For a protracted period in history, beauty products and practices have been dubbed as “materialistic” and “shallow”— and upon indulgence, described as an act devoid of significance. Yet, in the last half a century, the African continent has witnessed a notable transformation and exponential growth in the beauty and personal care industry.
Understanding The Sustained Significance:
Various speculations have attempted to make meaning of the dominant contributor to the surge. It is conspicuous that our society breeds a consciousness of one’s physical appearance.
However, the rise could be credited to the slowly surfacing epiphany that beauty products provide an experience that enables users to learn and appreciate themselves just a tad bit more. Over time, commercial beauty brands have highlighted this change.
Companies such as Unilever and L’oreal, specializing in fast-moving consumer goods, tailored their products to communicate an experience worthy of indulgence.
This nouveau approach challenged the long-standing belief that beauty practices were devoid of significance, thus resulting in incredible financial growth.
In the gripping words of Africa Business magazine:
“The cosmetics sector in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to grow over the next two years. Overall, the African beauty and personal care market was estimated at €9.2 billion in 2017, and it currently increases between 8% and 10% per year against a global market growth rate of close to 4%. It is expected to reach €12 billion in 2020 ….”
If It Has Been Successful, What is The Problem?
With the dissemination of information online, people are increasingly mindful of health issues such as ovarian cancer tied to artificial ingredients found in beauty products.
In 2020, a report was published by The National Women’s Health Network, highlighting the high correlation between black women, toxic ingredients in beauty products such as hair relaxers, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
In the same year, the University of Capetown published a report solidifying the fact that hair relaxers are corrosive to skin.
Resultantly, there has been a preferential tilt towards organic and non-synthetic chemical products.
Rwanda is no exception to this shift, yet certainly a novice worthy of applause. The burgeoning market has created a niche for Rwandan brands such as Kandaka Naturals, Asili Oils, and others to transform beauty knowledge and practices.
Rwanda: Feeding the Organic Gap, One Beauty Start-up at a Time.
Disrupting long-standing trust in unnatural and harsh-chemically filled products anywhere is not an effortless task.
However, Rwandan “all organic and plant-based skin and hair products” brand Ami Body Organics has dared to take up the arduous task. Situated in a corner shop in Remera, this two-sister-owned, Rwanda Standards Board-approved brand shares its knowledge on organic products.
While they turn skeptics into die-hard believers and advocates of natural products, most importantly, they also create life-long customers.
From coffee-based body scrubs for dry skin to shea butter-based body butters for alopecia, Ami Body Organics shelves an assortment of products for various skin and hair needs.
Their commitment to creating a holistic health culture within communities is spotlighted in their process of knowledge sharing.
An experience of indulgence at their store does not simply start and end with purchasing beauty products. Instead, it commences with a warm, honest, and free-of-charge consultation to offer curious clients an insight into their hair and skin needs.
From questions regarding one’s diet to rest patterns, this Rwandan brand is cognisant of both the external and internal factors that affect one’s health and beauty practices as a whole.
Ami Body Organics distinguishes itself from other existing popular foreign brands by leading with an Africanist paradigm. In the words of the Founder, “Africans are no different; we have all the natural resources needed to return to our original holistic and beauty practices. Black, young, woman, tall, slim, any African can do it” (Aminah Furaha, 2022). This Africanist trait has indeed propelled this organization forward.
With their constant re-stocking announcements, the need for all organic products is showing face.
How Can Rwanda Widen the Demand?
Rwanda might not be equipped with all the popular organic materials; however, their most excellent ammunition is their communication channels. An opening for learning surfaces with an approximation of their 35 radio stations, 12 television stations, 88 news websites, and 46 newspapers.
The country has already demonstrated how its information disbursement techniques are a powerhouse, particularly in spreading COVID-19 rules. These regulations are noticeable as abuzz streets grow into ghost towns by 10 pm every night.
With more than half of the population plugged into the various media platforms, this offers the burgeoning beauty industry in Rwanda an opportunity to disburse knowledge on the necessities of utilizing more organic beauty products.
Additionally, it creates a small yet powerful avenue for existing start-ups to shed light on their unique offerings, boosting their annual revenue and brand awareness.
The beauty and personal care industry’s relevance will not fizzle out anytime soon. With the current pandemic forcing us to alter our ways of living, people are paying more attention to their physical appearance and health. Sometimes, a need is dormant until proven to be relevant. Now, more than ever, it is the perfect opportunity for organic beauty to take the stage in Rwanda.
Nana Adjoa Mensa-Shebra
Second year student the @African Leadership University| Global Challenges Major | Research & Data Analysis Enthusiast | Intersectional Feminist