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Webinar series: Moving towards a more sustainable and inclusive fashion industry on the Continent

On September 3rd, get insights into how the fashion industry can “Build back better after COVID-19" - jointly organised by the African Development Bank and UNEP.

Date: September 3rd

Time: 10:00-12:00 GMT

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented economic crisis which heavily hit the textile and apparel industry worldwide.

Due to a collapse in demand from consumers, the lock-down of retailers and manufacturing sites, shortages in raw material availability, and orders being cancelled, the entire apparel and textile sector faced an extreme deceleration. Orders of textiles went down by 31% on average worldwide, while turn-over is expected to decrease by 28% on average in 2020 compared to 2019. By April 2020, 86% of production facilities had been impacted by cancelled or suspended orders and 40% struggled with paying their workers.

These figures foretell the end of the fashion industry as we know it and the transition towards a more sustainable model.

According to McKinsey & Company, the number of sustainable fashion products launched over the past two years was multiplied by 5 and 55% of companies now aim to source at least half of their products with sustainable materials by 2025.

The fashion revolution has started. The fast-moving, high-production fashion model will give way to more sustainable and eco-friendly value chains whilst capitalizing on digital economy tools – the new “must-have” for the industry – in a (post-) COVID-19 era.


Towards a sustainable and circular textile and fashion industry

The fashion industry is of global importance. On the one hand, the sector provides high levels of employment, foreign exchange revenue and products essential to human welfare. But on the other hand, the fashion industry is a resource-intensive sector with adverse effects on human health and the environment.

Evidence shows that the textile and fashion industry accounts for nearly 10% of global carbon emissions, ranking as the second largest industrial polluter, just after the oil sector and before all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Not to mention that up to 8,000 different chemicals are used to turn raw materials into clothes.

The current linear take-make-dispose model is characterized by sharply increasing consumption, driven by low prices and short use cycles, coupled with very low re-use and recycling rates. Indeed, it is estimated that $500 billion value is lost every year due to clothing that is barely worn and rarely recycled.

African economies cannot sidestep these critical concerns as they seek to build light manufacturing industries in a sustainable way while remaining innovative and competitive in the global market. However, the scale of the problem is not known. There is very little data on the African textile and fashion industry’s impact on climate change, and hardly any research available on the emissions and pollution generated by the global textile and clothing industry activities in Africa, which mainly consist of cotton farming, fibre manufacturing, dyeing, printing and bleaching.

The pandemic and the following crisis provided impetus to revisit our relationship with nature. The shutdown of factories, changing consumption and mobility patterns showcased the tremendous impact our current behaviour, and the way of doing business in the textile and fashion industry, has on the environment, including air and water quality or biodiversity.

With escalating demand for textile products and textile mills, there is an urgent need for the industry to adopt a circular model with more sustainable and inclusive practices throughout the value chain.

To do so, clothing companies will have to adapt to the demand and develop a strong sustainability agenda – taking into account both environmental and social issues already at product design stage; implement new circular business models, include sustainable materials in the production line, strengthen traceability and transparency; and reinvent purchasing practices to improve efficiency.

Digitization will have an important role to play in this significant shift. For instance, in Africa, fashion entrepreneurs see in the pandemic and the acceleration of digital tools, an opportunity to reconceptualize and better educate designers and consumers. While some African brands decide to replace chemicals and synthetic with traditional African textiles and eco-friendly materials, awareness of this specific issue continues to spread across the continent and around the world. More sustainable brands, from all over the continent, are being applauded for their work towards a more circular fashion industry and economy.


The African Development Bank and the United Nations Environment Programme – Investing in circular and sustainability actions in the textile and fashion value chains in Africa

The COVID-19 pandemic, the urgency of the climate crisis – and the disproportionate impact on the African region – compels the African Development Bank and the United Nations Environment Programme to promote sustainable green growth and circularity on the continent.

With Fashionomics Africa, the Bank assumes leadership in promoting investments in the textile and fashion sector through a value chain approach. The aim is to stimulate job creation (skilled and unskilled) on the continent, while focusing on inclusive growth and sustainability. By promoting those local players that are doing business by putting local resources, artisanal skills and sustainable production at the forefront of their business models.

Through its Fashionomics Africa Digital Marketplace and Mobile App, the Bank is analyzing the impact of the textile sector on climate change and environment to deploy climate-friendly solutions in Africa. Moreover, the Bank is partnering with UNEP and various public and private sector stakeholders through the Fashionomics Africa Masterclasses to equip African textile and fashion entrepreneurs with ethical sourcing and sustainable production practices in order to reduce carbon emission of their garment production.


The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) aims to provide leadership and convene partners to develop knowledge and solutions to advance on sustainable and circular textile value chains. To this end, UNEP is engaging stakeholders from the fashion and textile industry, governments, international organizations, advocacy groups and fashion institutes, in an expert community.  To accelerate the shift towards sustainable consumption and production patterns in the textile sector, including through circularity, UNEP’s ongoing and planned initiatives focus on a value chain approach to the textile sector.  As basis for this serves a forthcoming UNEP a report mapping key environmental and socio-economic impact areas, taking stock of existing initiatives and identifying gaps and emerging priority actions. Starting in 2020, UNEP will engage with textile SMEs in Africa to assess their environmental footprints and to eco-innovate their business models, while supporting governments to identify enabling policies to support this transition and increase market demand. 

Beyond the Bank and UNEP, all the players along the value chain have a key role to play in reducing environmental hazards derived from textile and clothing production and providing innovative solutions that challenge the current system. Today’s African fashion entrepreneurs and designers, manufacturers, merchandisers, and consumers must all be well informed on the importance of sustainability and digitization going forward. Building back better after COVID-19, with long-term environment-friendly measures and sustainability alternatives is not only important, it is essential.


Join the discussion

The second panel discussion of the Fashionomics Africa Webinar Series entitled: “Moving towards a more sustainable and inclusive fashion industry on the Continent” intends to address the challenges and opportunities arising in a (post-)COVID-19 era to build a more sustainable and circular textile industry, including the mitigation of its social and environmental impacts on the continent.

Panellists of the webinar will discuss how fashion entrepreneurs and micro-small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Africa can build more sustainable and resilient textile value chains in a (post-) COVID-19 era through innovative business models, that will keep garments in use longer, use renewable materials and recycle old clothes into new products.

The panel discussion intends to:

  • Discuss how learnings from the current crisis can be used as an opportunity to address social and environmental problems in textile and fashion value chains;
  • Discuss whether more sustainable and circular textile and fashion value chains would have been better equipped to deal with the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis/ will be able to respond to future risks;
  • Give recommendations on how MSMEs in the textile and fashion industry should address key impact areas in their value chains to become more sustainable and circular, and which support governments and other players can provide;
  • Explain why sustainability should be on top of the agenda for businesses now and inspire actions from fashion entrepreneurs in Africa;
  • Discuss the future of the industry and the role of digitization in reducing environmental social hazards.


The panellists will represent the perspective of local MSMEs in Africa as well as the global perspective on textile value chains and the COVID-19 crisis.

  • Welcoming and Introductory Remarks: Emanuela Gregorio, Fashionomics Africa Coordinator, African Development Bank (AfDB)
  • Moderator: Bettina Heller, Programme Officer, UNEP
  • Brendan McCarthyCo-Director of the undergraduate Fashion Design ProgramParsons School of Design (United States)
  • Mariama Camara, Founder & Creative Director of “Mariama Camara” (Guinea/United States)
  • François SouchetLead – Make Fashion Circular, Ellen MacArthur Foundation (United Kingdom)
  • Nimco Adam, Founder of “Qaaldesigns” & Sustainable Fashion Technical Designer (Somalia/United States)
  • Adebayo Oke-Lawal, Founder & Creative Director of “Orange Culture” (Nigeria)


Click here to register for the webinar on September 3rd

Published on August 25, 2020

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