Tuesday, October 6, 2009

“In most sub-Saharan African countries, only 5 percent to 10 percent of the population is at the top of the income pyramid”

Interesting statistic on the number of "rich" in Nigeria (in red below)...in Nigeria, it's less than 0.1%. And of course, shout out to Arise for showcasing African Style on the international scene.

Putting African Style on the Page

By ROBB YOUNG

Sub-Saharan Africa doesn’t bring to mind the image of a woman with perfectly manicured nails flipping through glossy magazines in search of the latest handbag or celebrity haircut. Yet such women are there, and in far greater numbers than the media’s portrayal of Africa might suggest.

In wealthy neighborhoods of Lagos; Nairobi; Luanda, Angola; Dakar, Senegal, and the like, ladies of leisure, successful businesswomen and aspirational middle-income housewives make up an attractive demographic that, in the past, relied on international fashion magazines for style and beauty information.

But in the past few years, while Condé Nast, Hearst and Hachette Filipacchi were expanding throughout Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, a handful of African publishers was busy staking claims to this publishing territory. The result has been a wave of new glossies, like Arise, Haute, Helm and True Love, that put an African spin on fashion.

“Honestly, upwardly mobile African readers are crying out for this magazine,” says Helen Jennings, editor of Arise, a monthly style title started late last year by the Nigerian media tycoon Nduka Obaigbena, who also owns the country’s leading newspaper, This Day. “Because the local magazines aren’t as high end or progressive, and no other international titles speak directly to an African readership, Arise has really caused a stir.”

Arise occupies a unique position among magazines in English-speaking Africa as it alone packages both pan-African and global content, producing a provocative blend that Ms. Jennings calls “afropolitan.”

With a reported circulation of about 60,000 and averaging about 140 pages a month, the magazine is distributed to seven other African countries and around Europe and North America. In its no-expense-spared fashion shoots, clothes by African designers are paired with global brands like Yves Saint Laurent, Loewe and Ralph Lauren using popular black international models like Oluchi Onweagba and Rahma Mohamed.


But Arise’s embrace of glamour and celebrity is tempered by a nod to the underground and an appreciation of irreverent reportage. A recent issue included a saucy exposé of African WAGs (the British acronym for wives and girlfriends of soccer players) that appeared alongside quirky items about Ugandan skateboarders, a multimedia prodigy from Ivory Coast and the leather-wearing biker subculture that grew up in Soweto after apartheid.

African publishing has progressed in recent decades, but some major obstacles to real success still exist, including isolation from key business partners and underdeveloped distribution networks.

Literacy rates are still appallingly low in many sub-Saharan countries, but parts of the population with enough disposable income to afford magazines and some of the advertised products have much better literacy rates than the national averages. And in Nigeria and Kenya, which have become regional centers for publishing, literacy is better than 70 percent and 80 percent, respectively.

Africa’s pockets of wealth also are often buried in gloomy macro statistics.

“In most sub-Saharan African countries, only 5 percent to 10 percent of the population is at the top of the income pyramid,” said Sakina Balde, an analyst for Africa and the Middle East at the market research firm Euromonitor International. “While this might seem insignificant, in highly populated countries like Nigeria, for example, it represents a large number of individuals.”

According to its 2008 data, there were 110,200 households in Nigeria with an annual disposable income of more than $75,000 — and last year the country’s 150 million residents spent $750.4 million on newspapers, magazines, books and stationery.

“Nigeria and Angola are both oil producers and many people made a fortune in the oil industry or through various businesses,” Ms. Balde said. “High- and middle-income earners in these countries have an insatiable desire for luxury products and this is not waning with the economic slowdown.”

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