Hapsatou Doro wants to develop the luxury industry in Africa

The founder of Digital Society is preparing the third edition of the Forum des métiers du luxe to be held in Abidjan on December 13 and 14. This is a fast-growing sector in Africa that the young woman wants to professionalize in order to build bridges with the European market.

By Mérième Alaoui

For the third year running, Hapsatou Doro is organising the Forum des métiers du luxe (luxury business) in Abidjan on 13 and 14 December. The young Franco-Senegalese director of communications agency Digital Society, which organizes events between France and Africa, is in the starting blocks a few weeks before the event.

“This year there will be a special focus on training. Young people don’t have access to information about careers in luxury and fashion, even though they are interested. In Africa, 70% of the population is under the age of 30. Handicrafts is a sector that can create a huge number of jobs”.

The two-day forum will include six training sessions and six conferences. Each panel will consist of five experts. They come from various African countries, including Rwanda, Benin and Nigeria. But also from France and Switzerland. The ultimate aim is to cover the entire African continent in order to create a powerful network. The topics range from the development and transformation of African fabrics to arts and crafts. Among the themes: “Arts and crafts in Africa: how can we safeguard their heritage, stimulate their development and prepare for their transmission?” or “How can craftsmen and entrepreneurs take advantage of digital technology to improve the development, promotion and transmission of their know-how? Transversal questions to professionalize a sector with great potential.

Abidjan, West Africa’s luxury capital

“I want this forum to be a pan-African institution, bringing together African and European professionals. Hapsatou Doro’s trademark? Entrepreneurship between the two shores. Previous editions have brought together some 400 people, most of them highly qualified. “These professionals, managers and company directors, want to know more about the luxury market in Africa to see how they can better position their companies for the future. They have things to contribute, needs and expectations. I believe in synergies,” she adds. According to a recent UNESCO report, the fashion sector is booming. Thirty-two African countries organize fashion weeks to promote the sector regionally and internationally. Demand for made-in-Africa haute couture could grow by 42% over the next ten years.

The choice of Abidjan to host this third edition is no coincidence: “Côte d’Ivoire is a hub in West Africa. The business environment, close to the English-speaking culture, is so favorable. Abidjan hosts some of the biggest business meetings in the world, and the luxury sector has a strong local and international presence here,” explains the woman sponsored by the Ivorian Minister of Culture, Françoise Le Guennou-Remarck.

To develop the luxury sector in Africa, Hapsatou Doro would like to be inspired by the French model. “France is home to the largest and oldest luxury brands in the world. In Africa, know-how and creativity are flourishing. Companies are just waiting to move upmarket and sell their products internationally. I want to import the French luxury industry to the continent. She is thinking, for example, of the Comité Colbert, an association and lobby founded in France in 1954 that brings together the major luxury brands to promote and defend their interests.

Like my agency, the Forum des métiers du luxe creates bridges between the two shores of the Mediterranean

“The further I go, the more pan-African I feel. I’m as much at home in Benin as I am in Kenya”, explains Hapsatou. Born in Le Havre, she spent her family holidays in Senegal when she was a teenager. “I’ve always considered myself to have two cultures. My great personal achievement is to reconcile them in my professional world. I don’t have to choose. Like my agency, the Forum des métiers du luxe builds bridges between the two shores of the Mediterranean. 

Very much at home in the world of communications, Hapsatou was not, however, destined for it. “I did a BTS in international trade, then enrolled for a Masters. When I discovered communications, I realized I’d taken the wrong path”. Passionate about fashion and beauty on glossy paper, she launched her own webzine, Ekira. “I published articles on hotels, fashion and beauty. Then I was spotted by a communications agency and I started getting invited to events.” Once in the field, I was amazed: “I found those moments in Paris magical, I had glitter in my eyes! I quickly wanted to go over to the other side and organize events myself.” In 2018, she created her structure and quickly the idea of the Forum became obvious. “I’m passionate about the world of luxury and, at the same time, very worried about our young people. We need to help them prepare for their future, and professionalizing the luxury sector can be part of that.”

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