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Africa’s Hair Care Sector Is Now A Billion Dollar Industry. Here’s What’s Driving The Business

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 –

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“Products for men also saw increasing demand, as more young men in urban areas strived to improve their appearance.”

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Other factors driving growth

Exposure to western media and African American celebrities is an influence in most countries. And as more women work, they have more control over their income. Other factors behind the hair care industry’s growth vary from country to country. There is a growing middle class with a disposable income in Kenya. Euromonitor’s report on the nation found that:

“There is a growing perception among Kenyan women that straight and dark hair is attractive, easy to manage and more beautiful than naturally curly hair, which is increasingly perceived as difficult to manage.”

Therefore, advertisements will often feature women with long straight hair to boost sales. The opposite trend is happening in South Africa, with more women moving towards natural hair. South African women seek out products that are less damaging and will help their natural hair grow, like moisturizers, scalp protectors, and hair thickeners. Euromonitor predicts that the industry will continue to grow due to urbanization and a growing middle class.

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Written by PH

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