Africa’s Growing Middle Class Drives Development
Africa’s growing middle class is fueling development across the continent. Ambitious entrepreneurs are creating growth with companies focusing on everything from fashion to pharmaceuticals. But poor infrastructure, corruption and political conflict are hampering their efforts.
Sylvia Owori is examining the photos for the summer collection, but she isn’t satisfied. “Much too much oil on the skin,” she says, pointing to a young woman. “We want to show off the dress, not her legs.” A click of the mouse, and the candidate is out of the running.
A new girl appears on the screen. She is wearing a yellow miniskirt, as she poses against a pale and misty backdrop of Lake Victoria. “This one is good,” says Owori, to an audible sigh of relief in her studio in the Ugandan capital Kampala. The photographers, designers and seamstresses surrounding her are relieved.
Owori is East Africa’s most successful fashion entrepreneur, the style icon of a growing middle class. She owns boutiques in Kampala and the Kenyan capital Nairobi, and the models in her agency can be seen on runways in Rome and Paris. She also publishes African Woman, a glossy magazine that showcases local fashion trends. “We want to celebrate Africa’s beautiful people,” says the designer.
Owori, who combines modern fashions with African colors, doesn’t shy away from making bold statements. “The fashion world currently has its eye on Africa,” she says. “This is our opportunity, and we should take advantage of it.”