In Africa, haircare becomes a multi-billion dollar industry
By David Dolan
ABUJA (Reuters) - With all the skill of a master weaver at a loom, Esther Ogble stands under a parasol in the sprawling Wuse market in Nigeria's capital and spins synthetic fibre into women's hair.
Nearby, three customers - one in a hijab - wait for a turn to spend several hours and $40 to have their hair done, a hefty sum in a country where many live on less than $2 a day.
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.
Hairdressers such as Ogble are a fixture of markets and taxi ranks across Africa, reflecting both the continent's rising incomes and demand from hair-conscious women.
"I need to braid my hair so that I will look beautiful," said 25-year-old Blessing James, wincing as Ogble combed and tugged at the back of her head before weaving in a plait that fell well past the shoulder.
While reliable Africa-wide figures are hard to come by, 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.
It sees the liquid haircare market growing by about 5 percent from 2013 to 2018 in Nigeria and Cameroon, with a slight decline for the more mature South African market.
This does not include sales from more than 40 other sub-Saharan countries, or the huge "dry hair" market of weaves, extensions and wigs crafted from everything from synthetic fibre to human or yak hair. Continued...