Walk into any supermarket in Kampala and you will find at least one row of shelves with cosmetics products like shampoo, conditioner, soap, moisturisers and lotions.
The varieties and brands are many. But even though the products contain shea butter and other extracts from African plants and oils, only a fraction of them are made in Africa because the international cosmetics industry still processes and refines the products outside the continent.
But this practice may change. Forward-thinking African companies see a business opportunity in selling to the local market, and in producing the products themselves.
One of them is Guru Nanak, a small company located in Lira in the shea butter belt of Northern Uganda. Until recently, Guru Nanak followed the same model as most other small businesses in Africa’s shea butter industry. The company bought the raw shea nuts from local women collectors, extracted the butter from the nuts and sold it in large containers to international buyers, primarily in the United States, which in turn sold it to the American cosmetics industry.
But in 2009, Guru Nanak launched its own shea butter series. So far, it consists of a small container with 125ml raw organic shea butter, two different lotions with fragrance, a shaving cream, and a lip balsam all made in Lira at Guru Nanak’s factory.
According to Guru Nanak CEO, Jagdeep Singh, the target group of the new shea butter series is Uganda’s middle class.
“Typically, middle-class Ugandan women go for western brands. But the international trend of wanting natural products for natural beauty has also hit them.
“And why buy brands which are overpriced because they are produced in several continents and then re-imported, if you can get products made in Africa for far less,” says Singh, who’s upward rising sales statistics speak for themselves about the increasing numbers of women preferring home-grown beauty products at a reasonable price.
While shea butter cosmetic products cost Shs140, 000 to Shs160,000 in selected stores in Kampala, Guru Nanak’s Pure Natural shea butter is just Shs6,000. Guru Nanak’s products are sold from the companies shop in Oasis Mall and at Entebbe Airport.