Out of Africa

Businesses based in Africa have been expanding their presence on the global scene of late, including some involved in activities connected to licensing:

• Fashion. South African designer Palesa Mokubung and her label Mantsho recently teamed with H&M for a ready-to-wear apparel and accessories range set to debut in select stores around the world this coming August. Mantsho, known for its bright colors and printed fabrics, has had some presence in the U.S. and India as well as various African countries, but this is its first global deal. Mokubung is just one of a number of designers based across Africa making a mark on the worldwide fashion industry.

• Children’s entertainment. Triggerfish Animation Studios of South Africa paired with U.K. distributor CAKE in 2017 to co-produce a show called Mama K’s Super 4 for the international market; Netflix came on board as the streaming partner last month. Meanwhile, Ubonga, a Tanzanian non-profit educational content producer, is hoping to expand internationally through e-books and apps available via the likes of Amazon and Google Play. It has seen global streaming viewership grow for its series including Akili and Me.

• Sports. In January, Puma signed with the Egyptian Football Association, which governs Africa’s most successful soccer club, the Pharaohs, as the official kit supplier for its men’s, women’s, and youth teams. (Most recently, Adidas produced the EFA’s kits.) Puma had worked with the EFA from 2006-2010—and at various times before that—and is also involved with other football associations and clubs in Africa. Deals between the major athletic sportswear companies and soccer clubs based in Africa typically include some global e-commerce distribution of authentic jerseys for fans around the world, although most of the focus is on each team’s home country.

• E-commerce. Jumia, an e-tailer of fashion, electronics, and other items known as the “African Amazon,” became the first African start-up to complete an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, raising $200 million in the process this spring. The Nigerian company’s operations extend to 14 countries across the continent.

African businesses with their sights set on global markets are increasingly highlighting their local culture in their products and services, whether though fabric patterns, content themes, entertainment locations, design elements, or other attributes, as opposed to creating merchandise that is more globalized in nature. This strategy seems to be taking hold with fans in the U.S. and around the world, as well as appealing to the companies’ local consumers.

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