The global beauty industry is projected to be worth $635.7 billion this year, with international brands such as Maybelline, L’Oreal and Revlon dominating the industry. In Africa, brands such as Nigeria’s Zaron and Kenya’s Joanna K Cosmetics are joining the lucrative market, and in Zimbabwe, the last seven years has seen the establishment and growth of a small cosmetics industry run by a new crop of female beauty entrepreneurs.
Local brands, local entrepreneurs
Christian by Hadassah is one of these new cosmetics companies. “People have become more open to trying our things especially after seeing how good our products look on our models, or after they see the big socialites that only associate with opulent products using or talking about Christian by Hadassah,” says Hazel Murwisi, the company’s manager. The local beauty industry is still small, but this doesn’t mean that there isn’t competition. “There a bit of a competition because there are other brands that have already been well established, but the pressure helps us to relentlessly work towards improving our brand,” says Murwisi. Fadzai Mangwiro, the founder of Reelle Cosmetics, agrees. “The competition is really stiff, and the market is saturated, even in Zimbabwe.” She started the company in September 2018, and although Reelle has established a name for itself, it’s sharing the market with a growing list of new and trendy cosmetics brands that are prominent on Instagram.
“Zimbabweans have a tendency of being condescending local products without at least giving them a try.”
Although available in pharmacies and at flea markets, authentic makeup has become increasingly expensive. Already treated as a luxury good, prices shot up, further impacted by the difference in price in US Dollars and local bond notes. A bottle of Revlon nail polish can now cost as much as $70. Despite the cost of these international brands, Murwisi explains that there’s still work to be done to convince customers that local cosmetics are worth the purchase. “Zimbabweans have a tendency of being condescending local products without at least giving them a try. So it takes a lot of work to convince them to try a product, because they assume that things from overseas are better.”
Mangwiro says that although Reelle’s products are popular, the company still has to attract a customer base that’s used to using international brands. “You really have to prove your point, you have to go the extra mile to prove that your products are just as good (as international brands.)” Tete Humba, a Zimbabwean beauty and lifestyle blogger has used products from Reelle, Christian by Hadassah, Vault and Slay by Faey. “Vault Cosmetics can easily compete in the international realm, mainly because the quality of the actual products is good. The other products I have used are good too, however I am weary of the products I purchase mainly because I am not too sure of the actual process taken to produce them. I will use products such as eyeshadows and lipstains but I wouldn’t run straight to the foundations.”
Local, but affordable?
The selling point of local brands has been their affordability in comparison to imported cosmetics, but given the price increases and jump in inflation rate, these companies may be forced to increase their prices in order to stay in business. Adding to this is the cost of making the products. Neither Christian by Hadassah nor Reelle Cosmetics locally produce and package their products. Mangwiro tried to source manufacturers in South Africa, but found that it cost less to create her own formula and source a factory in China to make the products. Although Zimbabwe’s manufacturing industry has grown marginally between August 2017 and August 2018, the sector is still working at less than 50% capacity. For Zimbabwean beauty entrepreneurs, it’s simply cheaper and easier to produce their products externally.
“The competition is really stiff and the market is saturated, even in Zimbabwe.”
Things are looking good for the small companies. Christian by Hadassah has expanded from providing one product to selling a full range of cosmetics. Their bestselling product – an eyeshadow palette launched in September 2018 – has sold over 200 units. Reelle Cosmetics has a distributor in South Africa, with eight products in their line ranging from liquid matte lipsticks to highlighters. Mbali Makeup and Langa Mineral Makeup have online and physical stores in Harare. For Zimbabwean consumers, a vibrant beauty industry is a way to tap into a lucrative global market and also support local entrepreneurs.