The African beauty market is expected to double over the next decade, with a projected annual growth rate of 5-10% in the sales of beauty and personal care products. In recent years, there’s been a resurgence in the popularity of traditional cosmetics products, as Africans look to products that are more suited to local conditions.
African Black Soap (also known as Dudu Osun) is a classic example of a traditional product enjoying a resurgence in popularity, due to its ability to clear skin spots and blemishes. Black soap is made from the ash of locally harvested plants and barks such as plantain, cocoa pods, palm tree leaves, and shea tree bark.
First the leaves and bark are sun-dried and then roasted in a kettle or pot at an even, constant temperature, after which water and various oils – palm oil, coconut oil, and shea butter – are added to the mixture and stirred for at least a day. After that, the soap is left to set for two weeks to cure.
Shea butter is also becoming a hot commodity in many African cities – in Nairobi for example, posters advertising “original shea butter from Ghana” abound in many local beauty parlours. Shea butter is extracted from the nut of the African shea tree, native to West Africa. The history of shea as a beauty product and precious commodity can be traced back to Ancient Egypt, where shea butter was and continues to be used to protect the hair and skin against the fierce sun and the hot dry winds of African deserts and savannah.
In Africa, spending on cosmetics per inhabitant is 10 to 20 times lower than in developed markets, according to market strategy consultants Roland Berger, and marketers are increasingly eager to tap into this potential for growth.
An exploding population, a fast growing middle-class, increasing urbanization and improved business regulation has made Africa the “next frontier” in cosmetics, and the major international players - L'Oreal, Procter & Gamble and Unilever - have set up expansion strategies to capture the beauty and personal care market, expected to be worth $13.2 billion in 2017.
The biggest immediate opportunity, it seems, will be in the deodorant market, and Africa’s year-round warm – and humid, in some places – weather presents the perfect opportunity to push sales.
In Kenya, for example, sales of deodorants are expected to grow by 5% annually over the next decade; roll-ons are the “entry point” for most consumers starting to use fragrances, who would then move on to using perfumes and colognes.
Data from market research firm Euromonitor indicates that in 2012, South Africa and Nigeria were the biggest personal care and beauty markets in the continent – valued at $3.4 billion and $2 billion respectively – but the growth story is increasingly pan-African.
Kenyans in particular, seem to respond to “natural” and “herbal” labels, according to Euromonitor - growing interest in natural products among consumers since 2012 saw manufacturers enhance their products by including natural ingredients, such as shea butter, coconut oil, jojoba oil, neem and aloe vera, in their end products with an aim of connecting with consumers, the researchers say.
Local manufacturers of cosmetics are also doing brisk business on the continent. In Nigeria, hugely successful House of Tara is looking to establish 100 makeup stores across sub-Saharan Africa, starting with Nigeria, in the next five years. Tara Durotoye, HOT’s founder and chief executive has built the 15-year business into a household name, which now runs 15 stores with over 4,000 independent sales reps.
In Kenya, cosmetic start-up Suzie Beauty had made $178,000 in sales by the end of the first year of retailing, in 2013.
But international firms hoping to make a foray into the continent will have to adapt their lines to suit African conditions. In terms of make-up for example, African skin requires darker shades than make-up lines traditionally offer. Make-up also needs to be more resistant to hot and humid weather.
Caring for African skin also has to be tailor-made, as anti-ageing products for African consumers primarily aim at tackling dark spots and uneven complexion, whereas anti-ageing products for Western women aim at tackling wrinkles first.