Fashion Icon Spotlight: Roberta Annan

Am I the only one that didn’t know just how much the path to success in the realm of business is a challenging, intricate journey, fraught with complexities and hurdles? Entrepreneurs I feel you! This is particularly true in Africa where infrastructure limitations, market fragmentation, economic instability, regulatory barriers, access to funding, intellectual property concerns and skill gaps are the norm.

The creative industry, in particular, does NOT receive the acknowledgement or support it requires – let’s just be real. Underrepresentation of Africa’s diverse cultural richness on the international stage and a clear preference for traditional industries in Africa is seen, even in governments who prioritize sectors with a perceived direct contribution to the gross domestic product and employment. Do you agree?

This then perpetuates the notion that creative careers such as fashion are less viable or essential but according to Statista, Africa’s fashion market revenue was forecast to reach $6.40 billion by end of 2023. Data also shows that the sector will grow at an annual growth rate of 12.14 per cent between 2023 and 2027. This is where African fashion icons, the likes of Roberta Annan come in.

Let’s deep dive into her contribution as a globally acclaimed businesswoman, investment advisor and fashion icon.

1. Impact

Roberta Annan is the founder and managing director of the Impact Fund for African Creatives (IFFAC) – previously Roberta Annan Consulting – which nurtures, develops and provides technical and financial support to creatives across the 16 sub-sectors of Africa’s cultural and creative industry. These include fashion, music, advertising, publishing, television & radio, visual communication on design, animation & video, art & art performance, architecture, interior design, product design, film, photography, and craft. This is a 100 million euro impact investment fund that has already deployed around 3 million euro in some businesses.

Roberta has a portfolio of assets called the African Lifestyle Development Group, one of which is a risk capital and fashion experts provider. Frallain Group is a dynamic, sustainable, innovation-driven, brand development investment engine for early-stage luxury brands in Africa and the Middle East. They invest in brands that have a social impact approach geared towards employment and women empowerment. Maasai women in Kenya have since benefited from working with global brands as a result – A WIN.

As a philanthropist that’s passionate about women’s development opportunities across Africa, Roberta founded the Africa Fashion Foundation in 2011. She aims to celebrate and empower fashion talent of African descent through access to resources, mentorship, grants and more. As a UNEP Goodwill ambassador, she supported the creative economy by developing pipelines to build and support international brands to adhere to proper sustainable practices during production and manufacturing.

Roberta also served on the advisory board of Conde Nast College of Fashion and Design, was a jury member at the National Chamber of Italian Fashion and also a resource mobilization consultant at the UN where she created fundraising strategies and wrote grants that expedited the implementation of UN projects globally. Do I need to say more? Well, read on.

2. Observations

The first thing I noticed when I came across Roberta online was her sense of style and warm demeanour. This probably had to do with the fact that I’m a budding fashionista myself that also happens to be building the first Pan-African consultancy of it’s kind, Meremeta Africa Beauty, for beauty and fashion entrepreneurs creating products with the African in mind. We’re currently in incubation courtesy of serial entrepreneur Fred Swaniker and the Mastercard Foundation, have so far worked with skincare and haircare brands and are well on our way to working with 10+ brands in the UK, US, and Africa in 2024.

One interview I came across associated with a founder’s guide Roberta was creating for her other company, Annan Capital Partners, brought out her demeanour. She mentioned regretting making business decisions based on emotion in her early days as an entrepreneur when faced with issues relating to her personality, integrity, lack of acumen in certain areas, personal voids and imposter syndrome.

She went on to explain how her approach then only caused more challenges within her organizations in the long-run up until she started making informed, logical, rational decisions based on facts, figures and financial return. She attributed her success in this area of growth to the nature of her work which entails accumulating resources from outside investors on top of having an advisory council and investment committee with expertise and experience that guide her.

3. Honors and Awards

Are you ready for inspiration overload? Roberta received the World Fashion 4 Development Program Leadership Award (South Korea) by Fashion 4 Development, Women 2.1 Summit Award by Women Leadership Award, and Game Change Honors all in one year – in 2013. In 2016, she was the youngest inductee in the African Leadership Hall of Fame (New York). Business World Ghana issued her the 20 under 40 Influential Business Leader Award in 2017 and 40 under 40 Influential Business Leaders Award the following year.

In 2019, she was among the 100 Most Influential Africans courtesy of Africa Youth Awards. In 2020, she received the She Achiever Award by The Business Executive Award alongside the Fashionpreneur of the Year award by Global Style Icon Awards. In 2021, she was on the 100 most influential Africans once again. If this doesn’t scream ICON LIVING, I don’t know what does – seriously!

Entrepreneurs and leaders reading this, remember logic and accountability in decision-making. This was an area of growth for me too and trust me – it feels GREAT to have finally crossed over! Fashion entrepreneurs from Africa, there’s no excuse not to look up and tap into the Impact Fund for African Creatives, Africa Fashion Foundation or any other organization that speaks to your cause for support when building your venture.

If you’re willing to work with an early-stage consultancy, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here. Also, there’s nothing as great as finding a blueprint in a person so Roberta if you’re reading this… thank you! I can’t wait to meet you 🙂

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