Think Africa, a project born in 2001 out of the inspiration to influence corporate Africa to adopt the use of local fabrics and allow their employees to include the local corporate dress code in their daily work wear and in their organization’s arts, crafts, gifts and décor, is gradually gaining traction in Nigeria.
This idea is coming at a time when 104 thriving textiles factories out of 134 nationwide have shut down with more than 700,000 jobs lost within the last 13 years. Despite the different government intervention funds since 2009 to the sector, production has remained low mainly due to low patronage of made-in-Nigeria goods and other factors including infrastructure deficit, cost of production, smuggling and cost of borrowing.
Speaking during a presentation on October 1, 2017 to promote the Think Africa Project, Chinasa Jonathan-Ojei, founder of Think Africa, said the mission of the project was to promote Africa’s rich heritage in the corporate world throughout the continent.
“Clothing is an essential part of one’s identity and globally, the textile industry is a driver of growth and employment. God in His magnanimity gave Africa bright and beautifully designed fabrics to distract the sunrays and contrast with our dark skin to make us visible, and the cotton texture to absorb heat,” Jonathan-Ojei said during the presentation at House on the Rock in Lagos, a multi-ethnic cathedral that seats up to 14,000 people at full capacity.
“Think Africa is here today to remind corporate Africa that 57 years ago Nigeria became independent and many more years ago other African countries like Libya were liberated from colonisation. This means that corporate Africa became free to decide and create African corporate dress code and interiors with local accessories and fabrics such as Adire, Aso Oke, Akwete, Akosombo, Ankara, Batik, Brocade, Bogolanfini, Kente, Print, Woodin, and other types of African fabrics. But this has not happened,” she said.
Instead, she regretted, Nigeria is stuck to the mundane coloured attires forced on us by the colonial employers who used dressing to assert their supremacy. As such, wearing the “white man’s clothes” to do his “white collar jobs” here in Africa became the standard despite the heat and its inherent health challenges, including heatstroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat rash and fungal infection on the leg, popularly known as Athlete’s foot.
She urged corporate Africa to urgently and radically embark on Mental Adjustment Program (MAP) so that we can fully appreciate our locally-made products and work for their finesse.
“The Think Africa is a project aimed at resonating the rich African heritage in our corporate world through the optimal use of African fabrics to make smart corporate dress styles as well as adorn our premises with subtle interior decorations of our artworks, natural endowments and fabrics. It will create job opportunities, curb crimes, inspire creative ingenuity, promote our identity, contribute to economy recovery and create an enduring wealth,” she added.
BDSUNDAY checks show that Ghana, in an effort to preserve the textile industry, celebrate its rich culture, preserve its identity and encourage wearing of clothing made with local fabrics, launched the “National Friday Wear Programme” and later embarked on the “Everyday Wear” initiative.
Similarly, textile products play an important part in China’s foreign trade and as a labour-intensive industry, the industry provides a lot of employment opportunities for Chinese citizens.
Since Ade Shonubi, CEO of Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) Plc, allowed employees to wear smartly-made corporate African dress styles, the employees feel more comfortable, convenient, functional, relaxed, find the African corporate style easy-to-wear, are less restricted to Western outfit and have better freedom of choice, according to a recent survey report.
Jonathan-Ojei therefore suggested that if corporate Nigeria legalizes corporate African dress code, the demand for African fabrics will increase significantly considering the spending pattern of the corporate world on fashion, production will rise, more revenue will accrue to manufacturers and they will be able to fund independent power generation, create more employment opportunities, and the virtuous cycle will contribute to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.