The hair industry is a lucrative investment in Africa. It is arguably one of the biggest industries raking enough money to create self-employment and social enterprises in the black community.

With African women willing to pay more than $300 on weaves they deem of good quality, it is no wonder the industry is booming on the continent. The Euro monitor estimates that the market for weaves, wigs and hair extensions; which are very popular in Africa, is worth over $6billion a year while that of shampoos, relaxers and hair lotions in Nigeria, South Africa and Cameroon is over $1.1 billion. This astounding figure is not inclusive of 40+ sub Saharan countries sales in the liquid haircare products.

Remarkably, the figures are going up with each year, as more women seek to explore different hairstyles and products. Each year there is a significant growth in the sales of haircare products as indicated by reports in 2013 and 2014 where South Africans’ expenditure on haircare increased by 7%, while in Algeria it grew by 8%, rivalled by Nigeria’s of 11% in the respective years. Nigeria, which boasts of the largest population in Africa of around 182 million, is said to be the leading country in purchase of hair care products, which undoubtedly makes a lot of sense as Nigeria boasts of a huge film industry; Nollywood. L’Oreal Nigeria is said to be a firm favourite and has led the market since three years prior to 2017.

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This is also the case in South Africa where the hair giant L’Oreal South Africa is also in the lead while in Cameroon and Kenya boast of Unilever and HACO Tiger brands respectively.
There are many reasons that drive this large demand for hair industry. Many women aspire to look like their favourite celebrities on television, magazines and social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. While mainstream media has for the past years seemed to be highly influenced by the western world, with advertorial pages showing straight silky hair, this trend is slowly changing as more media outlets are showcasing natural kinky hair and various hair products which help to care for it. This in turn leads to more sales of hair care products that aim to solve specific hair problems such as dry hair, dandruff-prone hair and thin hair.
Another key driver of growth in purchases of hair care products lies within the fact that women are more adventurous than ever and seek modern hairstyles which require lots of hair care products than traditional hair styles. With traditional hairstyles such as braiding, less hair care products were used when compared with those required when keeping a hefty thousand worth Brazilian weave.

As more women join the corporate ladder and earn their fair share of income, they feel inclined to keep up with their fellow high social elite colleagues who often don’t bat an eyelash when paying thousands on good quality weaves. While economically empowered women have full authority over their money, making it easier to spend as much as they want on hair care products, the fate is not the same for their less economically women who often have to beg their husbands to pay a visit to the salon.
Salons are also major benefactors in the billion dollar hair care industry. “From as young as 4 years, I remember the weekly visits that my mother and I would make to the beauty salon. She would sit in her chair and have her hair made into different hairstyles such as perms and whatever hairstyle was a hit at the time. Meanwhile my hair would be braided in cornrows because of school requirements,” says Moliehi who is based in Maseru. Thirty two years later and Moliehi is still visiting salons but now with her three year old daughter Mathuso.

Salons are socially driven enterprises as they solve the pressing needs of the community while providing women in the informal sector with employment. Salons sales in Kenya increased by 8% between 2013 and 2014 which saw many unemployed women earning an income. Joining the hair industry has never looked this good as it can virtually be started with zero capital and needs only human skill and effort. Most women literally start the business in the back of their rooms and expand to rental offices when the business booms.

So why don’t you join the hair business and get a piece of the cake while at it? Moreover this industry is predicted to continue growing due to urbanization and an increase in the middle class in the next foreseeable years.
Source: Euromonitor, CNN Africa

By: Mantsebeng Maepe