Africa: The cradle of fashion: Rahim Chattaika
By J. Tamhane

Africa is the worlds second largest continent made up of more than 50 countries. One of these countries on the eastern side is the landlocked country of Malawi. Within the less than 20 million inhabitants, a vast majority are under the poverty line. Coming from such beginnings is certain to create a fire within that drives someone continuously forward. One such driven individual is Rahim Chattaika, who is convinced that his purpose extends beyond himself to a lot more around him.

His calm and peaceful nature hides the extraordinary journey that he has taken so far. After graduating from high school, he launched his own clothing line called NyAfrika. He has been involved on a pro-bono basis with the non-profit "HER Liberty", which is focused on empowering young individuals to reach their full potential. Rahim has also created a financial service App, which is currently in the development and regulatory phase, to solve an actual problem in Malawi. But that’s not all. He has even presented the resolution of a committee at a Model African Union event.

With so much to talk about, it is probably better to narrow in down to one aspect and, maybe, keep the others for a later point in time. So, let’s focus on fashion, in particular on African fashion. It has a sense of freedom and expressiveness, while being colourful, daring and loud. Rahim would describe it as "an abundance of different colours, threads, textures and styles, with each country’s style being extremely different and unique from the other". From "the colour of the ground to the language" and across "cultures and religious beliefs", everything has moulded African fashion into something with diverse flavours.

Rahim points out that the current economic setup "favours large scale producers whereas niche producers normally face transportation costs which are higher than the production costs". So, in addition to competing with a large corporation with economies of scale in production, the logistics of giving smaller but creative local talent an entrepreneurial opportunity becomes an uphill battle. Nevertheless, he has hope, passion and determination to make it work.

When quizzed about the way Africans view the rest of the world, his response was quite a surprising one. "African school curriculum has a heavy focus on European, American and world studies leading to Africans sometimes knowing more about Western countries than their own countries and continent", says Rahim. In stark contrast, one of the most astonishing questions that he has been asked on several occasions is "Can you speak African?". A point to note here is that there are about 2,000 African languages.

Rahim has a vision for an ideal Africa "where you can easily travel and conduct trade around the country, an Africa without so many countries in conflict, an Africa with leaders who care about the poverty and economic issues in their country, an Africa without borders and an Africa without stigmas and stereotypes". His clarity is glaringly obvious. In his own words: "I dream of an Africa where a child doesn’t have to sacrifice so much to get an education and one where a child’s education is a right. I dream of an Africa where thousands of talented youth don’t have to leave their country because their talents are not rewarded in their country. I dream of an Africa without pain and poverty, one with access to healthcare and one without struggle."

Rahim Chattaika


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