6 Opportunities to Consider in 2015: Part II


In part I of this post published in January 2015, we suggested the first of three opportunities you should consider exploring [or taking more seriously] this year. Below we make a case for part II.

4. Information and communication Technology [ICT]


ICT, an umbrella term referring to any communication device or application including radio, television, cellular phones, computer and network software, is playing an increasingly dominant role in creative industries –  from idea conception to production and consumer access. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the planned sale of Etsy, the fantastically popular arts and crafts online marketplace based in the US.

Established just 10 years ago, Etsy has easily become the most successful online retail platform for all things handmade [with 26million listed items and 30million buyers] and is hoping to leverage this massive growth in what could be Newyork’s biggest IPO since 1999.

Suffice it to say that creative, consistent and effective use of ICT is not optional for designers looking to create solid brands. Many are the instances when I have had to make phone calls to ask that an email be replied to. Equally disheartening are the Facebook pages that were last updated in March 2013…

Social media tools are free and perhaps hold the most promise for reaching your target audience. Seriously consider developing and implementing a communication strategy for 2015 and see the difference it makes in your brand and sales efforts.

5. Contemporary African Design

For the longest time, the concept of African design was largely ignored in global discourse. When curators, buyers and the like talked about African design, the extent of reference was the artifacts and other historical symbols that were siphoned out of Africa during the colonial era.

However, in the last 20 years or so, there has been a renewed interest in Africa, in her culture and the economics therein. Some call it an absolute renaissance, a rebirth.

What this essentially heralds is the need for designers to rise up to the challenge and get into the driver’s seat of this conversation. We must define what this renaissance will look like, what it will say about us and where it will take us.

And herein lies the opportunity. Speaking to the Design Network Africa collective in Capetown last week, designer extraordinaire Stephen Burks posited that designers from Africa have a distinct advantage – an immensely rich heritage to draw ideas and stories from and create products that are authentic, generous and specific. Opportunities abound for that designer willing to step out of the tried and tested, to create something fresh and new. The world is waiting. Literally.

6. Markets next door

Everyday at the office, we are inundated with emails and text messages inquiring about market opportunities in Europe and North America. The messages will usually go something like this “…dear so and so, I am a designer making jewellery and bags. I would like your help in exporting my products to Europe because there is no market for my products here in Kenya. What assistance can you offer me…”

While there is nothing wrong with the desire to export to these markets, the passage of time, knowledge and experience has me convinced that domestic, regional and continental markets offer sexier opportunities for exploration. Furthermore, research proves that successful design brands such as Adele Dejak, luxury furniture company Ramara and Niro Collection realize over 50% of their sales [if not more] within the domestic market i.e Kenya.

Further afield, Ghana, South Africa, Angola, Mozambique and Nigeria have been touted as the markets to become intimately acquainted with. And the reason for this? There is new money in these countries. Lots of it. And with it opportunities to create products that answer to the consumerism that inevitably follows.

Granted, movement of goods and people across Africa can be a time consuming and expensive affair, but there are other ways of coming into contact with these market opportunities without the grief.

Browse the 2015 Export Promotion Council’s Export Market Development Programme for trade opportunities coming up in Africa.

Images [top to bottom: Etsy, Design Network Africa and Design Indaba]