Worth an estimated $31B Sub-Saharan Africa’s apparel, textile, and footwear market and its fashions are often an inspiration for international designers. However, many of its entrepreneurs operate in the informal sector. Small distribution networks, a lack of wide access to capital and low production capacities limit the industry’s growth potential. In response to this, a new investment company has launched exclusively targeting African fashion brands; getting into the continent’s multi-billion-dollar fashion industry as it looks to scale it up. Run from Abidjan and Paris, Birimian Holdings aims to support African fashion brands in the continent and diaspora to facilitate and accelerate the growth of their businesses regionally and internationally. Their aim is to provide brands with long-term financing of $30,000 to $3 million at different growth stages. It will provide brand consultation and coaching, help companies strengthen their production and distribution capacities, and give them international exposure. In addition, the company aims to help brands strengthen their internal control and financial planning processes, and implement sustainable expansion plans.

“Rather than having the rest of the world coming on the continent to get inspired, take what they want, and use it in their own way, there is a need for us as an African brand to really strengthen our capacities to excel and shine internationally,” Birimian founder and CEO Laureen Kouassi-Olsson said. Birimian is already supporting four brands: Ghana’s Christie Brown, Côte d’Ivoire’s Loza Maléombho and Simone et Élise, and Yeba, whose founder is from Benin.

Emanuela Gregorio, an economist at the African Development Bank, feels that attracting investors to the African fashion market through ventures like Birimian could spur new innovations and provide more flexible financial products for the continent’s fashion entrepreneurs.