Saturday 18 January 2020
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The Natural And Organic Beauty Care Industry – An Opportunity For African Entrepreneurs?

The Natural And Organic Beauty Care Industry –  An Opportunity For African Entrepreneurs?


According to the UN World Population Prospect Report, Africa, home to more than a billion people could grow to more than 2.5 billion people, by 2050

The continent is also home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, though figures can be misleading because most of those are starting from a very small base.

The GDP of many African states is less than a single town in Europe or the USA.

One research group, Euromonitor International is optimistic. “Given the continent’s population and increasing GDP, it is set to be the most dynamic region for various industries including agriculture, packaged food, electronics, beauty and personal care

Beauty brands already present include L’Oréal, Unilever, Proctor and Gamble and Revlon(which controls almost 31% of the South African market.)

In 2016, L’Oréal established its Research and Innovation Centre in Johannesburg to ‘explore’ Africa’s beauty care market, studying “African hair and skin specificities” and “beauty routines and expectations”.

The go organic…go natural trend

Over the past few decades the words ‘natural’, ‘organic’ and ‘green’ have become part of the daily lexicon for the elite and well-off.

Laboratory tests struggle to show any difference between so-called organic ingredients and those produced in the usual way, but there remains a perception that organic is better. This means there’s also a market, albeit a narrow one given the mass of African consumers live in poverty and are more likely to choose price over claims about content.

‘Clean’ is the call across many industries, from foods we grow, to what we eat, to the products we use around our homes and in our personal care.

Africa is home to a wide range of raw ingredients that are used in beauty and personal care products. So why has local business not made a mark in beauty care?

The industry is huge, and is said to generate a turnover of $400 billion per year.

Not far behind is the organic version. According to 2016 report by Persistence Market Research, the organic beauty care sector is set to reach about $22 billion by 2024, and grow 10 per cent year on year.

This is not only a boon for established brands, but also those entering the market, some of which could emerge from Africa.

Beauty products have always been a part of our lives, dating 7000 years to ancient Egypt.

Eyeshadow, eyeliner, lipsticks and colour on the cheeks were made using red ochre and mixed with water, oil or animal fats. A powdered dye from the henna tree is still used as body decoration and to colour hair.

Kohl — a mixture of burnt almonds and ash — was used as eyeliner.

Castor, olive oil, moringa and honey are still used to clean and moisturise the skin.

Exfoliation was done with dead sea salts, sand or aloe Vera and Queen Cleopatra’s lactic acid rich milk baths that have become the stuff of legend.

The industry today

Today, everyone, even those with few resources, male and female, young and old, use some form of personal and beauty care product. Reasons vary from personal hygiene, to therapy, curative and healing purposes, to enhance how we look, smell and feel and as a boost to our self-esteem.

The products are unlimited -from anti-ageing to acne, cellulite creams and sun protection.

Add to this hair, perfume, toiletries and deodorants, bath and shower and oral hygiene.

On a social level, increasingly among black populations, beauty is meshed with identity debates, with resistance in some sectors to hair relaxers and skin-lightening creams, pills and injections.

While in the early part of the century synthetic products seemed the way to go, the return of natural ingredients has opportunities for Africans who want to enter the market in Africa.

Opportunity 1: A Changing Environment

With rapid urbanisation, the broader world ‘consciousness’ of millennials, the impact and reach of online and social media platforms and better distribution, the business is set to grow. The multinationals are seeing this, so why aren’t we maximising on this potential too?

Opportunity 2: An Africa rich with organic and natural raw materials

The continent is blessed with a plethora of natural ingredients. Botanicals, herbs and spices have been used in beauty and healing for eons. Products like shea butter, aloe vera, rooibos tea, marula and the baobob stand out.

Kalahari melon seeds are used for sun protection, argan oil from Morocco is used in hair conditioners, lotions, and acne products. Moringa oil has anti-inflammatory properties and even the prickly pear contains antioxidants that promote a glowing skin.

Then there are plants like the Zimbabwean one -feso/ruredzo/soso/inkunzani that grows wild and is a hair renewal product that is believed to reverse balding.

The list is endless. We have the natural resources, so why not use them to formulate our own products, drawing from our own indigenous knowledge systems while contributing to    our wellbeing and growth of our economy through highlighting uses and origins of various natural ingredients?

Opportunity 3: Beauty care meets Healthcare

In the past the beauty care industry was seen as superficial but now there’s a quest for “whole body wellness”.

People no longer fall for the belief that all “commercially-produced”, beauty products are best.

The myth that ingredients with unpronounceable names such as phthalates that add colour and scent to products, or formaldehyde and parabens that serve as preservatives has been busted and their long-term adverse health effects exposed. Healthcare treatments that combine beauty care ingredients like spa, massage and organic supplements have business opportunities.

Opportunity 4: Changing attitudes, Local approaches & Return to Roots

Thanks in part to greater mainstream representation and positive images of Africa, there is a growing level of pride and confidence in embracing traditional and home grown brands.

Local sourcing and production of ingredients is gaining traction, especially among consumers. This presents an opportunity for proudly African beauty and personal care products and brands. There are a few success stories on record, but shouldn’t we be doing more? [See:]

Opportunity 5: Greater Environmental Awareness, Sustainability & Responsible Beauty

There is now a greater awareness of the negative and toxic effects evident from fertiliser to manufacturing, from consumer use to product disposal.

What about recyclable packaging? For the new brand owner, there is an opportunity to develop cleaner ingredients. Say no to animal testing, colour additives, synthetic fragrances, mineral oils, or any other potentially harmful products.

Make sure your products are certified and endorsed by groups like the Cancer Association, Beauty Without Cruelty, or the Soil Association with its COSMOS standard

You have an opportunity to contribute to improved ethical, social and environmental performance and progress throughout the beauty supply chain.

Opportunity 6: Creating Social Value & A Community Based-Involvement Business

As an organic and natural beauty care formulator you have the opportunity to grow partnerships and create more community-based sources for raw and natural ingredients.

Agricultural jobs related to these ingredients can produce income for millions of people – especially women who often do most of the production work. This is a chance to create a business-with-heart that also speaks to the spirit of fair trade, promoting local talent and contributing to broader development.

Opportunity 7: Being Part of A movement of Fair trading

As a new brand creator you have the opportunity to set up a business that is responsible. Some international beauty brands like Avon and The Body Shop have made it their mandate to establish charitable foundations. Think community up-liftment, child protection and human rights.

Opportunity 8: Business for the Future

While the industry is changing and the global brands are getting more savvy about how to appeal to African consumers, there still a need for more products specifically targeting African beauty care requirements, addressing skin, hair care and environmental realities.

This presents an opportunity to create a brand that is not only sustainable but ethical and could result in Africa-centred growth.


The African natural and organic beauty, cosmetic and personal care industry is growing.

There are so many other diverse streams to tap into, from men’s grooming to hair products, from raw material to well-being. The multinational giants have seen the gaps in the African markets. As an entrepreneur on the continent, you have the potential to beat them to this pie. Why not make it so?



Nomsa Mwamuka She is a researcher, writer, producer and media project manager who has worked on various radio, television, film, print and online media platforms. Inspired by African arts and culture she has contributed to and curated several film festivals and music events. A published author and contributor to books, her current projects include: Township Girls (Weaver Press) 2018 and The Black Girls Little Black Book of Beauty (Mimis Publishing) 2018 - Both available on Amazon.