With the fastest growing population in the world and the second fastest growing economy, it’s no surprise that African nations have become the focal point for a number of industries looking to expand their market reach. While much of the attention to this point has remained firmly upon the business areas of telecoms and banking, the cosmetics and beauty industry has emerged as one of the biggest sectors for growth potential. A growing population (and specifically a burgeoning middle class), urbanisation, and increasing consumer wealth have all led to a swell in not just shopping habits but to demand for products.
Building momentum: African brands in Africa
In recent years a number of global brands have leapt at the chance to expand into Africa, such as Unilever and L’Oréal. With more than a billion people living on the African continent and this figure set to triple in the next fifty years, it’s no surprise that they want to stake a major role in the development of the industry. A change that is starting to be seen, however, is where the purchasing power lies and how companies are tapping into consumer interest. While Nigeria and South Africa have typically been the powerhouses of the African markets, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia are all showing fast-growing economies that are sustaining increased consumer spending and are driving the demand for cosmetics. Matching this, many of the biggest success stories in cosmetics recently are companies that have been set up by entrepreneurial women, mainly in East Africa.
Catering specifically to the needs of African men and women, these local companies make their origin their USP: designing products that meet the needs of dark skinned individuals and that fundamentally understand the beauty culture that exists in Africa. From makeup ranges offering palettes that are designed for darker complexions, to conditioners and hair wax products that are designed to be used with afro-textured natural hair, the potential and range of products on offer is endless.
Just looking at a few of these wildly successful new brands demonstrates the direction these local producers are taking. Leveraging the power of social media and influencer marketing, these home grown brands are able to amass huge followings even without the big budgets that international companies boast.
New hope for the future
One of the many positive outcomes of the range of African beauty brands emerging at the moment is the hope that they will help promote an African-centric beauty image over and above a European one. Skin bleaching has long been practiced by women across African nations in staggering numbers: the World Health Organisation found that; “in Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Togo, 25%, 77%, 27%, 35% and 59% of women, respectively, are reported to use skin lightening products on a regular basis.” Not only do these products often include highly dangerous ingredients like Mercury, that can have devastating effects on your kidneys, but they serve to perpetuate the ideal of pale skin above dark.
Online, the beauty revolution has already begun. Hashtags like #africanbeauty, #blackgirlmagic and #melanin all regularly trend, as they are daily used by young people proudly self-identifying as persons of colour. This kind of positive environment is what enabled many new African brands to build their following, and with any luck this trend only continues to grow.