7 Made-In-Africa Footwear Brands Every Shoe Enthusiast Should Own
Shoes are everyone’s non-problematic best friend. They’re always there when you need them, will make you feel and look good, and will at times cause a bit of pain and discomfort, all in good faith. Shoes do not merely protect our feet; they are a means of expressing our styles and fashion sense.
The footwear industry is worth billions worldwide, with the African footwear industry rising from the sidelines as one of the fastest-growing in the world. Africa is profoundly enriched with the raw materials and skilled, affordable labour needed to make the continent profitable in the shoe business.
Countries like Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda, and Nigeria (just to mention a few) are leading the footwear revolution on the continent. In 2013 alone, Ethiopia earned over $30 million from shoe exports, which ranks it ninth in the global leather goods industry. Now, as more countries develop their footwear business, the value of Africa’s footwear industry could rise to $1 billion in the next few years.
In this article, we have curated seven made-in-Africa footwear brands that should find their place in your closet. Take a look below at Africa’s bold and innovative shoe designers who are grabbing attention with both feet and winning new fans globally.
Enzi Footwear (Ethiopia)
Enzi Footwear is a brand made in Ethiopia and founded by Jawad Braye and Azariah Mengistu in 2011. With a vision to “change the perception of Africa,” and develop a sneaker shoe brand that uses high-quality Ethiopian leather, Jawad and Azariah embarked on their journey to make the best athletic shoes in Africa. Socially and environmentally friendly, Enzi shoes are as well made as they are comfortable.
Today, Enzi’s shoes for men are shipped to markets in Europe, Asia, and the US. Retailing around $200 a pair, Enzi footwear is set to conquer the fashion world. Since the establishment of the brand, the company has succeeded in employing local people, enabling them to provide for themselves and their families.
Hesey Designs (Nigeria)
Hesey Designs is a Nigerian fashion brand which specialises in designing and producing handcrafted bags, shoes, fashion accessories, and corporate gift items with African, continental, and other materials. The brain behind this fashion label is Odiete Eseoghene, a young, Nigerian-born fashion entrepreneur, who hit the market with her creative designs just after graduating from university. Odiete hit the spotlight when she designed the sneakers worn by Sir Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, during the launch of Virgin Atlantic’s new uniforms and 30th-anniversary celebration in London.
Hesey Designs works with youths and women to develop chic, African-inspired fashionable items, thereby creating jobs and supporting families. In the last two years, the brand has quickly grown to include an initiative that empowers unemployed young women by teaching them vocational skills in handmade fashion accessories. These women then join its workforce or start their own small businesses.
Uzuri K&Y is a shoe brand and manufacturer established in Rwanda in 2013. The company was founded by two women entrepreneurs who met at university while studying creative design. Ysolde Shimwe (CFO and co-creative designer) and Kevine Kagirimpundu (CEO and co-creative designer) combined their design talents to create shoes that every trendsetter should have. Uzuri K&Y is based in Kigali with the mission to craft sustainable solutions by recycling waste into functional footwear. The young, self-taught designers do this by equipping youth and women with skills to produce practical shoes out of rubber tyres.
In 2016, KORA & IFC named Uzuri the best female start-up, while in 2018, Rwanda Development Board named the brand the best made-in-Rwanda enterprise of the year.
German-born Ghanaian sisters Nana and Afua Dabanka created the luxury footwear label Monaa in homage to their regal Ashanti heritage. Made in Ghana by expert artisans, Monaa sandals are constructed from the finest, globally sourced leathers and refined with African-inspired embellishments. Exquisitely handcrafted, Monaa reflects the designers’ transcontinental sensibility.
As young girls, Nana and Afua were completely enamoured with their father’s handmade leather Ohenema slippers, as well as their mother’s intricately woven Kente silk ensembles. The sisters spent their childhood in the small German town of Wetter but maintained strong family ties in Ghana, regularly travelling there. This, combined with their respective moves to New York and London, made Nana and Afua adept at authentically fusing multiple cultures fashionably.
The name Monaa combines Afua’s nickname, “Mo,” with “Naa,” the affectionate abbreviation of Nana. Likewise, the brand combines craftsmanship steeped in tradition with design from a global perspective. Hence, the sisters present a luxurious new footwear option and personal labour of love, made in Ghana, for the customer who makes herself at home anywhere in the world.
Tsonga (South Africa)
The Tsonga journey began in the late 1990s when cheap, imported footwear flooded the South African market, forcing many shoe manufacturers to close their doors. Tsonga’s founder, Peter Maree, who at the time already had two decades of experience in the industry, embraced the challenge. He saw an opportunity for a niche market in high-quality leather footwear with a uniquely African style and the comfort that only hand stitching can provide.
With a team of top international designers and skilled technicians already in place, Peter set out to find the unique hand stitching skills that would be the signature of Tsonga Footwear for years to come. “I wanted to create a range of shoes and handbags inspired by Africa. The hand-stitching skills of the women of the village of Lidgetton, close to my home in South Africa, are renowned. I thought that together we could create something unique and wonderful.”
Tsonga shoes are created with 100% soft, pure, genuine leather by local people who love Africa. The brand represents international footwear and accessories with humble roots and a strong African heritage. Tsonga wholly embodies a collaboration of passionate people, their creativity, and their talents to bring about a positive difference in society.
Oliberté is a sustainable brand supporting workers’ rights in sub-Saharan Africa. The brand believes in empowerment, transparency, and doing right by all. This means making premium quality products with a lifetime warranty, and it means treating every employee, everywhere in the world, with respect. Oliberté started in 2009 as a small footwear company partnering with factories and suppliers in Africa. From there, the brand gained enough momentum to launch its very own factory in 2012. “We make every single pair of Oliberté shoes at this factory in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In September 2013, we also became the world’s first Fair Trade Certified™ footwear manufacturing factory.”
Oliberté believes that with the right partners, each country within Africa has the means to grow and support its people. So that’s what the brand does: “We work to create fair jobs and lead the charge for workers’ rights, supporting this effort. We manufacture in Ethiopia at our factory and partner with suppliers, farmers, and craftsmen to produce premium products in Africa. Through this, we create products that make our global team, and global customers, proud.”
SoleRebels is arguably the most popular and fastest-growing African footwear brand in the world. From the humblest of beginnings, Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu has created world-class jobs, empowered her community and country while presenting a galvanised, dynamic face of African creativity to the global market. Bethlehem has shifted the discourse on African development from one of poverty alleviation orchestrated by external actors, to one of prosperity creation driven by local Africans maximising their talents and resources.
In early 2005, fresh out of college in Addis Ababa, Bethlehem founded the trailblazing footwear company to provide solid, community-based jobs. Fast forward a few years later, SoleRebels is now the very first global footwear brand to ever emerge from a developing nation. SoleRebels is based on the revolutionary idea that to truly enjoy lasting development, producers in developing nations must create, grow, and control successful global brands and the equity developed in them, the very same formula that global brands in developed nations have so successfully deployed to build themselves and their countries.
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