Africa

Totally Ethnik: The African Fashion Brand That Is Proud To Be Both African And “Ethnic”

By Nate Nkumbu

When people think of fashion in Sub-Saharan Africa, they often think of clothing that is passed down from family members or hand me downs donated by the West.

But one fashion brand from the continent seeks to change those Western notions.

Totally Ethnik is a fashion company based in Accra, Ghana and they are real path breakers.

As a brand, the company mostly makes their clothes from local sources coming from Ghana, Mali and the Ivory Coast.

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According to Totally Ethnik’s public relations representative Marie Kipre, the main force behind the clothing line is for their looks to be as real as they can be to the cultural identity of Ghana.

“We keep our clothing as ethnic as possible,” Kipre said in an email to RISE NEWS. “We use wax prints [a] lot however, we fuse it with other fabric depending on the idea we want to portray with each piece.”

Kipre said that the company don’t deal with many problems being a being a fashion brand based in Africa.

However, she did say that the biggest obstacle that they face is getting the product to the global market.

“Our designs are authentic and truly ethnic making our clients satisfied anytime they wear our clothes,” Kipre said. “Our challenge is being able to get our clothing to other countries and be able to secure chain shops that will be interested in stocking our cloths.”

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According to the World Bank, Ghana is the 114th most difficult business climate in the world with very high import and export costs and a difficult trade relationship with other countries in the region including Nigeria.

But despite some of these structural difficulties, Totally Ethnik is plugging ahead and making progress into being a widely known fashion brand.

“African fashion has been accepted all over world now and continues to grow and Totally Ethnik as a brand is one that people will love to be associated with,” Kipre said.

To learn more about Totally Ethnik, you can visit their website: http://www.totally-ethnik.com

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

To Be Mandela Or Amin? New Video Game Lets You Try To Build Democracy In Africa

Democracy 3: Africa, is the latest standalone game in the indie game darling “Democracy” series, by Positech Studios.

The “Democracy” series places the player in the position of the head of government for a country, and gives the player the ability to tinker with policies, with the eventual goal of being reelected, and maybe solving a few social problems.

This is complicated by the existence of several mutually exclusive, or otherwise contradictory interest groups vying for your attention, i.e. Conservatives and Liberals, Capitalists and Socialists, etc.

“D3:A” takes several creative and technical leaps from the more “vanilla” Democracy 3.

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An example of Democracy 3: Africa’s gameplay. Photo Credit: EnterElysium/ Youtube (Screengrab)

Positech Studios is in fact a one man show; the brainchild of developer Cliff Harris.

RISE NEWS contacted Harris via email to expound on some of these additions, and how they reflect the realities of policy making in the variously depicted African countries.

Central to what Harris wants players to take away, is the caveat that Africa is not homogeneous.

” Its not just how you see it portrayed in the media, especially the US media,” Harris said. “The continent faces some really tough problems that are far harder than the problems that Western Democracies face.”

Some of the problems in “D3:A” do crop up quite often, and central to that is the addition of a new game feature- Stability.

“Pretty much everything else becomes an irrelevance unless you have stable government.”

“I think the one thing that I have learned from the modeling of these countries is the importance of stability,” Harris said. “Pretty much everything else becomes an irrelevance unless you have stable government.

“Nobody invests in a country where they may lose their whole investment in a coup, or a currency devaluation. Nobody takes a holiday somewhere where there are riots or a civil uprising. It’s something that we absolutely take for granted in the West.”

Managing stability becomes more so pressing when capital deprived environments are unable to attract investors.

This led Positech to make Foreign Policy a more active component of the game.

WATCH: Trailer for Democracy 3: Africa

“We have tended to skirt around foreign policy in the original game… We felt that it would simply be impossible to do this with African states, because the impact of foreign policy, especially when it comes to foreign investment is so large,” Harris said. “There is an assumption that corruption is low, stability is good and there are no major human-rights abuses that may reflect poorly on investors, but none of those statements are true for certain African states, so it would simply have been inaccurate not to be able to reflect that in the game.”

This line of thinking lends itself to institution building, a commonly echoed theme in   addressing floundering democracies in the region.

Harris illustrates an inherent contradiction in efforts to build institutions:

“Essentially, it’s easier to fix a countries problems if you are an all-powerful dictator, because things just ‘get done’ without argument, so there is a temptation to keep hold of power to make the job of government easier. Obviously the end goal is to fix a countries problems AND have a functioning Democracy, but there is tension between these two goals when your country has real problems, and I think that gives some insight into how so many dictators originally feel they are acting ‘on behalf of the people’ and then cannot let go of power.”

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President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (right). Photo Credit: Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äußeres/Flickr (CC by 2.0)

This kind of paradox is perhaps most prevalent in the rule of el-Sisi in Egypt, who simultaneously is backed by the military, but has arguably improved the standing of women in Egypt and taken some measures to secularize education.

While “Democracy 3: Africa” is not a survey of African politics, it does offer a cursory look at the challenges that affect countries on the continent in an accessible interactive platform.

Perhaps most importantly, and optimistically, the game can be seen as a lesson for those that care about democratic institutions.

“Ultimately all political problems *can* be resolved given the will to do so,” Harris wrote in an email.

Democracy 3: Africa is available on Steam, GoG, and Positech’s own website.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Photo Credit: Harvey Barrison/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Landslides In Northern Rwanda Kill 49

At least 49 people have been killed and hundreds of homes destroyed by landslides in northern Rwanda following torrential rains over the weekend, a government official told Reuters Monday. The downpours also injured another 26 people and damaged infrastructure in the small East African nation. Rwanda’s Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs Minister Seraphine Mukantabana told the… Read More

Africa’s First Billion Dollar Start Up Is A Bet On The Rise Of The Continent’s Middle Class. But Is It A Smart Bet?

For decades, the narrative around African business has been pretty negative. But things are changing as demonstrated by the recent achievement by the Africa Internet Group– as it became the first ever African based “Unicorn” start up company.

Africa Internet Group just received an $85 million investment, valuing the company at over $1 billion, and making it a “Unicorn”.

AIG is essentially Silicon Valley, but all packed into one business.

They invest in and help manage over 30 African companies like Easy Taxi, Jumia, and Lamudi, which mimic the Uber’s, Amazon’s, and Zillow’s of the world.

Glassdoor reviews from former employees of AIG give it a 3.2 rating out of 5 with 21 reviews. The pros largely coalesced around the work: always busy and challenging.

The cons all focused on the same issues surrounding management, with every negative review either highlighting a lack of communication or unrealistic expectations for their subordinates.

These complaints about management seemed to be shared by ownership, as last December, the company began to lay off upper level staff left and right, with one of its largest companies, Jumia, firing over 300 workers in Nigeria, its largest market.

It is not unusual for one startup to go through upheaval like this, but when many companies all operating under the same umbrella go through the same issues, it is a bit worrisome.

However, AXA and Orange would not have invested in AIG at the valuation they did unless it was satisfied with its executive team, so one would think that this massive shakeup is largely a good thing for the company.

Given the timing of the overhaul and the subsequent transaction, this management purge was most likely a contingency for these large firms’ financing, because ultimately, they are not investing in AIG, but in the rising African middle class.

The common theme amongst AIG’s portfolio is e-commerce, as they have laid the foundation of their company on the emerging proletariat.

The size and the economic maturity of the middle class is the subject of fierce debate, as companies like Nestle serve as cautionary tales; their billion dollar expansion hit a rut and was forced to scale back its African workforce by 15% once returns proved to be smaller than expected.

WATCH: Inside a Africa Internet Group Office in Lagos, Nigeria. 

Much of the investment in Africa has been based around the notion that one third of Africans are “middle class,” which emerged from a 2011 paper from the African Development Bank Group which stated that the middle class had tripled over the last 30 years.

However, the AfDB defined it as Africans living off of $2 to $20 in purchasing power per day, with it divided into three separate tiers which further muddied the certainty surrounding the definition of “middle class.”

Standard Bank released a study last September that looked at 11 African countries which account for over half the continent’s GDP, and found the size of their middle class to be 15 million people, or about 300 million less than AfDB estimated for the entire continent.

The middle class of the largest African country by GDP, Nigeria, is estimated at 11%, with 86% of all Africans reportedly falling under “low income.”

The Pew Research Center provides extra support to this assertion as they estimate that just 6% of Africans qualify as “middle class,” which they define as living off of $10 to $20 per day.

90% of Africans are estimated to still live off of less than $10 per day according to Pew.

However, even though the data seems to hint that investors may be too bullish, it does not mean that they should reverse course and become bearish on the many different African economies.

Capital is still flowing into the continent, as foreign direct investment is up over 12% since 2008.

Additionally, some of the struggles companies like Nestle experienced could be due more to cultural misunderstandings than a lack of disposable income across Africa.

“There was no presumption [from the AfDB] that this middle class would exhibit Western modes in terms of consumption of food formula for middle-class babies [Nestlé] nor for whisky [Diaego],” Kayizzi-Mugerwa, one of the chief economists for the AfDB said. “In the latter case, Africans have always had a partiality for beer − irrespective of class – and the beer companies are doing roaring business.”

Many African countries are still dealing with structural issues that go back centuries, as Egypt’s inflation is 210th in the world due to the instability that has arisen over the last 5 years.

Nigeria needs to modernize its workforce as 70% work in agriculture, yet farming accounts for just 20% of its GDP.

South Africa, which remains the model for many African countries, has 66% of its workforce comprising the services industry, which accounts for 67.4% of its GDP, yet the rest of the continent’s labor pool is much closer to Nigeria than its most modernized nation at its southernmost tip.

The historic investment in Africa Internet Group must be seen as a larger investment in Africa as a whole, because without a modernized Africa, the e-commerce that AIG provides would have no market for buyers or sellers.

Africa is still an emerging economy, but it has shed many of the 3rd world caricatures that the West has forced upon it over the years, with Sacha Poignonnec, CEO of Africa Internet Group providing a mission statement for the company that could be construed as one for the entire continent as well:

“We want to be profitable but we are very long-term oriented. Amazon is a great model to look at. They have a great valuation, they have a great customer base. Everyone one is confident that Amazon has a great future but they are still yet to make money.”

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us

10 Million Children In Africa Are Now Obese Or Overweight

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Obesity is on the rise in a rapidly urbanizing Africa. A new report from the World Health Organization shows the alarming extent of the problem: The prevalence of overweight and obese children living on the African continent has surged from 4.8 percent to 6.1 percent in the last 25 years. The number… Read More

Millennial Intel: Why The Burundi Crisis Might Delegitimize The African Union

Burundi is a country in Sub-Saharan Africa that is both adjacent to, and smaller than Lake Victoria.

It might then come as a surprise that this tiny country could become a headache for the supranational African Union (AU). Following the announcement of incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza’s run for a third term, which is in violation of Article 96 of the Burundian Constitution, protests and violence broke out.

These responses included an attempted coup d’etat on May 13th. In addition to the spike in violence since President Nkurunziza’s third mandate went into effect, over 217,000 Burundians have fled the country. This has lead to a deteriorating human rights situation condemned by the Vatican, and was met with targeted sanctions from the United States.

The AU responded on Dec. 17th, noting that in Burundi there were instances of “arbitrary killings and targeted assassinations, arbitrary arrests and detentions, acts of torture, suspension and arbitrary closure of some civil society organizations and media”, and concluded that the appropriate response was an initial deployment of six months (renewable) of 5,000 peacekeepers, though with the option to deploy more.

Predictably, the Government of Burundi was not thrilled by the prospect of its sovereignty being brought into question during a violent constitutional crisis.

The AU peacekeeping force has thus far not received the approval of the Burundian government, who called it an “invasion and occupation force”.

This presents several problems for the AU. The first is that the Crisis in Burundi may spiral into a greater regional issue, due to asylum seekers, and spread of violence.

Either the AU convinces the Burundian Government to accept Peacekeepers, deploys them of their own accord, or do nothing. As the first seems unlikely at the moment, the AU would have to choose between two options that delegitimize the AU to varying degrees.

The second problem is the fact that Burundi is the second largest contributor to ongoing AU peacekeeping missions. With over 5,000 troops in Somalia, Burundi’s continued cooperation in the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is put in jeopardy by both the violence on the home front, and conflict of interest with the AU.

Whatever the outcome, AU leaders will have critical decisions to make in the coming days that could decide just how important a role the IGO plays on the African Continent.

Cover Photo Credit: Dave Proffer/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Sphere Of Influence: China To Open Its First Naval Base In Africa

China recently announced a landmark agreement with Djibouti to establish Beijing’s first overseas naval base in its modern history. The agreement opens the door to the creation of a permanent Chinese military presence on the African continent – at a key geopolitical address bordering the Bab el-Mandeb Strait guarding the approaches to Suez along the Arabian… Read More

Millennial Intelligencer: Burkina Faso’s Coup Is A Powder Keg Ready To Blow

By Curt Evans

A month to go before national elections and Burkina Faso is enduring yet another military overthrow.

Just last week, General Gilbert Diendere and a group of presidential guards took over the government by deposing interim President Michal Kafando and Prime Minister Isaac Zida.

Diendere and the presidential guards were fiercely loyal to former President Blaise Compaore, the man who Kafando and Zida took down last year in a coup of their own.

General Diendere, the leader of the current coup had been given a take-it-or-leave-it deal by the Army Chiefs of the West African nation, to step down from his position by 10:00 GMT- 6 AM EST or he would be attacked. As the deadline came and went, there was no violence in the country, although the BBC reports that Army troops are massing in the capital of Ouagadougou to take back control.

Diendere has said that he was ready to hand over his power to transitional non military personnel powers.

“We do not want to fight but ultimately we will defend ourselves,” Diendere said according to Agence France-Presse.

Diendere and allies in the presidential guards assaulted a cabinet meeting and keeping the president and ministers that were present.

Diendere has a strong force behind him that consists of about 1,300 fighters ready to attack if he is harmed.The strong force is known as the presidential guard (RSP)- called that because they are devoted to former President Compaore (he also formed the group for his own protection.)

Compaore created the feared paramilitary unit to guarantee his own assurance in the wake of the 1987 assassination of his predecessor, the so called ” Che Guevara of Africa”, Thomas Sankara.

The troops were to surrender by 10 GMT or be attacked by the Army, but that deadline is now expired.

According to Al Jazeera reporter Nicolas Haque:

“Minutes before the deadline expired, General Diendere called a press conference and released a statement saying he wants to stand by the framework agreement that was negotiated with ECOWAS.”

According to military leaders in the country, if the coup leaders were to surrender and disarm, they would be granted safety and not be attacked-hopefully avoided more bloodshed in a conflict that has already taken the lives of at least 10 protestors.

But even if that happens, there is still a big question hovering over the country: Can Burkina Faso really become a stable democracy?

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Cover Photo Credit: Jeff Attaway/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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