empowerment of the local market by purchasing and producing locally. We love combining African prints with plain fabrics and make sure it is all ethically sourced. This has led to us getting to know the market quite well and see its great talent, one that is not being encouraged or developed due to a strong sense of disempowerment.
Fabric Sourcing in Eastleigh, Nairobi
The African market – I’ve come to learn in my journey of starting a sustainable fashion brand in Kenya – is one of amazing potential. When walking around the Kenyan markets and streets, you see countless beautifully handmade items.Both the ability and the willingness are there. There are many artisans producing anything from jewelry to furniture, showing how much potential there is, yet most people still buy imported goods.
When seeing these promising items of Kenyan craftsmanship, one wonders WHY is there so little ‘made in Kenya’. Why so many opportunities are wasted, why so much is spent on import when locals are desperate for a job opportunity. Why so little stimuli for the local market.
As time passed and I got immersed into the culture, I’ve come to know that the root of the answer to these questions lies in a latent feeling of powerlessness in Africa, with the explanation found in its own history. We are all the products of our past and that is no less true for the African culture. Wangari Maathai (Nobel Prize winner and Rescuer of The Karura Forest in Nairobi) explains the problem of disempowerment in one of her books – The Challenge for Africa. Following is an excerpt on the above:
“While poverty is at the root of many of the pressing problems Africa faces, so is the poor’s apparent powerlessness. During the last forty to fifty years, most African states have come to believe that they cannot act on their behalf. Self-determination and personal and collective uplift, values embraced by the vast majority of Africans in the period after independence, have been eroded.” (LINK)
Disempowerment – whether through lack of self confidence, apathy, fear, or an inability to take charge of one’s own life – is perhaps the most unrecognized problem in Africa today. To the disempowered, it seems much easier or even more acceptable to leave one’s life in the hand of third parties, whether government, elected leaders, or, in some cases, aid agencies and faith-based organizations.
Somewhere on the way from colonialism to this emancipated Era, many Africans have lost the confidence in their potential either because of being told how to do things or due to constant help that has been provided along the past decade. This constant help is of no use, though if there is no proper education or a good foundation to build upon.
Nairobi schoolgirl (prior to Corona)
This feeling of disempowerment that has developed along the past decade has partly lead to and partly been caused by other aspects that are at the root of Africa not being part of major economic activities and creative initiatives. According to the founder of the first car manufacturing company in Kenya, there are three main problems in the country’s current situation: absence of skilled labor, no employment opportunities and mass-produced, imported goods.
Recognizing these problems is a first step into the start of the markets’ rehabilitation. Constant help without proper education is not a sustainable solution to the problem. What we should do if we want to offer help is guide Africa to solve problems from the inside out, not outside in. In terms of production, help the local craftsmen believe in their potential and have them produce things at a high quality level.
In terms of education, create awareness and actively getting involved in the local production by sharing knowledge among other things. In terms of imported goods, make whatever it is we need locally and encourage our entourage to do the same in order to make locals aware of the importance of local production for the country’s economy.
David at work on a new piece – The MOYO Trenchcoat
At MOYO, we want to believe in Africa and empower its locals, starting with where HQ is, in Nairobi, making them really feel like ‘YOU CAN DO IT!’ It takes lots of undoing and redoing and coming and going. This is like laying a first stone on a foundation that could redefine Africa’s involvement in economic activity. It’s time to believe they can because ‘it’s amazing how far you are willing to go when someone believes in you.’
When we see two such different cultures coming together creating a most unique piece by combining European minimalism with African print we are double proud – we’ve not only done it, but we’ve done it together and proved that Africa can do it!
MOYO Rhapsody Dress combining African print with up-cycled fabric