Reginald RichardsonBy Reginald Richardson|March 23, 2022|7 Minutes|In Billionaire Today

Billionaire Tomorrow

African style for Africans

There is a growing movement in Botswana to compete with the world, when it comes to fashion, by encouraging Africans to wear style made in your home town instead of  Italy or China.

Botswana recently witnessed the unveiling of a new fashion label with ambitious plans to be a world-dominant local brand. Launched at the Fashion Without Borders, the country’s premier fashion extravaganza, in Gaborone, Afrikhai (a portmanteau of Africa and khai – the Tswana word for cloth) believe they have found a niche that shall set them apart.

“Afrikhai is an high end eclectic and eccentric mix of African design form with international contemporary undertones,” says the brand’s Creative Director and the man behind the label Shanti Lo.

“You will be hard-pressed to walk into a clothing store and find a local designer’s creation on the hanger. That’s the market we are targeting – the ready to wear market”, he points out animatedly. And he should know.

Kagiso Tumediso Loeto aka Shanti Lo is one of Botswana’s successful music artists and an accomplished fashion designer, well-known for his elaborate haute couture creations.


Born in Kanye, a village just south of Gaborone, in the 1980s,  it was clear from an early age that Shanti Lo was not only musically gifted but also had an eye for fashion. He grew up with worshippers at the Jacobs Ladder Church, founded by his maternal grandfather in the 70s.

“Before founding the church my grandfather used to be a member of an acapella group called The Manhattan Brothers in the 1940s/50s entertaining revelers in the villages surrounding Kanye.”

This group must not be confused with the South African Manhattan Brothers to which international superstar the late Miriam Makeba belonged. One of their hits “Lovely Lies” peaked at #45 on the US Billboard Pop chart in 1956.

Shanti Lo’s grandfather wouldn’t taste such success, but through his church, he unwittingly provided a platform for his grandson to exploit his own musical talent. He would end up doing backing vocals for his mother Mpho Loeto, “the first Motswana female recorded gospel artist,” says Shanti Lo with gusto.

A decade later he would be wowing music lovers in South Africa, Sweden, Japan, Cuba; have world-renowned guitar maestro John Selolwane produce one of his albums; and even provide a soundtrack to the film based on Alexander McCall-Smith’s “No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” series of novels.

In 1994 while he was still finding the right key in church one Motswana fashion influencer, Ineeleng Kavindama burst into the South African fashion market with her bold fashion creations injecting a much-needed fervor in up-and-coming Batswana fashion designers. Shanti Lo was one of them.

“While growing up, when other boys used to play with toy cars and such I had this unexplained fascination to dress up dolls. I used to be mesmerized watching the elaborate gowns depicted on the female characters in Disney cartoons and I found myself spending hours on end sketching my own outrageous designs.”

Juggling his final year at secondary school with recording his first album, he passed his O-Levels with flying colors. He wanted to do law. His parents wanted him to do medicine. He ended up in Johannesburg at the London International School of Fashion studying Fashion Design.

Two days before he set foot on campus his first album Koi hit the airwaves. He was just 17-years- old.

“I didn’t even have time to savor the achievement because I hit the ground running and soon my creations were being featured on prestigious magazines like Style and being worn by SABC1 (one of South Africa’s public broadcaster channels) continuity presenters.

Rooted in Botswana, Afrikhai believes it shall be able to capture the African spirit through the incorporation of African fabrics from across the continent for a worldwide market.

A proliferation of designer labels in Botswana like :Jophes 09267, Sweety BW, Black Trash and Mackay La Diva the industry remains largely a cottage industry with many a young talent’s dreams of making it big slipping away into nothingness with time.

“We need to establish a robust fashion council to speak on behalf of the industry,” says Fashion design educator Lefty Bakwadi. “We have talented and dedicated fashion designers who unfortunately survive in an uncoordinated industry. Some of these creatives have even been stranded outside the country for lack of funds because they self-sponsored their participation in international fashion shows.”

The challenges facing the industry range from the country’s small population; an overall lack of developmental vision for the sector, poor support from stakeholders including from the retail sector long dominated by South African chain stores that stocked South African products; an influx of competitive Asian goods. Now Covid 19 has left the entire value chain from textile manufacturers, seamstresses, fashion designers, models and their agencies, entertainment venues etc, gasping for survival.

According to Fashion United, last year Nike was the leading fashion brand worldwide valued at more than US$36B and at number 100 is Ted Baker with a value of US$ 100m.

Shanti Lo refuses to divulge how much the venture is worth saving to say: “Within 3 years Afrikhai should be operating the first 3 of its self-branded boutiques in Gaborone, Nigeria, and South Africa”.

Will Afrikhai manage to flex its muscle against these titans of the fashion world? Could be a smart move.