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How African Beauty Brands Are Weathering the Storms of Supply Chain

Published October 17, 2023
Published October 17, 2023
Epara Skincare

The beauty industry in Africa is experiencing a remarkable boom, driven by different social classes, evolving beauty standards, social media infiltration, and a desire for both local and international beauty products. As this market continues to flourish, so does the complexity of its supply chains. The African beauty market is as diverse as the continent itself, with each region offering its own unique preferences and traditions. From skincare to haircare, cosmetics to fragrances, African consumers are increasingly seeking products that cater to their specific needs. This demand is leading to a surge in the production and distribution of beauty items, both locally and internationally.

When Nigerian American Christina Funke Tegbe founded 54 Thrones seven years ago, she was fascinated by the stories behind natural ingredients like argan oil and shea butter. She later discovered that her interests were in researching these beauty products. Now, she’s built a cult-following in her thousands of dollars worth of business, tapping into the over $1 billion market that is the African beauty market. “I founded the brand, really, for people who want to feel connected to Africa as a whole, but also for those—like me—who were maybe first generation, but didn’t know much or have access to beauty products from Africa, where we come from,” she tells BeautyMatter.

While the growth in the beauty industry is promising, it comes with its share of supply chain challenges, with one of the most pressing issues being logistics and transportation. Africa's vast size, underdeveloped infrastructure, and bureaucratic hurdles can make it challenging to move products efficiently within and between countries. Brands like 54 Thrones, Alaffia, and Shea Yeleen, that manufacture in the US because they find that it’s much easier to monitor production and product consistency, find it challenging to move these products from where they’re sourced in countries like Nigeria, Ghana, and Uganda.

Material sourcing is another critical concern. Many beauty brands are now placing a strong emphasis on using local ingredients, but ensuring a consistent supply of high-quality materials can be a struggle, due to issues like location, storage, seasons, transportation, weather conditions, staffing, and many more. Additionally, sustainable sourcing practices are becoming increasingly important, leading to a need for environmentally responsible supply chain management. Being an entrepreneur for well over 20 years, Valerie Obaze, the founder of the beauty and skincare brand, R&R Luxury, is building a niche brand solely focused on natural and organic beauty.

“We’re headquartered in Ghana, and we source directly from our processing center in the North of Ghana,” Obaze tells BeautyMatter. “Being a member of the Global Shea Alliance, we had access to trade shows, which helped to understand the needs of the international customers. Over the years, we’ve gone through many iterations,” she continues. Navigating the regulatory landscape in Africa can be a complex task for beauty brands. Different countries have varying rules and standards regarding cosmetics and personal care products. For example, certain countries in the East African Community (EAC), like Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, and South Sudan, drafted a legislation in 2019, which laid out limits to heavy metals in cosmetics to no more than 2 mg/kg of arsenic and mercury, 10 mg/kg of lead, or a total of 10 mg/kg of the three in combination. Staying compliant with these regulations while maintaining product quality can be a delicate balancing act.

Despite these challenges, beauty brands operating in Africa are finding innovative ways to navigate their supply chains, partnerships, and collaborations with local logistics providers like DHL, and e-commerce platforms like The Folklore Group are becoming more common. They’re  helping brands streamline the movement of products within the continent. Technology plays a crucial role in this process, with many companies adopting advanced tracking systems to monitor shipments in real time and identify bottlenecks. Additionally, some brands are embracing a "glocal" approach, combining global manufacturing capabilities with local customization to meet regional demands. This strategy allows them to maintain product consistency while catering to local preferences.

“There are loads of moving parts from sourcing, manufacturing, production, and consumerism, and we make sure to work with these suppliers to make it easier on us.”
By Ozohu Adoh, Founder, Epara Skincare

One notable example of successful supply chain navigation is the rise of African beauty brands that focus on using indigenous ingredients. These companies often work closely with local farmers and cooperatives, ensuring a sustainable and ethical supply chain. By empowering local communities and embracing circular economy principles, they create products that resonate with consumers who value authenticity and social responsibility. “We now have our own processing center of about two acres in a little village in Ghana,” Obaze shares. “We also have a warehouse to store shea nuts; we have a vehicle so that the women [we work with] can easily pick the nuts, and we provide them with health and safety training.”

For brands like Epara Skincare founded by Ozohu Adoh, a way to navigate the supply chain challenges is to work with well-established suppliers. “What we have found is that they have links and well-established roots. Then, we test the provenance of the supply,” Adoh says to BeautyMatter. “There are loads of moving parts from sourcing, manufacturing, production, and consumerism, and we make sure to work with these suppliers to make it easier on us.” Forming alliances to collectively address supply chain challenges, share knowledge, and advocate for supportive policies is a way to navigate this, and such partnerships are critical in navigating the complex terrain of regulations and trade barriers.

Sustainability is no longer a mere buzzword in the beauty industry—it's now become a necessity—and brands operating in the African beauty market are increasingly adopting circular economy practices. This includes recycling and upcycling materials, reducing waste, and minimizing environmental impact. Consumers in Africa and beyond are showing a preference for eco-friendly and socially responsible brands, further driving the adoption of sustainable supply chain practices. “Our intentionality in majorly sourcing and producing from one place in Africa has the reduction of our carbon imprints, as one of the reasons,” shares Obaze.

As the African beauty market continues to expand, supply chain challenges are inevitable, but they are not insurmountable. Brands are embracing innovative strategies, forming local partnerships, and leveraging technology to ensure a seamless flow of products. To thrive in the market, brands must recognize the importance of addressing supply chain challenges head-on. By doing so, they not only meet the growing demands of consumers but also contribute to the development of a more sustainable and responsible beauty industry in Africa.

As with a stereotype that comes with “Made in Africa” being subpar and not necessarily being 100% compared to its other contemporaries in the Global North, many African beauty brands still face the challenge of proof that they’re up to standard. “Our products speak for themselves,” Adoh says, “and for you to know that, we’re launched in spaces like Harrods and Selfridges. These are pinnacles of retail. When you see the products, you’d understand that they’re very well considered.”

The beauty market in Africa stands as a testament to the continent's resilience, innovation, and growing economic influence on the global stage. For example, in 2023 alone, the revenue for the beauty and personal care market in Africa has amounted to $62.14 billion. This market, according to Statista, is estimated to have an annual growth of 6.01%. Despite its share of challenges, from supply chain disruptions to regulatory complexities, African beauty brands and entrepreneurs are forging ahead with determination. They are not merely addressing the cosmetic needs of the continent but also redefining beauty standards and fostering inclusivity.

One cannot ignore the significance of technology in overcoming supply chain obstacles. Social media platforms, for example, have brought beauty products closer to consumers and are creating opportunities for direct engagement between brands and their audience. This digital leap is bolstering the industry's growth and making it accessible to a broader spectrum of consumers across diverse African regions.

Furthermore, the commitment to sustainable sourcing and production methods is shaping the future of African beauty. Brands are not only tapping into the rich natural resources that Africa boasts of but are also investing in eco-friendly practices. This environmentally conscious approach not only preserves the continent's biodiversity but also resonates with the global shift towards ethical consumption.

This flourish in the African beauty market serves as grounds for opportunities and investments and showcases the region's potential for economic growth and entrepreneurship. The journey could be arduous, but the beauty industry's ability to adapt and thrive amidst adversity speaks volumes about the unwavering spirit of African entrepreneurs. It’s a prime example of how determination, innovation, and sustainability can drive success even in the face of daunting challenges.


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