East Africa’s up-and-coming cosmetics companies

There is an emerging trend of local entrepreneurs – mostly women –  developing their own brands.

Earlier in the year, Kenyan entrepreneur Suzie Wokabi sold her cosmetics business, SuzieBeauty, to Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed manufacturer Flame Tree Group (FTG) for a reported Ksh.45m (US$445,000). Her product line includes a full make-up range as well as application brushes. Wokabi founded the company in 2010 with ambitions of making it ‘the MAC of Africa’.

Back then, Wokabi didn’t have many peers, but today a number of entrepreneurs are breaking into the beauty and personal-care industry.

Some of these include:

Amagara Skincare – This Ugandan business was founded by communications consultant Siki Kigongo, and produces a range of natural body lotions and washes. The products are manufactured at Kampala’s Uganda Industrial Research Institute, but some of the packaging is sourced from China.

Keyara Organics – Kenyan TV personality Terryanne Chebet is the brains behind Keyara Organics, a producer of skin- and hair-care products. The company’s merchandise is manufactured locally and retails at health and beauty stores. It has also contracted a distributor that supplies outlets in the US and Europe.

Marini Naturals – The Marini Naturals product range includes shampoo, conditioner, hair-growth oil, curling butter, curling gel and moisturiser spray. Manufactured in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, the products are made from organic ingredients and essential oils, such as tea tree, neem, castor and peppermint.

Pauline Cosmetics – Kenya’s Nelly Tuikong abandoned a career in nursing to become an entrepreneur. It took her over four years – from 2009 to 2013 – to go from experimenting with making lip gloss to launching her brand, Pauline Cosmetics. When starting out, Tuikong faced all kinds of challenges, especially in terms of importing the products from Asia. Today the company manufactures a range of cosmetics products – including lipstick, lip gloss, mascara, face powder, eyeshadow, and make-up brushes – that retail at more than 40 outlets.

elsaKim – In August 2014, Kenyan Nduta Kinuthia founded nail-care products company EL, which has a portfolio of six different nail polish products trading under the brand name elsaKim. The products are manufactured in Poland, and the company focuses predominantly on sales to salons and beauticians.

Many of these companies cater to the growing demand for natural and organic personal-care products. There is a burgeoning trend among black women to wear their hair ‘naturally’ as opposed to using relaxers and synthetic hair.

Forty year old Mize Juma Othman installs a new photovoltaic panel on a home in Matemwe village, on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar. Othman trained for six months in India to become one of the first 13 “solar mamas” in Zanzibar, able to install, troubleshoot and repair the systems.

Zanzibar’s ‘Solar Mamas’ flip the switch on rural homes, gender roles

Photo Credit: Sam Eaton


Let’s talk about the Arab/Trans Indian Ocean Slave Trade because if we’re going to insist on PoC solidarity we must confront our past. Peace be with all the colonised and enslaved Africans and their descendants. [Second to last tweet meant to say **sex slave labour of black women] read more here: http://atlantablackstar.com/2014/06/02/10-facts-about-the-arab-enslavement-of-black-people-not-taught-in-schools/5/


While in Western cultures, it’s customary for the bride to wear white, to represent purity, that is starting to change. Many Western brides are wearing light off-whites like champagne, blush, and cream (and, of course, “something blue”). However, in many Eastern cultures, it’s common for brides to wear red, a color representing good luck.

Traditional wedding dresses from around the world

  1. Bride in red at a Nikah ceremony (South Asia)
  2. A red Qing dynasty style dress with a phoenix crown (Taiwan, China)
  3. A white kimono with a traditional tsunokakushi (Japan)
  4. A bride in green and yellow during her gaye holud ceremony (Bangladesh)
  5. Bride in a red and gold dress (Morocco)
  6. A white and blue dress with gold accents (Ethiopia)
  7. Jewish bride in her blue dress (Tunisia)
  8. Bride in a green and gold dress (Cambodia)
  9. A Tatar bride in dark green (Crimea)

Manna From Kenya: Gluten-free, Wheat-free, Low GI Flour

Entrepreneur Eric Muthomi is producing manna from Kenya: gluten-free, wheat-free, low GI flour, made from bananas.

The 28-year old wasn’t looking for a solution to the rising popularity of health food products, or an answer to the demand for slow-release carbs when he came up with the idea to produce the flour. Rather, Muthomi wanted to help small-scale banana farmers earn a better living, especially for unripened fruit, which is lower in sugar content.

“We have a sugar cane industry, but I always wondered why we don’t have an industry for bananas. The prices farmers get for bananas is peanuts. It’s very unprofitable, but there were no alternative markets.”

Ed’s Note: We’ve covered Stawi before, when it first showed up in local news a couple of years ago. Good to see its hit the global headlines as well.