This first edition gathered almost 850 visitors, despite the low presence of local brands. The aim was to highlight local brands and initiatives throughout the three days of the show, but the event was also punctuated with conferences on entrepreneurship in the cosmetics industry in West Africa, on the African identity in a highly competitive sector, on the scourge that represents voluntary depigmentation, and on the return of the natural movement, a godsend.
Need for professionalization
It is quite clear and symptomatic that trades related to aestheticism, just like those related to fashion, are underrated in West Africa: they are usually left out to those that have no diploma. The lack of training programmes for cosmetologists, dermatologists, and beauticians explains the low level of professionalization in this field. As a result, many become cosmetics retailers and position themselves on the mass market without the right skills, and few venture into design and manufacturing with sufficient knowledge of the supply chain.
The lack of figures and visibility on this sector slows down the arrival of foreign brands, which both prevents the premiumization of the market and the development of the complexity of the demand… although with 35 shades of black and 1 billion people, the business potential is tremendous.
GLAM, a brand discovered at the show, is dedicated to makeup for dark skins and displays very attractive visuals with its icon, Awa Sanoko, a model that drew a lot of attention at the last African fashion shows. GLAM has clearly understood the challenge of this huge market, which goes from Africa to the edge of the world, as brown skins can be found everywhere.
Africa counts 54 States, but the very structure of its market is unfavourable to African brands. The low presence of local, ‘made in Africa’ brands shows the sector has been monopolized for years by Indian or Lebanese brands, which literally blend into the landscape through the numerous beauty and hair salons.
This actually turns the market into a dichotomy:
On the one hand, it mostly takes the form of an informal economy, on market stalls and other hardly controlled channels – like street beauticians who adapt their prices depending on whether they like the looks of their customers –, where a wide variety of products melt together with the overwhelming heat: homemade, natural cosmetics side by side with poor quality, adulterated products, imitations, and in particular brightening products that highlight oriental and Indian women’s clear complexion.
On the other hand, it takes the less common form of a formal economy, with high-end to luxury French and American brands supported by well-established, multi-brand stores, wholly-owned stores in shopping malls, and supermarket offerings with fixed, labelled prices.