It’s not just about whether Vogue should or shouldn’t start an Africa edition. Even if it does, how would Vogue avoid some of the pitfalls African readers are already wary about?

The Africa popular culture space has become charged with difficult discussions on representation, cultural appropriation, intellectual property etc. Everything a Vogue for Africa would do will be considered political in this climate—trust runs low as Africans have been time and time again taken advantage of in these areas. What do the models look like? What type of hair do they have? Body size? Complexion? Was the community that inspired this line compensated in any way?

For a continent that has always been on the receiving end of negative stereotypes that do not value the way the majority of Africans look, Africans will be waiting to see any signs of a bias in how they are represented. Even with all that, a Vogue for Africa would have to remember Africa is not a monolith. “I hope they don’t give us one of those magazines that are 75% South African content and 25% other. I remember a few years back when Cosmopolitan started a Kenyan edition that was a quarter Kenyan and 75% South African content,” laments Anyango Mpinga the founder of a leading Kenyan luxury fashion brand under the same name.

A fashion show in Nairobi
A fashion show in Nairobi
Image: Reuters/Thomas Mukoya

“The only way they will not fail is by involving Africans in this front, back and center as writers, editors, designers, photographers, models, makeup artists, as advertisers etc. We are not a trend! We are here to stay,” says Aissatou Sene, the founder of Senegalese fashion brand Belya.

Ideally, if this was to happen it would be a global edition in the same way Vogue Italia has been praised for crossing continental barriers, but it shouldn’t be a publication that simply moves the western gaze from behind a pair of binoculars to behind a microscope. By involving Africans throughout every aspect of its production, Vogue could create a product for Africa that we all clamor for on the continent and abroad, while not fetishizing, minimizing or oversimplifying the diverse African stories and experiences.

If well done it could unearth and share groundbreaking fashion stories across the continent such as the recent viral entertaining yet educational video on the Herero Dress done by Style Out There. The $1.5 trillion global fashion industry has sub-Saharan Africa’s apparel and footwear market valued at just $31 billion, so there’s plenty of room for growth.

Even in the age of Instagram, a global player like Vogue could still be a major stepping stone in giving African fashion brands the type of visibility and credibility that can turn them into mainstream international fashion brands. A “Vogue Africa” would succeed by representing Africa and Africans with dignity, allowing our stories to have the diversity that we love and embrace. In this way, it could be complementary to a lot of the initiatives already happening on the continent – the fashion weeks, the art fairs e.g. the upcoming African contemporary biennale in Dakar, the music videos celebrating African fashion and beauty etc. Vogue for Africa has to be African.

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.