Sustainability | Environmental

Environmental Sustainability Through Natural Resources For Fashion In Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Botswana And Congo

Jul 05, 2022 | Brinda Koundjim Mamiafo Youdjeu

Introduction to creative manufacturing of the jewelry sector in Africa Africa, also called the “mother continent” (because it is the oldest inhabited continent on earth) has a large quantity of natural resources and is ranked one of the richest continents in the World in terms of natural resources. During the scramble for Africa in the 19th century, many natural resources such as coal,iron,oil,cotton,rubber and copper were discovered in Africa, only rubber was primarily a colonial product and four-fifths of the world’s supply was derived in British Malaya and the Dutch East Indies. Africa holds about 30% of the World's mineral reserve.

Despite these abandoned resources, the African government is still challenging for a couple of decades to wealth them and building up a strong economy.


Natural resources


Gold,Limestone,Marble & Tantalite, Clay, Glass-Sand, iron ore, Beads


Gold, Diamond, Silver iron ore, Beads

South Africa

Gold, Diamonds, Silver , Beads


Diamond, Silver, Gold, Beads


Silver, Gold,  Bauxite, Beads


Gold, Diamond, Nickel, Tanzanite, Beads

The figure above outlines natural resources present in different African countries (ranked from the richest) which are used for sustainable jewelry manufacturing. 

Sustainability has become a norm nowadays and the process of extraction of  raw materials has a great impact on the global carbon footprint of Africa.However, in the early 19 century, machinery and technology was not as developed as today, and the M2M value chain (which includes everything from extracting raw material to delivering products to customers) was more sustainable, but since the 20th century, the M2M value chain (especially the extraction of raw materials) has become more complex (as it uses extensive chemicals, materials, energy for the transformation process and more) , and has a huge negative environmental impact, some of which are the increase in air and water pollutions, damage of land, lost of biodiversity, erosion, soil contamination, global warming and damage of ecosystem. Many countries have developed strategies for the mining sector, while they are trying to implement a better sustainable economy.

Sustainable approach in the handmade jewelry  sector

The table below illustrates the internal and external factors which contribute to sustainability in the handmade sector.

Local access to raw materials is beneficial for every company because of the reduction of carbon footprint from transportation. Some consumers are also interested in the origin of the product and build up confidence when satisfied with this.

Local access to knowledge should be mainly incurred in the handmade sector, as they directly implement sustainable strategies, which may not be easy at the early stage of the business. Local access to knowledge greatly impacts the handmade sector, as they become edify about strategies and government policies which can contribute to success and a greener environment 

Training and development (SDG 4): The handmade sector is a complex one because everything is done manually without the use of machines.This implies the production process needs a lot of time and the rate of production can consequently be low. Training programs can improve employee skills and bring them to the same higher level for more effectiveness.

All other directly internal factors such as company culture, internal processes, employees and manager, technology and company finances make up the strength of the company and should therefore be chosen in a critical way. 

On the other hand, if the environmental and trade policies are fully apply, then  sustainable economic growth will increase.The primary goal of most handmade SMEs is that of SDG 13 (Climate action) 

Human capital per various countries and state of the handicraft market 


Human Capital in 2021


30 000 Naira/ Month



South Africa



GH₵ 271.2743/Day




242857 TZS/Month

According to the UK division of the Association for Creative Industries (AFCI), the E.U., which is home to 510 million people, has a $35 billion creative market. In 2003, the African handicraft market was worth $10 Billion and a 12% growth was observed between 2012 and 2019.

Sustainable development in gender equality through creative manufacturing in the jewelry sector

In a recent article about Supporting Sustainable Development Goal 5, Gender Equality and Entrepreneurship in the Tanzanite Mine-to-Market, it is mentioned how women can positively impact the economy by adding value in the M2M and supporting sustainable development. This supports the 5th SDG goal. The case is the same with that of womens from the mining sector of south Africa, they complained about their career progress followed by discrimination in decision making and in remuneration. Evidence has shown that when companies recognize the opportunity of a more diverse workforce and supply chain, and of engaging more broadly with communities, they can increase productivity, reduce costs, and strengthen social license to operate. Gender equality can help understand and mitigate gender-based violence (GBV) and consequently reduce the amount of sexual harassment (US companies lose up to $6.7 million every year due to sexual harassment).This is mostly frequent in companies with a very large percentage a male as compared to that of female. Companies can implement the four pillars of the GEWE Strategy (The African Union Strategy for Gender Equality & Women’s Empowerment) to encourage gender equality.

During the covid 19 pandemic, Gender inequality was amplified, women salaries weren't paid and life became very severe because of lack of available drugs, as they are not protected by health insurance or other social security schemes.

The Anglo American's inclusion and diversity strategy lies under 4 Pillars, namely: 

  1. Inclusive leadership, involving leadership training as well as toolkits and guidance

  2. A culture of value and respect that focuses on gender, generation, culture and ethnicity, disability, and intersectionality

  3. The development of an adaptable, involving, fair and supportive workplace with colleague networks for support and collaboration and 

  4. The introduction of a safe, effective and enabling environment that is not only family friendly, but also has supportive policies against bullying, harassment and domestic violence to help embed behaviors and provide a framework of support for women. 

It was observed that the percentage of female rose to about 27% in 2020 and will probably increase than the 33% in 2023

A sustainable creative manufacturing framework in the jewelry sector in Africa 


As I pointed out earlier, Africa is the motherland of natural resources and many countries produce a lot of sustainable goods, however they have been challenging the idea of entering into the global market. The reasons behind this is because of the government on the one side and the technology on the other side, but the most important pillar is the technology, as everyone has direct access to it. Although the amount of internet users in Africa is considerably boosting since January 2022, it remains the continent with the lowest internet access. Nigeria and South Africa remain at the top of internet users in Africa, followed by Ghana, Congo and Tanzania (With regard to the list of countries above)

Number of internet users in selected African countries in 2022

Technology has globalized the world and revolutionized the global market. It is one of the main strengths of E-Commerce and all other businesses. Africa can improve their technology sector by adopting these principles:

  1. Because  of the gap between education and health in most of these Countries, investments in policies to promote education, digital skills and healthcare must be prioritized.

  2. The bank should develop strategies to support these companies for global money transactions.

  3. Proper use of the internet to avoid website blocking.

  4. Online advertising campaign and Creating partnership 

Although some African countries have a less industrialized sector, the percentage of CO2 emission from mining is considerably increasing.   

Every ASM industry should start building strategies according to its position and characteristics while putting them into practice. 

Also, I will highlight in the following paragraphs how  industries can contribute to sustainability from the extraction to the finished goods.

Africa has a wide variety of sustainable jewelries, among which the traditional jewelries are the most significant. In Africa, every single traditional jewelry has a historical background, with about 3,000 tribes, it is one of the most diverse Continent in terms of language and dialects. It is fascinating how each of these tribes have different traditional jewelry such as Bronze, African bones and horn, Beadwork, Ostrich shell beads, Brass, Cowrie shell, Clay, Textile jewelry and Gemstone. I will go through the countries listed above and briefly elaborate the sustainable jewelry produced by each state, the method of production and  where such products can be found

Ghana sustainable beaded jewelry manufacturing

Many African countries produce beads but each ethnic and country has a specific design and a precise type of bead with different ways of manufacturing them.Ghana, Botswana and Nigeria are famous for bead production and we will discover in the following paragraphs how they differ and how sustainable they are.

These beads are made by the people of Krobo mountain in Ghana.The production of the Krobo beads occurs through recycling of all glass materials which are ground to powder (using mortar and pestle) and introduced into molds and heated for shape. After cooling, colorful designs are added for beautification. This process is very sustainable and has an impact on the environment as it reduces waste from glasses.

Till today in this specific tribe in Ghana Krobo beads are still produced manually. 

Bauxite natural stones are also common in Ghana and used for bead production which have in most of the times a charming earthy color.

Nigeria tribal jewelry manufacturing 

Coral Beads

Nigeria is one the top of Africa bead producers. The Prestigious coral beads from Nigeria are used to produce different jewelry such as necklaces, rings, or bracelets. Coral originates from living organisms deep into the ocean called Polyps.

After cutting off the coral branches from the sea, they are dried and cut into small pieces and a filing machine is used to reshape the coral.

The Benin Kingdom in Nigeria are masters of coral beads while in Congo, the use of stone beads is the norm.

South Africa sustainable jewelry manufacturing from mined diamond

South Africa is one of the richest African countries in terms of natural resources. They still have a great amount of high quality diamonds, gold and more.  It is notably world number one in the production of chromium, manganese, platinum, vanadium, vermiculite, and number two in the production of ilmenite, palladium, rutile and zirconium.

A leading country for prestigious and quality jewelry.

The mining process occurs either on land or in water. In a recent BBC journal of South Africa during the covid pandemic in 2022, we could perceive how the south africans descended in a small village for digging diamond. This activity has a great impact on food security, as the soil loses its fertility and because of desertification. 

Diamond is also present in sand particles found in the bottom of rivers and are filtered using rural sieve. Although no chemicals are used during this process, water pollution is one of the frequent effects of mining. 

Some Jewelry manufacturing industries in South Africa focus on recycling for more sustainability. dear.rae uses conflict-free diamonds that apply the Kimberley process. They encourage their customers to bring back their old outdated jewelry for recycling and make sure all chemicals and products they used are bio.

Botswana vintage Ostrich shell bead

Many African countries like South Africa and Congo have a great amount of Diamond reserves but Botswana still holds a major place among the known diamond producers in Africa.However South Africa is famous for diamond jewelry manufacturing 

For a couple of decades, Botswana has been prominent in the manufacturing of Ostrich eggshell beads through simple and fast processes with the use of natural tools such as stones and sticks.These beads shells are one the oldest beads used by the African for jewelry production.

Ancient Ostrich Egg Shell Heishi Beads 

This product is made mainly from beads (The beads originate from Ostrich eggshell) of different color and size. I will briefly explain the process of creating and collecting beads

  • The bead is broken into small pieces and letter put into a piece of hard skin 

  • Use a drill to make a little hole in the mid

  • The bead will be then scraped in between 2 stones to reshape and remove the unwanted corners

  • Additional color may be added if necessary.

Congo sustainable jewelries manufacturing 

Congo is the 4th richest  country in natural resources in Africa and owns 34% of African Diamond after Botswana with 35%. 

The Congolese produce apart from high quality jewelry from diamond, also those from silver.

Silver handmade earings                        Diamond congo cube

Africa is also known for its textile fabric. The textile jewelry sector contribute greatly to sustainability as the products are 100% handmade 

The figure below outlines all the fabric of Africa. They are different in colors, and in stuff and inspire jeweler to produce diverse designs.


African fabric map

Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa are part of the best producers in terms of Textil jewelries with a sustainable production process.

The figure above represents the fabrics of Africa, it illustrates how Africa had a very rich Textile industry before the arrival of the Dutch.In the early 1800, the Dutch introduced the fabrics they had to African countries  and had full control of its production. 

The African fabric industry has existed since 5000 BC and the Egyptians were the first citizens to cultivate flax and weave linen. African textiles can be used as historical documents, for important ceremonies and to commemorate a certain person.

The African fabric is mostly famous under the name Ankara.The Kente cloth  is Ghana’s national fabric, and one of the most expensive ones. The King has a personalized fabric with golden threads different from others .It is traditionally woven for Ashanti royalty (today Ghana) who wear it for ceremonial occasions such as kingship.

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