Africa’s bankers are generating wealth as never before in the continent’s history. As the industry booms, so do the incomes of African bankers and, like their counterparts elsewhere, African bankers and the rapidly increasing wealthy class are enthusiastically looking for expensive gadgets, gizmos and accessories that seem to go with the territory. Luxury manufacturers have read the signs and Africa is now high on their agendas as the market to be in. Richard Seymour takes a look at the current ‘must haves’ doing the rounds around the continent.
Luxury brands from all over the world are targeting what are becoming known by demographers who love a label as ‘black diamonds’.
In South Africa, Africa’s largest economy, it is estimated by management consultants Bain & Co that by 2020, 420,000 South Africans will have a disposable income of $100,000, leading to a luxury goods sector worth over $800m by 2015.
The class system does not organise itself only along the lines of income. For aspirational young men and women who have succeeded in business, there are number of
accoutrements they feel they must have.
Keeping time in style
The luxury watch sector is instructive. Modern technology has made timekeeping more accurate than ever before and at the cost of just a few dollars. Yet the manufacturers of luxury watches have never had it better it seems, despite the global recession, and the arrival of that pesky mineral – quartz.
Swiss watches are the most sought after of all luxury timepieces. At this year’s Baselworld Watch Fair one may have had a preview of the timepieces that are likely to adorn the wrists of Africa’s young and upwardly mobile before the end of the year.
Among this year’s head turners was Breitling’s Chronomat GMT 44. Several years ago, Breitling took the decision to manufacture its movements in-house, which is a daunting undertaking for any watchmaker, requiring, as it does, a considerable commitment in time, money and skill.
The Chronomat GMT 44 is a pilot’s watch that has impressed reviewers with its accuracy, gaining only just over a second over a 24-hour period. It comes with a tachymeter and date and, as useful for travelling businessmen and women as for pilots, a second time zone.
The crown is easy to manipulate for changing the time and date, which anyone who regularly crosses time zones will appreciate, as they would the clear, luminous display.
At just less than $10,000 it is somewhat costly, but other than its bulk and tendency to sometimes become snagged, its craftsmanship and eye-catching design will likely attract the continent’s bankers and entrepreneurs.
More understated was another of the fair’s new designs, the Bell & Ross Vintage BR 126. At around $4,500, it is considerably more affordable than the GMT 44, but a very different timepiece. Famous for their striking ‘square’ watches, the Vintage is a classically designed, round piece with a matte black dial with bold, white indicators, that also glow in low light, and a leather strap, all contributing to a more classic look and feel.
The iPad – a thing of beauty?
Many of us no longer wear watches, however. Telling the time is something that tablet computers do, and much else besides. Apple’s iPad is today among the most essential accessories for the African businessman or businesswoman. And surveys of customers’ brand loyalties suggest this is likely to continue into the future.
Unlike the rest of the world, the iPad in Africa is much more likely to be used at work. This may just be because Wi-Fi access in people’s homes in the continent is still patchy. Apple’s third-generation iPad makes a great deal of its display, which makers of mobile devices compete furiously over as the display is what immediately strikes us when we turn them on.
iPad’s ‘Retina’ display packs 3.1m pixels into the 9.7 inch screen, four times more than in the iPad 2. This means at the normal viewing distance individual pixels can no longer be discerned, giving a clearer, crisper image.
The A5X chip and its quad-core graphics makes the device more responsive and with little impact on battery life, which Apple say will give you 10 hours of use.
For years, mobile device manufacturers advertised their camera capabilities by pushing up and making a song and dance about megapixels. Keen photographers will tell you that makes a good picture. However, it has less to do with megapixels and more to do with lenses and sensors.
This is beginning to change. iPad’s camera features a broader aperture, making it more effective in low light, and filters normally found on SLR cameras, for better reproduction of colour.
Having said all that, it is an iPad: a thing of beauty and an object of desire. It would be so even if it ran on steam. The iPad 4 is rumoured for release in Africa in the spring of 2013.
But what does an entrepreneur do when he already has an iPad? He can buy a gold one. For £1,386, the online store Goldgenie will deliver to a number of locations on the continent, including Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia, a glittering (literally) new iPad with a certificate of authenticity.
The company offers gilded iPhones (£2,030.99) too, as well as iPods (up to £829.00), BlackBerrys (£3895.00 for the Porsche design), game consoles (£849 for the Xbox) and, for just less than £2,000, fans of James Bond can buy a golden gun, albeit a replica, to mark 50 years of the film franchise.
Prancing horse accessories
The internet has opened the market for luxury goods for people whose tastes are not yet catered for in their malls and high streets. While the elite may still enjoy shopping trips to European capitals, for many the increasing difficulty in obtaining visas and the fact of busy lives means you only have to know where to look.
Even if, for instance, you are not fortunate enough to live near a Ferrari dealer, the Italian sports car manufacturer has an online store which offers branded luxury items for fans of the iconic marque. If your iPod’s ‘bud’ earphones do not produce the weighty sound you want from your music, then a pair of Ferrari-branded headphones, complete with the prancing horse badge, can be yours for £328. Or, for the home, for £620, the Cavillino GT1 speaker system, compatible with all mobile devices, looks especially attractive with your iPad or Android device perched on it.
Also available from the official Ferrari online store is an Acer Ferrari One netbook. Blood red, of course, with the prancing horse logo, the netbook comes with all the technical specifications you would expect for the price (£955), but for the extra money you get a personalised device with interactive Formula 1 multimedia content, and rubber feet shaped like one of their racing tyres for that extra peace of mind when cornering on the information superhighway.
Ferraris and the double R
Surely, however, the most desirable Ferrari accessory one could wish for is a key ring, with the car to go with it. Africa’s pot-holed roads mean the newly wealthy tend to go for four-wheeled drive SUVs, such as the Porsche Cayenne, but owners’ clubs and track-day events have encouraged those who can afford it to take possession of a blood-boiling Italian supercar.
The F12 Berlinetta will require an investment of just less than £240,000. For that you will get more than 60 years of Formula 1 heritage, a 6.3 litre V12 engine producing 730bhp, which is the most powerful motor produced for the road by Modena, allowing a top speed of 211mph.
A ‘bumpy road’ setting makes the ride more comfortable should you wish to motor about town, with enough head and legroom, and storage space to make it viable to do so. Not that you would buy a Berlinetta with the problem of where to put your shopping at the top of your mind.
More stately than a hot-blooded Italian supercar is the Rolls-Royce, itself rich in motoring tradition. Making the most of the African sun, the Phantom drop-head coupe model is more likely to appeal to the young entrepreneur than some of the more conservative models.
Inspired by racing yachts of the 1930s and costing £305,000, the attention to detail goes as far as a refrigerator and a set of hand-engraved glasses hidden beneath decking-style teak flooring in the luggage compartment. Like the Ferrari, it has a V12 engine, though a little bigger at 6.75 litres. It is, however, as you might expect (or, for that money, demand), far quieter. Despite its size and weight, the Phantom does boast impressive performance figures, but it was built for luxury and elegance, not speed.
Ultimate writing instrument
Similarly, Cartier is a brand that has become synonymous with luxury. Technology is a necessary fact of business life, but when one wishes to sign off on a deal, there is little more satisfying than the look and feel of a quality fountain pen. Cartier’s limited edition Santos Demoiselle fountain pen will set you back £13,000. Crafted from sterling silver and finished in palladium and mother-of-pearl, the pen comes with an 18-carat solid gold nib and a crystal stand to give it pride of place on your desk.
Also from Cartier is the striking Exceptional Crocodiles Decor fountain pen. This highly unusual piece is fashioned from 18-carat yellow gold with two yellow gold crocodiles decorated with 559 diamonds with emeralds for the eyes and a solid 18-carat gold nib engraved with a crocodile head. If you can afford the £87,500 asking price, you will still have to be swift, as only 10, each signed by the jeweller, have been made.
Got the picture?
For picture and sound, Bang & Olufsen have for many years catered for the high-end, luxury market. Its innovative products have always boasted seductive designs.
The BeoVision 11 is not a television that one would want to hide inside a cabinet. The 55-inch, 3D SmartTV, which the Danish company calls its most ambitious television to date and which comes in a range of colours, can be controlled from your iPad or Android device to navigate the internet or else just watch television.
A built-in sensor, which monitors the light levels in the room, adjusts the settings to give a perfect 360-degree picture without having to close the curtains or alter the contrast yourself. At around $8,000 all that style and ingenuity comes at a premium, but then such things always do.
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