What the Fashion and Tourism Industry is teaching us!

Fashion Kenya Support Local Industry Lessons Wanjiku N. M

Author: Wanjiku N. M | Editor and Founder of TDS | Twitter: @WanjikuNM

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Here is the bottom line. As Africans, we have failed  in so many ways made obvious by the continuous barrage of negative press but most importantly we have failed to realize the golden opportunities, blessings and talent that we have within our own borders. This is not about making money, this is about fixing a wrong. The unfortunate reality is that for too long, we, as Africans, have believed insidiously that the west is the land of the free, the land of opportunity and the land of greatness. We have tainted our mindsets to the point where we instinctively have been doing things substandard because we do not think we can achieve what they have achieved and therefore doubt ourselves before we even begin.

It will not be easy, it will not be wholly accepted at first but the end will justify the efforts and the means

I want to see the day when I can walk into a mall and be surrounded in abundance with locally made products. A day when people will fly into the country to buy our goods and not sell theirs. A day when people we’ll walk out with shopping bags to the neck with Kenyan brands showing the abundance of choice. The day when we, as Kenyans are supportive of each other, believing in each other, challenging the world with our greatness, not shying away from taking leaps and bounds in innovation and especially being unapologetic about it. That day however will only come with determined effort and targeted strategy. It will not be easy, it will not be wholly accepted at first but the end will justify the efforts and the means.

Lets look at the present crisis before us with the tourism industry. For the longest time, we have been savoring blindly and foolishly perhaps in the constant flow of foreign tourism feeding our economy that we disregarded a fundamental flaw in the system. This is until a grenade changed everything. At the moment, due to the unfortunate presence of insecurity, travel advisories have held hotels hostage to the impending economic crisis of shutting down their businesses. Simply because of one thing, travel advisories means no foreign tourists which means no filled hotels which means no money coming in. One event, a cautionary removal of tourists for the sake of security brought hotels and as a whole the tourism industry to a halt, a screeching frightening unsavory and degrading halt. The country, in a moment of panic realized that this one incident alerted all of us to the unfortunate reality, local tourism was never a priority.

We had spent so much energy pouring our efforts into bringing people into the country that we forgot to get local people into the mix. We took ourselves for granted and thought ignorantly that the Kenyan people were not important enough to invest in. Money is with foreign tourists, that is the truth, they told themselves and now they sing a different song. We, essentially, put all our eggs in one basket and now it has fallen harshly. Now, the country is in a tizzy trying to promote the local industry, alas one grenade too late to make an impact and resolve the issue. We have the opportunity to prevent a similar crisis.

What crisis is this that I am talking about? The peril of depending on foreign clients, foreign brands and foreign investors buying into local fashion disregarding the most important client; us Kenyans.

Why should we be held hostage economically and mentally by foreign investment when the greatest investors are right within our borders and will certainly not flee because of travel advisories from other nations. Let’s use South Africa as an example. What people may fail to realize is that South Africa had no choice but to invest locally because of economic sanctions that blocked them from foreign investment [we will not get into the politics of that]. They were shut out completely and desperation made them realize the greatest investment a country can make; the local industry. They had their backs against the wall and were forced to look at each other. We have the opportunity and blessing to have both foreign and local investment. Should we then wait until such a time as that, when we are desperate and making knee-jerk reactions to realize the fundamental problem and coming up with interim measures to stop the bleeding.

Failing to support and invest locally is a recipe for disaster simply because we are depending too strongly on an asset that is as volatile, temporary and uncertain as fame. By virtue of investing locally and supporting each other South Africa has successfully, although under an infamous and a deplorable government regime, built a nation economically strong enough to compete with the ‘big boys’, so to speak. They have invested locally with strategic and persistent branding on all products saying Produly South African. We can get there as well, if we decide unequivocally to invest locally and have foreign investment as a bonus.

Failing to support and invest locally is a recipe for disaster simply because we are depending too strongly on an asset that is as volatile, temporary and uncertain as fame.

Here is the reality of things, every time we buy into foreign goods, we take our hard earned money and pour it into foreign banks building their country, their economies and leaving ours to clutch on to straws. When will people understand that even buying into cheap Chinese products, foreign brands and second-hand clothing is not putting money into the country but emptying it slowly? Again I ask, must we wait for a national crisis to realize the problem or prevent an impending tragedy and invest for a future that will be dependent on constant factors.

Depending on foreign investment, and this includes being content with foreign clients, is a dangerous and volatile existence. As fast as they came, they can disappear even faster. The unfortunate reality is that foreign residents/visitors seem to actually support the local industry much more than we do and we are truly grateful. However, their support should be an addition not the only source of support.

We must invest, support and buy into our own products.

All I want is to prevent such a crisis from taking place. We have all that we need in this country to build a nation that can be so fruitful we will no longer be dependent on anyone and will rather give out because we have in plenty. Let us then, stop placing our trust on temporary factors and concentrate on the matter at hand. We must invest, support and buy into our own products. By doing so, we shall encourage each other to build great businesses, pour money into the country, create jobs, implement strategies and products that we shall inevitably begin to show the world that Africa is not the black continent but truly the land of the free, of opportunity and of greatness.

But we must believe in ourselves first before the world can believe in us

This is why TDS exists. This is not my fight; it is ours, all of us who live within these borders.

What will you do to change that?

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We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in our hands to make a difference.

Nelson Mandela

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