BY : Mosa Mojonothoane


Lesotho’s very own brand, Bonono Merchants has made it to top 25 Fashionomics Africa Online Incubator and Accelerator Programs 2022 after running along with other 2000 African fashion brands.

This milestone is a result of willingness to transform the locally-found business into a sustainable, formal business within the three-month journey that began in November Last year.

This is according to Bonono Merchants Founder and Managing Director Chere Mongangane. He said the accelerator programme presented an opportunity to grow the brand and scale up the business to the continental and, eventually, the international market.

Mongangane indicated that making it to the top 25 is not the whole highlight of their achievement as the programme has already imparted treasurable knowledge and skills to professionally manage the brand, network and explore the market through collaborations. “Through this programme, we were hoping to bridge some of the key skills and opportunities which were lacking. The bigger view has been to transform the business into a larger, recognized brand, and indeed to this point we are getting that and more from the insightful sessions,” he informed.

From the 2000 candidates who applied for the programme, the Top 1000 were selected for Founders’ session where the aim was to review the Fashion Business in Africa, from which 300 applications were selected to compete and go through the Incubation and Accelerator programmes, and 25 entrepreneurs are shortlisted to proceed to the final stage.

Now at Top 25, 12 finalists will be selected from the incubator and accelerator programs vying for the top 4 prizes for 20,000 USD each to scale up their operations. The winners will be announced on January 31.

Any fashion Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) or fashion entrepreneurs operating in the fashion ecosystem, including but not limited to fashion designing and dressmaking, accessories design and making, textile design, fashion illustration, fashion photography, technology-enabled fashion businesses, and service providers whose main sector of focus is fashion can contest for this programme.

Also a Technician by profession, Bonono Merchants Managing Director revealed that he learned about Fashionomics Africa Online Incubator and Accelerator Programs on the internet during his academic research on the Lesotho Fashion and Textile industry, which was intended to discover what can be done with factory waste. “This is when I came across Fashionomics Africa report and got to know about their work. I liked their approach to the fashion industry in Africa and started following them until I discovered this programme,” he said.

He praised the usefulness of the internet in terms of decentralizing information, urging youth to take advantage of its potential. Mongangane insisted that there are plenty of opportunities to size on the internet provided the youth shift their focus to information for personal and professional development.

Having been in business since 2014, Bonono Merchant has had quite a number of milestones. The most acknowledgeable is making it into the Vodacom Lesotho (VCL) Incubation Programme (VIP) which enabled the business to complete legal registration processes and create a solid business profile.  Another remarkable milestone for Bonono Merchant has been the founding of Linanabolela, a Basotho blanket that is made purely from Lesotho, that is, through local resources and materials.

Asked about his motive in the design industry, Mongangane noted; “Bonono is a clothing brand that operates in the intersection of Arts, Culture, Fashion and Technology. Mainly, the idea is to communicate the culture of Basotho through arts and by utilization of technology. We produce street fashion clothing from hats to accessories like bags and umbrellas.”

Fashionomics Africa is an initiative of the African Development Bank (AfDB) that aims at increasing Africa’s participation in the global textile, apparel, and accessories value chains. The objective is to support the growth of MSMEs that dominate this industry by equipping them with the necessary business skills, financial acumen, access to markets, market intelligence, and financing opportunities to scale up their businesses in an increasingly digitalized economy. To stimulate regional integration, intra-African trade, entrepreneurship development and forge more equal societies. It is an initiative to foster the fashion industry in Africa as a lever to create jobs.

The goal of the Bank’s Fashionomics Africa platform is to enable African entrepreneurs operating in the Textile, Apparel and Accessories (TA&A) industry to create and grow their businesses, with a focus on women and youth. The specific objectives of the platform are four-fold: To increase access to markets (by developing a full-scale platform including wholesale and retail platforms) and market intelligence, Increase access to finance (by, among other things, facilitate access to finance, not only by connecting designers with commercial banks and established investors but also by tapping into alternative financing channels, such as crowd funding mechanisms, and linking them to angel and venture capital investors), Provide mentorship and networking opportunities, Develop skills and qualifications (tutorials/training on producing high-quality garment but also business acumen on how to prepare business plan, etc.) of the target group.