Rising incomes around the continent as well as a surge in demands from hair concious women has seen a boom in the hair-related business in Africa. Some estimates put Africa’s hair industry at as much as $6 billion a year. Single hair pieces can fetch as much as MWK1,463,200.00 ($3000) each.

“The hair on a woman is the beauty, without the hair I am not sure one can be beautiful, so our hair is out pride, a woman has to make her hair.”

The scramble for quick cash from artificial or synthetic hair has seen several Asian-based companies from as far as China and Japan set up shop in places like Lagos where they make a roaring trade selling their products. Companies such as Amigo, which invested tens of millions of dollars in machinery and structures in Lagos, produce everything from wigs and weaves to human hair extensions which are on high demand in the local market as well as in other African countries. Because human hair looks more natural, versatile, and damage resistant, it is preferred to synthetic hair for making extensions, custom wigs, hairpieces, and braids. The demand is booming for Brazilian hair, European, Peruvian hair, and Indian hair.

The lovely Lola Udu is a self-professed entrepreneur from birth who has been selling for as long as she can remember. The 25 year old accountant by profession gained her undergraduate degree from Wayne State University. She worked for KPMG in Michigan before heading back to get an MBA in International Business and Advertising Marketing, also from Wayne State. Lola also held a role at Wayne County Community College before deciding that it was time to dive into the world of hair. She established Lo’Lavita, an international brand that offers luxury quality hair extension pieces; accessories, electronic styling tools and hair care products.

According to Lola, “The hair business is huge and it’s not just one thing. It has different segments such as hair extensions which is divided into higher, middle and lower-end products, synthetic hair, mixed synthetic and human hair. Outside that there are really expensive authentic extensions sourced from different countries. I have partners in 14 different countries and it’s hard to keep up with suppliers.”

Lo’Lavita has a partnership with C.O.P.E Foundation, a Breast Cancer Awareness organisation. A percentage of our sales goes towards producing hair products for women who are diagnosed and/or undergoing treatment for breast cancer and have lost their hair as a result of the negative effect of chemotherapy. This is really important to us because we know that every woman’s hair is her crown and glory.

While still largely based in the informal economy, the African haircare business has become a multi-billion dollar industry that stretches to China and India and has drawn global giants such as L’Oreal and Unilever. Market research firm Euromonitor International estimates $1.1 billion of shampoos, relaxers and hair lotions were sold in South Africa, Nigeria and Cameroon alone last year.

L’Oreal is looking to build on its “Dark and Lovely” line of relaxers and other products with more research into African hair and skin and has factories in South Africa and Kenya producing almost half the products it distributes on the continent. In one clue to the potential for Africa, market research firm Mintel put the size of the black haircare market in the United States at $684 million in 2013, estimating that it could be closer to $500 billion if weaves, extensions and sales from independent beauty stores or distributors are included.

What is certain is that Africa’s demand for hair products, particularly those made from human hair, is only growing. – http://africa-investor.blogspot.com

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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