Checkout Top 10 Trends in Africa in 2016 and Beyond

Africa is not only a hotbed for growth and opportunity, but it is also emerging as a unique player in the economic and cultural spheres in the global setting. Looking at events that happened over the last year, this article will project what Africa and the world can expect from the continent in 10 spheres spanning from beauty to business.


Hair is a lucrative industry in Africa, estimated to be worth $6 billion. African women, particularly those in Nigeria, South Africa and Cameroon, reportedly spent approximately $1.1 billion dollars on hair products such as shampoos and hair lotions in the 2013/2014 financial year. Africa’s dry hair market of weaves, extensions and wigs both from synthetic or human fibre is estimated to be worth $6 million and has attracted multinationals such as L’Oreal and Unilever.

The hair-care sector is also one of the biggest sources of job creation for women in the informal sector as they open their own salons or create make-shift salons in the streets of urban areas. The demand for Indian and Brazilian hair extensions and wigs as well as synthetic hair continues to grow on the continent, with estimates of the market being worth $600 million. Indian hair extensions are surpassing synthetic ones in popularity on the continent due to their durability, easy maintenance and easy reusability. As a result, the continent will see an upsurge in Indian hair demand, creating lucrative businesses for independent beauty stores and distributors.

Indian beauty firms that sell hair extensions are also set to make big bucks from Africa’s demand for the product. Marketing hair products on the continent is set to grow with extensive use of credible celebrities, like South Africa’s Bonang Matheba who was an ambassador for the extension brand Diva Divine, and used social media to popularize the brand as well as Indian hair extensions.

South African Pearl Thusi at the launch of her natural haircare range, africa trends

South African Pearl Thusi at the launch of her natural haircare range.

On the other hand, there is a natural hair movement that is gaining momentum particularly among millennials on the continent who choose to wear and maintain their natural hair as opposed to wearing extensions and weaves. Celebrities such as Kenya’s Sarah Hassan, South Africa’s Pearl Thusi and Nigeria’s Asa have helped create popularity about women wearing their natural hair while looking sheek and modern. Pearl Thusi launched her own hair care range in collaboration with Afrobotanics in November 2015 which aims to help African women take care of their natural hair.


Africa is home to more than 600 million women, which accounts for more than half of the continent’s total population of 1.2 billion people. The majority of those women is under the age of 25, and has beared the brunt of economic exclusion, discriminatory financial systems, limited participation in political and public life, lack of access to education, gender-based violence and harmful cultural practices which has negatively impacted on their human rights and their full life potential.

The 8th African Union Gender Pre-Summit, which took place in Addis Ababa in January this year focused on women’s rights and reiterated the union’s commitment Agenda 2063 framework to see women in Africa have rights to own and inherit property, sign contracts in their own right, own their own businesses, hold half of all managerial positions in the public and private sector and see the eradication of harmful cultural practices against women among other objectives. Strides in ensuring women’s rights on the continent are already being taken, such as Zimbabwe’s recent constitutional court decision to outlaw marriage for anyone under the age of 18 in a bid to end the coercion of young girls into marriage. In December last year, Gambia passed a bill criminalizing female genital mutilation, which will see offenders of the new law get up to life imprisonment. The continent is also seeing women hold more key positions in government, the policing sector and in business.


Educational systems in Africa are set to change in order to adapt with the fast changes occurring in the global economic sector, with much focus on subjects such as mathematics, science, economics, accounting and business science. According to Fortune, the industries that are the fastest growing industries globally are health care, engineering, management consulting, semiconductors and circuits, which has been caused by the rise in technological gadgets, and software development. If Africa is to keep up with these developments, more research would have to be expanded into the area of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (also known as STEM) and how to fit it into the African context, for example: how the rise of technology could increase productivity and therefore profit in manufacturing, but negatively impact the labour force as machines replace humans. Also, according to Mail and Guardian Africa, the continent lags behind in STEM research, which accounts for 29% of all research in the region excluding South Africa, compared to an average of 68% in Malaysia which had the same research output as Africa in 2003. This creates an opportunity for policy makers to focus on STEM research along with the returning diaspora who significantly raise the citation impact of sub-Saharan Africa research, especially in east and southern Africa, raising the quality and quantity of research for the continent’s growth.  This presents the continent with the opportunity for basic education systems on the continent to place special focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, along with business and economic science.

Graduates from the African Leadership Academy, africa trends

Graduates from the African Leadership Academy.

One such educational stride being made on the continent is the African Leadership Academy, which is based in Johannesburg South Africa. The academy is a secondary institution that consists of a two-year pre-university academic programme for young leaders between the ages of 16 and 19 years from across Africa. The curriculum includes a multidisciplinary curriculum in the first year of study where students study English, Mathematics, Entrepreneurial Leadership, African Studies and Writing and Rhetoric and are able to choose a combination of Cambridge-administered IGCSE, AS or A2 electives that can include courses from the Natural Sciences, the Humanities & Languages and Commerce. Students who excel in their second year are able to research in the Sciences, the Humanities or Creative Arts. ALA graduates are enabled to excel in world-class universities across Africa, including the school’s own university which opened in Mauritius in 2015. This type of an African-based education system has an opportunity to grow on the continent in the future.


Africa will start gaining prominence in global institutions and will be a key player in the important decisions. As the second largest continent in the world in terms of population with an economy filled with potential, the continent will see more global players paying attention to their call. Earlier this year, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo made a call to see at least two spots on the U.N Security Council being allocated to Africa as a permanent member and for Africa to receive full recognition of members with right to veto. The current permanent members of Security Council are Russia, Britain, China, France and the United States. In the world of football, South African businessman and politician Tokyo Sexwale is in the run for President of the global football organization FIFA. Sexwale stated that it was time for FIFA to diversify and elect an African or Asian president, and for Africa to show the world that they are more than capable of leading. The world could expect to see an upsurge of a trend of seeing more advocacy from Africa for important decision-making roles in global institutions.


Africa’s population is predominantly young, with approximately 200 million people aged between 15 and 24. As a group, Africa’s youth has taken more responsibility over determining their own destinies through entrepreneurship and political activism. Africa will experience an upsurge in millennial and Gen-Z’s taking their positions as leaders in innovation and social and political activism. In October 2015, South Africa felt the immense power of the youth through the #FeesMustFall protests that took place in the nation. Students were protesting against the limited and difficult access to tertiary education, which led President Jacob Zuma to announce that tertiary education fees would no rise for the 2016 financial year.

Students marching in #FeesMustFall protest at the University of Witwatersrand (WITS) in Johannesburg, South Africa, africa trends

Students marching in #FeesMustFall protest at the University of Witwatersrand (WITS) in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Two university students from Nairobi, Kenya – Joseph Kuria and Daniel Onyango – added a skating sports programme to their neighbourhood NGO called Hope Raisers. The two developed the idea after a UN project added paved roads to their neighbourhood which wasn’t congested with traffic. In a bid to keep the youth out of the trouble, the two started a skating club and competition team which has become one of East Africa’s largest. In South Sudan, martial arts fighter, kickboxer and promoter Puro Okelo Obob opened a kickboxing practice at the Juba Youth Training Centre in Juba, South Sudan. The practice is home to about 30 kickboxers, and its aim is to use the sport to overcome stereotypes and tribal differences. Apart from running the kickboxing practice, Puro has been the driving force behind getting South Sudan accepted into the World Kickboxing Federation after it gained independence from Sudan in 2011. Africa will continue to see a trend in which young people use what they have at their disposal for the betterment of their lives and their communities.


Currently, Africa’s potential for alternative energy generation is high as the continent has a wealth of natural resources for earth-friendly electricity generation.

According to the McKinsey & Company Brighter Africa report, approximately 600 million people on the continent have no access to electricity, and it is projected that Sub-Saharan Africa will consume nearly 1, 600 terawatt hours of power by 2040, which is 4 times what was used in 2010. Only 7 countries on the continent have electricity-access rates exceeding 50%, those being Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Namibia, Senegal and South Africa. The rest of the region has an average grid access of approximately 20%, and even then, access to power is sporadic and there is not enough to go around. It is forecasted that 70% to 80% of Africa will have access to electricity, approximately 1.2 terawatts of capacity, through renewable sources such as gas, hydro, solar, wind and geothermal sources. Gas and solar are predicted to be the more popular choices, accounting for more than 25% electricity generation.

The Noor-Ouarzazate solar power complex in Morocco, africa trends

The Noor-Ouarzazate solar power complex in Morocco.

The region would need approximately $800 billion in capital for generating capacity and for transmission and distribution, and regional integration would become important as countries work together in creating interconnected power systems. An example would be the Grand Inga Dam hydroelectric project, which could help save $32 billion in capital spending as well as over 60 megatons of carbon emissions annually, and create a continent-wide network, linking African countries through the buying, selling and movement of electricity through a continental grid. Solar seems to be taking off on the continent, with Morocco having built a solar mega-plant in the city of Ouarzazate. The plant consists of a complex of four linked solar mega-plants that, alongside hydro and wind, will help provide nearly half of Morocco’s electricity from renewables by 2020. It uses the less widespread mirror technology and not the popular photovoltaic panels found on household roofs, with the benefit that power continues to be produced even after the sun goes down.


In Kenya, the solar energy start up M-KOPA has connected approximately 300,000 households to solar, and expects to pass one million homes by the end of 2017 through its pay-as-you-go solar electricity connection. Customers purchase the M-KOPA solar power home system at an affordable payment plan of about 45 cents for a year after the initial upfront payment of $35, after which the system is fully owned by them. The system kit comes with a solar panel, two LED bulbs, an LED flashlight, a rechargeable radio, and adaptors for charging a phone. The kit comes with a two-year warranty, and its battery is designed to last at least four years. The kit also comes with a sim card that enables owners to make their payments and to send information back to the M-KOPA headquarters for payment processing and battery activation.

With gas, which is predicted to account for more than 40% of electricity from renewable sources, the sustainable form will be biogenic methane, which can be extracted from cow manure and from methanogens that eat the organic garbage in landfills that produce methane. Animal manure will be in abundance in Africa as agriculture accounts for 32% of Africa’s GDP. US rapper Akon, who is of Senegalese descent, launched the Akon Lighting Africa initiative in 2014 with the aim of bringing solar power to 600 million Africans who don’t have access to electricity. He co-founded Solektra International and has already launched the Solektra Solar Academy in Mali to support the Akon Lighting Initiative, where young people are being trained in renewable energy. So far, the Akon Lighting Africa initiative has provided solar street lamps, micro-generators, charging stations, and home kits to 14 countries including Benin, Gabon, Niger and Namibia.


The video gaming industry in Africa is set to feature prominently in 2016 and beyond. Currently, Africa’s biggest gaming markets are in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya. According to a report by PwC, the gaming industry generated revenue of approximately $181 million in 2013 in South Africa, $71 million in Nigeria and $44 million in Kenya. The growth of the sector provides a unique opportunity for Africa to create games that best showcase the continent’s stories, such as a Cameroonian gaming startup called Kiro’o Games, which incorporates African folklore in creating gaming stories and characters.

African superheroes are set to feature prominently in African games, as seen in the Nigerian comic startup called Comic Republic, which its characters have been dubbed as ‘Africa’s Avengers’. Earlier this year, telecommunications giant Telkom announced the launch of a Digital Gaming League, which will see eight teams compete for a cash prize of over $63 000. The league recognizes the growth of eSports as a profession and aims to put Africa on the global map of eSports.

African superheroes character from Nigeria's Comic Republic, africa trends

African superheroes character from Nigeria’s Comic Republic.

Mobile phone games will dominate the gaming industry in Africa. There are already approximately 500 million mobile phone users in Africa, and by 2020, the number of mobile broadband connections on the continent could reach 1 billion, meaning that most avid gamers will have greater access to mobile phone games. Text-based games will continue to be popular during the continent’s experience with internet connectivity shortfall.

Electronic learning, or e-learning, is predicted to boom on the continent as educators find innovative ways of educating the continent’s children. According to BBC, approximately 17 million children in Africa will never attend school, and those that do attend encounter problems such as overcrowding in classrooms and lack of quality education. E-learning provides tablets and educational, web-based material to students, and this is all powered by solar power to reach students particularly in rural areas.

Innovations will also boom on the continent, such as the Kayoola prototype electric bus that was created by Kiira Motors in Kampala, Uganda. One of the bus’ batteries can be recharged via solar panels on the roof which increases the vehicle’s 80km range.

Africa will continue to be a hotbed for mobile phone sales and content consumption via mobile, as seen by the current number of mobile phone users, which amount to approximately 500 million. The continent will experience a boom in mobile phone innovations, including text messaging apps and e-commerce via mobile. Also, as connectivity improves on the continent, personalized content consumption will be a prominent feature as consumers download movies and TV series from online content providers such as Ikoro TV and Netflix.


Africa will continue to gain recognition on the world stage for its unique and dynamic take on entertainment, arts and culture. Boundaries were broken back in 2006 when the South African film ‘Tsotsi’ won the Oscar award for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year. In 2015, ‘Ayanda and the Mechanic’ which is a 2015 film that was produced by actress Terry Pheto and directed by Sara Blecher, was picked up for distribution in the US by Selma director and film distributor Ava DuVernay’s distribution company ARRAY and received a Special Jury citation at the 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival. Actress Lupita Nyongo made Africa proud when she starred in the Oscar winning feature film ’12 Years A Slave’ and cemented herself as a fashion icon after wowing the fashion world with her red Ralph Lauren cape dress at the 2014 Golden Globe Awards. And off-course, US President Barack Obama, who is of Kenyan descent, became one of Africa’s greatest exports as he took centre stage in world politics.

Africa’s exports in entertainment, arts and culture will come particularly from Nigeria, which has a population of over 185 million and over 17 million outside the country, East Africa, Morocco, Egypt and South Africa. In the fashion industry, Vogue magazine has already recognized the Nigerian street style that has been dubbed as Lagosian street style, which consists mainly of the Nigerian attire of kaftan tops, linen pants and leather sandals and a fedora hat as an accessory, as the upcoming fashion trend for millennials.

Nigeria’s Nollywood industry has become an influential film industry in the world, being worth approximately $3 billion and being bigger than Hollywood in volume. It has also given rise to film icons such as Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, Osita Iheme and Nonso Diobi. In a bid to counter the industry’s shortfall, which is pirated reproductions being sold by unauthorized vendors for roughly $2 each, digital content startups such as IrokoTV, are creating subscription-based video on demand to not only provide content to consumers across the world but to digitize the industry and place the right framework around it to capture the proper value. This is set to grow the industry reach and influence in years to come.

Africa is fast becoming to go-to destination for online subscription entertainment services, with Netflix having launched in Africa in earlier this year and ShowMax in August last year through Naspers. However, the trend to look out for is mobile becoming the dominant device for content consumption. Already in Nigeria, consumers are watching online content on mobile more than any other platform. There are already approximately 500 million mobile phone users in Africa, and by 2020, the number of mobile broadband connections on the continent could reach 1 billion. To counter internet accessibility problems, media companies are already offering customers, as part of their subscriptions, the option to download content for a limited time, and going forward, companies can work with telecom companies to distribute content. This trend will not only create a challenge for pay TV companies in terms of ease of accessibility to content, but will also create a consumer that has more choice in content that they want to consume.

Popular Nigerian musican, Dbanj, africa trends

Popular Nigerian musican, Dbanj.

African musicians and the continent’s music will only grow in popularity across the globe, particularly in Europe and the US where there is significant demand for African culture. In 2015, the song titled ‘Ojuelegba’ by Nigerian artist Wizkid gained international recognition after hip hop artists Drake and Skepta recorded a remix of the song. Song producer and CEO of Mavin Records Don Jazzy helped put Africa on the music map after creating hit singles for artists such as Tiwa Savage and Naeto C, collaborating with Jay Z and Kanye West on the single ‘Lift Off’ and being chosen to be the global ambassador for Scotch whiskey brand Johnnie Walker’s ‘Joy Will Take You Further’ campaign. Nigerian artist D’Banj was the first Nigerian artist to sign to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music label and have the rapper along with fellow US rapper Big Sean on the video to his mega hit ‘Oliver Twist’. The song was also one of the most played songs outside of Nigeria in the UK and the US. Earlier this year, Nigerian artist Davido announced that he inked a deal with Sony BMG, putting him in the ranks of Nneka and D’Banj who were previously signed to Sony. South Africa’s AKA also caught the attention of the international music scene in earlier this year when it was announced that he was selected as one of BBC 1Xtra’s ‘Hot for 2016’ artists. The list previously predicted the rise of notable artists such as Disclosure, Sam Smith and The Weeknd. And, South African comedian Trevor Noah made history by being the first African host on The Daily Show. The American music festival Coachella will see four African stars perform at the event this year, including South African DJ and producer Black Coffee, French-Cuban musical duo Ibeyi, Congolese band Mbongwana Star and pop/hip hop Nigerian band Young Fathers. African artists and subsequently African music will continue to grow in prominence on the global music scene.


In the business world, Africa’s startups will shape and steer the African economy in a positive direction, especially this year as economists have named the year as one of the toughest economic years yet. According to a report from by startup funding initiative VC4Africa, over 70 percent of startups generate considerable revenue and over 40 percent of startup firms are successful in securing external capita. Startup companies in computer software, Internet and e-commerce appear to be the most successful business ventures, and the most successful ones are based in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. In South Africa and Nigeria, startups are mainly responsible for reinvigorating investor confidence in the economy, and Nigeria and Kenya are favoured internationally as the continent’s tech hubs.

Last year, South Africa was the top investment destination, having raised approximately $54 million, followed by Nigeria with approximately $49 million and Kenya with approximately $47 million. Lagos has been dubbed as Africa’s Silicon Valley after a number of successful startups contributed significantly to the economy, including Africa’s Netflix Iroko TV Sub-Saharan Africa’s most popular job search engines with more than 1.5million monthly visitors Jobberman and popular online grocery shopping store Supermart.

With Africa having a young population (70 percent of Sub Saharan Africa’s population is aged below 30), the continent will continue to see a rise in startups particularly as entrepreneurs provide a service where there is a need, such as the Akon Lighting Africa initiative and the subsequent creation of Solektra International which fills the gap of lack of electricity on continent by providing solar power to 14 countries on the continent and training young people to generate renewable energy.


The Africa-China relationship has grown significantly, especially after the African Union and China signed on a $60 million investment agreement. Most of the announced $60 billion will come in loans and export credits, and only $5 billion is to arrive as grants and interest-free loans. Collaborations between China and Africa will include partnerships in agriculture, renewable energy and smart city construction among others. Currently, Zimbabwe has adopted China’s Yuan as its reserve currency, and China is the largest exporter of Zimbabwean products. The Yuan is set to gain significant importance as China becomes a major economic player on the continent.

Along with the economic influence that China will have on the continent, a rise in cultural influence could be a prominent feature. Mandarin could be included in the African curriculum as the China-Africa relations grow. In 2007, a commitment by the Chinese government to invest nearly $2 million in educational programs was signed between China and South Africa, with the possibility of introducing Mandarin as an examinable subject in South African schools.

According to statistics, there are over 1 million Chinese citizens who arrived in Africa from 2001, and with that comes the growth of Chinese culture, such as language, food, dress sense, family structures, religion and days of observance such as the Chinese New Year. The Chinese culture is set to find its place in the African community, and influence areas of society such as family (as African and Chinese couples marry) and food, similarly to the cultural marks left by the French on Francophone Africa and by the Portuguese on countries like Mozambique and Angola.


Written by How Africa

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