Historical and Cultural Value
In African culture, hair is not only valuable, it is also a part of one’s identity. Historically, culturally and traditionally across the continent, from Egypt to Southern Africa, hair and hair styles communicate everything from age, marital status, ethnic identity, family background, religion, wealth, geographic region and societal rank. Hair’s aesthetic appeal, length and health also have spiritual significance for some African cultures. The importance of hair care and the pride and place of hair care professionals in African communities can be seen in early Egyptian papryi.
The importance and evolution of styles, much like other cultures, have been influenced by social and economic changes, urbanization, disposable income increases, women in the workforce, and commercial trade growth. Contemporary culture has birthed the African hair care market as it is segmented today—all hair care, afro hair care, men, kids and professional. Alongside this there is also alternative segmenting by product, distribution channel and geography.
Historically soap and shampoo for most African cultures had no demarcation. There were hair oils, hair butters that served as conditioning and styling aids and multi-use soaps for cleansing hair, body and clothes. Today, we would refer to these as multipurpose products.
A High Growth Market
The African hair care market is comprised of shampoos, conditioners, hair colorants, hair styling products and other hair care products like sprays, perms and relaxers, and hair extensions and wigs. Formulas include both natural and synthetic ingredients in order to maintain and achieve healthy, lustrous hair and a well-groomed appearance.
In line with some cultural beliefs of the past, long, healthy hair represents and portrays a healthy, youthful and bountiful appearance. These factors strongly influence the purchasing decisions among consumers.
The African hair care market is dominated by L’Oréal, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble. These key market players are continuously trying to gain competitive advantage over other players through product innovation. Alongside them, increasing R&D investment and activities by local players has enabled them to gain traction by being consumer-centric and dominating the lower-priced product market. Local players have retained significant strength through political or economic instability such as the Arab Spring revolution and currency devaluations.
Twenty percent of cosmetics sold in Africa are hair care products, including shampoos and conditioners, and are distributed offline in supermarkets/hypermarkets, convenience stores, specialty stores, pharmacies and most recently, online.
The data and research have segmented the Continent into four key markets; Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and the rest of Africa. South Africa being the largest and most structured of all, followed by Nigeria, Kenya and then the rest of Africa, respectively. South Africa alone accounts for 0.7% of the global hair care market value vs China at 14.4% of the global market according to a report by Mintel in 2017.
The South African market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 5.7% through 2025, according to industry observers. While shampoos represent the largest segment within the global hair care market, according to marketresearch.com, South Africa is led by the conditioner category in value terms and is expected to grow the fastest through 2024.
Niche Market Opportunities
While the African hair care market is highly competitive with numerous global and local players, there are opportunities. For example, there’s a growing market for caring for hair extensions and wigs.
“We offer a drop off service for shampooing, conditioning and styling of extensions and wigs. Since the pandemic hit we are seeing this service become even more popular,” said Iroghama Ogbeifun-Obuoforibo, founder of Hairven, a one-stop salon and spa with two stores in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria.
Demand for one-stop health and wellness destinations that can also cater to men, women and kids are popping up all over Africa. They compete with traditional stand alone, hair salons and barber shops which dominate hair care product expenditures. Obtaining shelf space in these health and wellness destinations can be lucrative for local hair care manufacturers.
As more consumers understand the negative impact of long-term use of harsh chemicals, they are paying closer attention to what comes directly in contact with their skin to prevent skin irritations. As a result, there is an increase in the demand for “natural” products and “free from” formulas. Ingredients such as aloe vera, coconut water, coconut oil, shea butter and argan oil lead the way among highly sought-after ingredients in shampoo and conditioner formulations.
According to GlobalData’s 2019 Q3 global consumer survey, 41% of South Africans pay very a lot of attention to the ingredients used in beauty/grooming products they buy. Growing awareness of the different hair types and how to care for them has given rise in the demand for Afro hair care. Add to that investment by local and international players and the rise of social media and access to hair care knowledge on the internet and on social media platforms, niche opportunities abound in the African hair care market.
Fast growing segments such as natural hair care and hair care growth are emerging.
On average, a simple natural hair regimen includes shampoo, moisturizing deep conditioner, protein-based treatments, leave-in conditioners, natural oils and, in some cases, styling products. The demand for such new products is leading to category growth and is likely to continue for several years, according to Euromonitor International.
Finally, 70% of the African population is under 30, which means that most people are young and eager to try new products and drive category growth. They are more informed as a result of new technologies and less loyal to historical brands.
Zeze Oriaikhi-Sao is an entrepreneur, influential speaker, sought-after brand consultant and freelance columnist with a focus on Innovation, sustainability and leadership in the cosmetics, luxury goods and start-up industries. As the founder of Malée, Africa’s first global luxury fragrance and body care brand, an advisory board member at Innocos, the world beauty innovations summit, Oriaikhi-Sao has established herself as a leader in the African-made luxury goods market. She has been featured on CNN, The Telegraph and The Daily Mail. She hosts the podcast Third Culture Africans, and inspires a vast audience with entrepreneurial and lifestyle Insights at zezeonline.