Sustainable and competitive economies work with what they have and what they are naturally good at. To build a sustainable growing economy you can’t pretend to be the mass-manufacturing powerhouse of Asia or the Made American Proud initiative of the USA. You need to find your own niche and preferable do something that comes naturally to the society that the economy benefits.
Crafted manufacturing is everywhere in Africa. From wire trees that have fairy lights that work, to elaborate coffins that double up as a sculpture – Africa can’t help but be creative when something is made. So why then is this not an agenda that we as a continent of societies are not actively exploring en-mass as a way to compete on a global stage? Mineral resources should be seen as a basic raw material to be ignited with African creativity rather than a commodity that gets dumped onto a train and sold to a foreign power at a price determined by unscrupulous traders sitting somewhere cushy. With increasing mechanisation and the treacherous working conditions this economic model flirts with, it’s hardly the holy grail of prosperity and the key to Africa’s future. Why does it feel like the macroeconomic focus of Africa is still rooted in the exploitative framework of our colonialist past, rather than the glorious natural ability of its beautiful people?
A case in point is this great example of a brand of shoes from Ethiopia called Oliberté.
Oliberté is dedicated to the craft of producing high quality leather footwear and accessories, made from African materials using age-old craftsmanship techniques. With natural Liberian-sourced crepe soles—a material that is known for its functionality in both cold and hot climates—Oliberté’s shoes feature a 100% goat leather lining that is naturally breathable. Hand-selected leather and close attention to detail in construction ensure quality in every pair of Olibertés. via Coolhunting
Mass produced is everywhere and becoming a bit tedious. Debating and contemplating strategies as to how Africa can compete with the high-tech, mass production hubs of the world isn’t worth the time it took to write this sentence. What is needed is some respect for the natural talents and passions of Africans, bold entrepreneurs to lead that talent in a direction that will showcase it profitably and governments who have the guts to allow the free market to bubble up with creative initiative and then to support those ideas with proper policy that has the best interests of the people at heart.
There is a massive opportunity for crafted manufacturing that can easily produce well over a million jobs by 2025 in Sub-Saharan Africa.
That’s Tal Dehtiar’s, the Canadian that started Oliberté, belief – and who are we to disagree.
The key to happy societies and countries that flourish and prosper economically in the 21st century, is that you need to tap into the natural talents of the people and then careful manage that resource. Africa is overflowing with talent, it’s just that the director of the show is looking for a prima ballerina in a room full of tap dancers.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”― Albert Einstein
There are countless pockets of brilliance like this Oliberté example all over the place – all that is needed is a bit of collective momentum to promote the mindset towards the horizon of change.