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IDS Holds Seminar on “Fashion Designers as Lead Firms from Below: Creative Economy, State Capitalism, and Internationalization in Lagos and Nairobi"

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IDS Holds Seminar on “Fashion Designers as Lead Firms from Below: Creative Economy, State Capitalism, and Internationalization in Lagos and Nairobi"

The Institute for Development Studies on Thursday, 9th May 2024 held its weekly seminar series, themed “Fashion Designers as Lead Firms from Below: Creative Economy, State Capitalism, and Internationalization in Lagos and Nairobi” from 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm.

The presenters were Dr Eka Ikpe and Professor Roberta Comunian, from the African Leadership Centre (ALC), King’s College London and Department of Culture Media and Creative Industries (CMCI), King’s College London

Dr Eka Ikpe is Director and Reader (Development Economics in Africa) at the African Leadership Centre at King's College London. Her research offers a critical understanding of socio-economic transformation processes which advances concept-building that centres spaces in Africa and parts of the Global South across the fields of economic development and peace. Current themes of interest include, developmentalism, industrial development, structural transformation, creative economies, health, peacebuilding and reconstruction.

She currently co-leads two new ARUA-Guild Clusters of Research Excellence. The first is on Creative Economies and the other is on Interdisciplinary Peace.

Eka’s research has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council-Global Challenges Research Fund, Economic and Social Sciences Research Council, Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Wellcome Trust, among others.

Her research has supported the work of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the Economic Community of West African States, UK Ministry of Defence, UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Africa, UK Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (formerly DFID). She serves on the Board of Trustees for ODI Global.

Roberta Comunian is Professor of Creative Economies at the Department for Culture, Media and Creative Industries at King’s College London (UK).

She is interested in the relationship between public and private investments in the arts, art and cultural development and cities, cultural and creative work and careers, and creative social economies.  She has also undertaken research on knowledge transfer and creative industries and the role of higher education in creative economies through funded grants. She is recognised internationally for her work on creative graduates in the UK and their career trajectories. She has contributed extensively to the development of sustainable creative economies through European and internationally funded projects. Her latest projects focused on supporting the development of creative economies in Africa. She is co-lead of the new Africa-Europe Cluster of Research Excellence on Creative Economies ( 


Abstract: African fashion reveals intersections between upgrading, manufacturing and internationalization alongside expanding cultural, political and social influence. Yet global value chain analyses of the industry reinforce a core-periphery dynamic with the location of lead firms in the Global North (GN) and actors lower down the value chain in the Global South (GS). This disappears GS actors in the creative economy, including fashion designers, who innovate, design and cultivate the brand followership associated with lead firms. We analyze fashion producers in Lagos and Nairobi as economic, cultural and social value creators and therein lead firms from below (LFfB). We conceptualize this dynamic, with a focus on lead firms within the global value chain framework that combines elements of conceptual interventions on state capitalism to offer the LFfB framework. The framework is used to analyze primary data from fashion design firms in two key hubs, Lagos and Nairobi. Findings demonstrate the significance of synergies between key areas of LFfB operation (research and development, inputs, distribution, sales and product design) and state capitalism’s support (and challenges) for production, trade and finance, as well as returns through international cultural recognition and national profile building.

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