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Single-digit loan, power key to building sustainable fashion industry – Oghene

Kelechi Oghene is the CEO of GMYT Fashion Academy, GAHAWARDS, Gmyt Hostel Apartments & GMYT Foundation. Oghene has trained and graduated several women and youths in the fashion business, granted scholarships and empowered them with Industrial/electric Sewing. In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE-KORIEOCHA, she spoke on how the fashion industry can contribute to the country’s economy. She also hinted on activities lined up for this year’s GAH-AWARDS.

What do you think Nigeria needs to explore from other countries to make our fashion industry better and add substantially to Nigeria’s GDP?

Nigeria as a nation needs to take advantage of evolving global dynamics and diversify from oil as it has always claimed. It is a known fact that the fashion and textile industry is the second-largest sector in Africa with a value of $31billion and Nigeria accounts for about 15 percent of it. However, the potential is much greater than that.

Nigeria needs to capitalize on global economic trends by first cleaning up its own home. A considerable number of businesses have closed in recent years as a result of expensive infrastructure costs, low customer demand, and a fluctuating currency. We can benefit from what China is doing by investing in the industry’s human capital needs like what GMYT Fashion Academy is proposing, solving raw material difficulties, and minimizing the neck-breaking bureaucracy in exporting Nigerian fashion items.

What are major challenges in Nigeria’s fashion industry and how can these challenges be addressed?

Nigeria’s fashion sector has a vital cultural significance and contributes considerably to the economy. For instance, the fashion and textile business is the second-largest industry in Africa with a value of $31 billion, and Nigeria is responsible for around 15 percent of it. However, the potential is far bigger. The difficulty of the industry reaching its full potential is due to the lack of government support in the region. Government should recognize and support those who are creating value in the fashion industry. Grant one digit loans to creatives with stress-free collateral and give stable power supply as we are constantly burning diesel to give the best to our students. Taxes should be reviewed and reduced for us creating jobs and values in society, just like doctors saving lives, we need to be encouraged. Basically, the government should invest in the fashion sector because it is lucrative and will help boost the economy. What I am doing with the GMYT Fashion Academy is not only restoring optimism for the fashion industry, but also tackling the national economic crisis that is now devouring the country.

Do you think Nigeria has explored the business side of fashion as much as we ought to?

Today, GMYT Fashion Academy has trained over 3000 women to become not only fashion designers but also fashion entrepreneurs; we are a fashion business school that provides students with the essential skill set and business expertise to operate and maintain their fashion company. We teach students to investigate various aspects of the fashion industry, not only clothes making. We have assisted them in locating their niche in various regions. Despite this, there is still more work to be done. Nigeria still has a lot of potential to explore in the industry. Textile, fashion photography, fashion and cultural exports etc.

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Over the years you have trained and empowered women and youths through the GMYT/SME support scheme, with free scholarships to study fashion design, entrepreneurship development, amongst others. How have you been able to do this, is the scheme supported?

GMYT/SME support scheme has in the past decade been able to impact the lives of over 5,000 women and youth. We have also been able to empower over 12,000 women and youths with free scholarships to study fashion design, and entrepreneurship development, and have provided over 3,000 industrial/domestic sewing machines through GMYT Foundation. All of these funding have been personal funding and support from GAH-AWARDS and GMYT Fashion Academy. However, I believe that there is still much to be done. The goal for 2030 is to train 10000 women. I believe that this can be achieved faster and more effectively if agencies, corporate organisations and individuals/humanitarians key into the GAH-AWARDS mantra from this 2023 goal which is to raise N700 million in partnership with GMYT Fashion Academy to provide free hybrid skill-acquisition training, hostel accommodations, start-up capitals, empowerment sewing machines, and other services to 1000 women and youth through the GMYT Foundation.

Having been to several business schools including Harvard and Netherlands, how has this helped the commercial side of your business?

I have always been a voracious reader with a strong thirst for knowledge, which prompted me to attend several workshops, training, and obtain several executive degrees and qualifications from prestigious institutions such as the University of Lagos, the Harvard Business School, Lagos Business School, and currently pursuing an executive MBA with Business School Netherlands, all of which have made me more structured in my business dealings and in constructing the structures necessary for success. Learning is the one positive trait that has shown to be very effective and fruitful in my recent successes. The subsequent objective is a PhD.

How many people have you trained from the GMYT Fashion Academy since you started the academy?

Today, GMYT Fashion Academy has taught more than 12,000 individuals, many of which already operate their own Fashion schools, Ready to wear businesses, Bespoke, Bridal etc. And this year, asides celebrating our 10th edition, we are graduating another set of fashion entrepreneurs on the 9th of December, 2022 at the Lagos Oriental Hotel, Grand BallRoom, Victoria Island.

What is the GAH-AWARDS all about, and what initiated it?

GMYT African Humanitarian Awards (GAH-AWARDS) are presented to honour and encourage individuals and organizations in various fields whose exemplary efforts have significantly improved the lives of others and consistently contributed to encouraging and inspiring socio-economic development for Africans. The platform was established in 2012 based on my desire to improve the lives of many people, especially women and youths in Nigeria and Africa. This value, I must add, came from my late mother who made it clear to me what my number one purpose on earth was. The platform has been driven for the past 10 years on the vision ‘to encourage and inspire socio-economic development for Africans’. The GAH-AWARDS mission ‘to promote and celebrate individuals and organizations that are contributing positively to the society towards building a sustainable economy’ have garnered several successes in the past 10 years with notable top public figures, business leaders and core humanitarians being awarded. GAH-AWARDS successes over the years have been accentuated and consistent because GAH-AWARDS and her team run on the purpose driven fuel of its core values ‘Social Impact’, ‘Humanitarian Service’, ‘Economic Advancement’

What is the main goal of the awards? Would you say the objective for which it was created has been met?

GAH-AWARDS goal is accentuated in our vision statement which is to encourage and inspire socio-economic development for Africans’. The working blueprint for this is to honour and encourage individuals and organizations in various fields whose exemplary efforts have significantly improved the lives of others and consistently contributed to encouraging and inspiring socio-economic development for Africans. In terms of success, there has been tremendous success in the past decade.

What is unique about this year’s award?

As earlier mentioned, GAH-AWARDs have been advancing social impact for the last past 10 years and this year 2022; GAHAWARDS will be celebrating its 10th anniversary. It has been 10 years of massive successes. This year’s GAHAWARDS will be taking place at the Grand BallRoom; Lagos Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island Lagos over 2500 dignitaries will be attending the event.

Also this year, GAH-AWARDS intends to kick off the program with empowerments worth N56 million which will include skill acquisition tuition fees, start-up funds, sewing machines, and partnership investment, among other things. These empowerments will be given to 200 emerging designers who are passionate about becoming fashion entrepreneurs. For the 2023 goal, GAH-AWARDS aims to raise N700 million in partnership with GMYT Fashion Academy to provide free hybrid skill-acquisition training, hostel accommodations, start-up capitals, empowerment sewing machines, and other services to 1000 women and youth through the GMYT Foundation. GAHAWARDS will also host the 10th Graduation Ceremony of GMYT Fashion Academy, featuring over 200 fashion entrepreneurs debuting in 2023.

It’s the tenth anniversary of the GAH-AWARDS, how has it been over the years and how have you impacted lives and the community over the years?

Yes, it has been 10 years of celebrating social impact in Nigeria and Africa. Over the years, GAH-AWARDS has recognized over 5000 dignitaries, and over 200 media outlets who have contributed to encouraging and inspiring socio-economic development in Africa. In addition, today, the GAH-AWARDS initiative has directly achieved nine of the seventeen SDGs. These are evident in the empowerment of over 5,000 women and youth through the GMYT SME support scheme, empowerment of over 12,000 women and youths with free scholarships to study fashion design, and entrepreneurship development, and the provision of over 3,000 industrial/domestic sewing machines through GMYT Foundation. GAH-AWARDS has also been in the service of recognizing and encouraging humanitarians both in Non-Governmental Organizations and For-profit corporations through GAH-AWARDS, and actively partnering with stakeholders in the last decade to achieve these goals.

Also, as part of this year’s event, you are giving out awards to organizations and individuals, what is the criteria for this, how have you measured their contributions to the industry and country at large?

GAH-AWARDS decision and selection processes are rigorous. It is motivated by considerable study on individuals and business entities that have demonstrated exceptional entrepreneurial and corporate behaviour and responsibilities. We begin with an open request for nominations from the general public by the Award’s Advisory Board.

Following a request for nominations, nominees are sorted into several categories by the award committee, which is comprised of accomplished and trustworthy professionals, consultants, and past winners. The advisory board and judges will examine and score each nomination then the names of the short-listed nominees are announced. The team next notifies the nominees of their nomination and sends them a GAH-AWARDS conferment letter.