SAWA Shoes: Footwear in Africa

With the Hub of Africa Fashion Week and the Origin Africa trade event wrapping up in Ethiopia, we thought it would be fitting to highlight a reputable brand that is taking the shoewear market by storm out there.

SAWA Shoes.

They are not a charity brand nor a fairtrade brand, they are a normal shoe company doing business in Africa, sourcing their materials, production and even web design and communications in Addis Ababa Ethiopia and sees this as a real way to support Africa and not to use Africa as a means to glorify their own brand. The philosophy of SAWA Shoes is not one of audacious philanthropy or using Africa to glorify themselves, it is about taking on the challenge of doing business in Africa. The vast majority of Africa’s exports are raw materials such as agricultural goods, minerals and metals, there is comparatively very little manufacturing in Africa and very little value is added to these raw materials before they leave the continent, this minimises the benefits to the local economies and hinders economic growth. By ensuring that as much of the value added in shoe production stays within African hands, SAWA are helping the Ethiopian shoe industry to grow and develop as well as maximizing job creation. So to add value in Africa they  buy the materials in Ethiopia and  transform them into finished products there.

The company is based in Paris, France and was established in November 2009. Mehdi, founder of SAWA Shoes is keen that their sneakers are bought not only because they are made in Africa and help to support the growth the growth of an industry but also because they are a stylish and high quality product, and on this aspect they certainly don’t disappoint. Taking inspiration from vintage designs they have created a range of classic low and high ankle trainers, combining leather and woven uppers in a number of colourways.

SAWA Shoes 2012
SAWA Shoes 2012
SAWA Shoes 2012
SAWA Shoes 2012
“Vintage attitude is the best description of our line. When I look to our shoes, I have always the famous picture of Bob Marley playing football in his super tight to body Adidas suit.” Mehdi explains.

On the quality front, an independent study gave them top marks on 4 points of strength and wear and tear, they even scored 3 times the average on one point (for more details check out the Quality page on the website).

Although the brand is now producing in Ethiopia it was originally born in Cameroon in November 2009, in Cameroon the native people of Douala city are known as sawa, the founders of the company fell in love with the name and when they later found out it also means ‘togetherness’ in Arabic they knew it was perfect. I wonder if they are also aware that it means ‘equal’ or ‘the same’ in Swahili, and usawa means equality – another sentiment reflected in their company ethos.

Overall SAWA Shoes area an inspiring brand that are taking on huge challenges that face the shoe industry in Ethiopia whilst also providing much needed employment as well as much needed high quality stylish sneakers! SAWA Shoes are also featured in Fashion Africa a book by Africa Fashion Guide founder, Jacqueline Shaw. We are really looking forward to seeing the Womens’ collection with specific colors and materials, when it’s finished, and wish SAWA Shoes all the best for the future.


SAWA Shoes 2012

To find out more about SAWA Shoes visit their website at,or

The shoes ares purchasable online from or you can find them in Dover Street Market in the UK, J Crew in the US or Printemps de l’Homme in Paris ranging in price for shoes from 75 to 115 euros.


Author: Imogen Butler 

For more, make sure you check out Africa Fashion Guide




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