The hair care industry is thriving in several African countries. Research firm Euromonitor International estimates that $1.1 billion worth of shampoos, relaxers and hair lotions were sold in South Africa, Nigeria and Cameroon in 2013, and the industry is expected to keep growing.
Boosting the economy
The hair care industry is divided into two categories: dry hair and wet hair. Dry hair represents weaves, wigs, and extensions. Wet hair includes shampoos, conditioners, and relaxing products. Both aspects of the industry are still mostly contributing to the informal economy – a system that exists outside of state control, like bartering or trading between individuals. Since this income is not taxed and usually not taken into a country’s gross domestic product (GDP), it is difficult to know exactly how much the industry is generating. However, its impact is clear. Hair care has become a billion dollar industry throughout the continent. The estimations for the dry hair industry are as high as $6 billion annually. Nigerians spent over $440 million in 2014 on hair care; Kenyans spent over $100 million. These impressive numbers have attracted big international brands such as L’Oréal to Africa.
Women play a vital role
Women are playing a big role in driving this industry, as workers as well as consumers. Female workers make up a big part of Africa’s informal economy. They can do hair in their own homes or in their customers’ houses. Bertrand de Laleu, managing director of L’Oréal South Africa, said: “
“African women are probably the most daring when it comes to hair styles.”
He added that dry hair is a growing trend across sub-Saharan Africa and “suddenly you can play with new tools that didn’t exist or were unaffordable.” In addition, African women tend to change their look more often and look for more variety, which keeps the industry going strong. Euromonitor noted that growth in Nigeria’s young population helped drive sales, particularly the growth of the young female adult population. Their research found that men are also contributing to the industry’s growth –
“Products for men also saw increasing demand, as more young men in urban areas strived to improve their appearance.”