The market for luxury African goods was once the preserve of rich expatriates and tourists, but as incomes soar across the continent, retailers report a growing appetite among local buyers.
Bridging the gap between traditional craftsmanship and luxury, high-end African brands are out to make a global impression.
From clothing and jewellery to wine and tea, refined luxury is increasingly being packaged and sold by Africans.
Continental consumption is rising steadily.
According to a report by consultancy firm McKinsey, consumer spending in Africa is set to increase from $860bn in 2008 to $1.4trn in 2020.
The number of households with disposable income is due to grow by 50% over the next 10 years to 128m.
The CapGemini/Merrill Lynch World Wealth Report found that the number of high-net-worth individuals in Africa rose by 3.9% between 2010 and 2011 to 100,000.
This means that the number of people looking for high-quality consumer goods is growing rapidly.
While China’s economic slowdown has worried some luxury brands, others have been quick to take note of Africa’s growth.
US company General Motors’ sales of Chevrolet vehicles grew by more than 50% from 2010 to 2011 in sub-Saharan Africa.
In Kenya, the Captiva is the most popular, with a starting price of $47,000.
In Ghana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, the majority of buyers prefer the Cruze, which costs $30,000.
Bruno Carraz, managing director for Africa of jewellery brand Cartier, hopes that a recent rise in sales will go “on and on”
“We have recently strengthened our relationship with our Nigeria partner and improved our distribution channels in many countries like Angola and Côte d’Ivoire.”
While sales of non-African brands on are on the rise, home-grown brands are also taking the opportunity to establish themselves, not only in Africa but on the global market.
Patrick Mavros, a Zimbabwean jewellery company, opened its flagship store in London in 2004. After 33 years of business, the company’s clientele ranges from taxi drivers to film stars and heads of state.
“African luxury isararity,”says Forbes Mavros, son of the brand’s founder and head of the Mauritius atelier.
“There are not many brands that have touched the international pulse and remained African in their identity.”
Swaady Martin-Leke, the founder of YSWARA, a luxury tea brand with its headquarters in South Africa, also believes that it is important to maintain a country or region’s heritage and culture when building a global brand.
“If you look at European or Japanese luxury brands, you find the essence of the country of origin is in the detail,” he says.
For many producers of luxury goods, customers have traditionally been ex- pats and visitors. But demand for African products is increasing.
Euromonitor International revealed spending on luxury goods in South Africa rose from $628.5m in 2007 to more than $1bn in 2012.
South Africa’s global wine exports grew by nearly 40% between 2006 and 2012.
Over the same period Kenya became its largest African importer of wine, buying 6.1m bottles in 2012.
At home, Waterford Estate’s “The Jem” 2007 is the flavour of the month.
Bottles start from R680 ($80). Martin-Leke believes that typical African luxury consumers, having travelled abroad, want products that reflect their identity.
“They might want a Chanel watch, but they also want a beautiful couture ankara dress.
“They have the money to buy Yves Saint Laurent, but they want African designers”