Beauty Empowering Women: Shea Butter & Future Africa’s Beauty Industry

Shea butter has been greasing up African babies to beautiful coats of golden blackness for centuries, but like many of Africa’s natural resources, we fail to see its worth until it is coveted & overtaken by others. Where Westerners may applaud & hail women cosmetics giants like Estee Lauder, Mary Kay & Elizabeth Arden, in Africa our powerhouses in the beauty industry start from the root of our Shea butter producing women. From  the beauty regiments of the bohemian sect to haute couture women, the  natural beauty of what has been dubbed “Women’s Gold” has been worth more than its weight in gold by esthetically beautifying women throughout the world, while economically empowering women in Western Africa.

Most cosmetic products these days have shea butter in it- from the basic over the counter corner store products to your high priced high society exclusive products. Shea butter has been proven to have significant health benefits & African nations like the Black Star Nation of Ghana in particular has been known to be of the highest grade & quality, particulary coming from the Northern region of Ghana , which is one of the poorest economic regions of Ghana. I emphasize economic because  the northern region is lush in beauty, intelligence & resources & many who come from this area of Ghana are amongst the most wealthy & educated. Ghana as a matriarchal country has always had her women as her backbone & in the North the women are bringing much needed economic viability to the region through not only harvesting & selling the shea nuts to produce shea butter, but finding their business sense & acumen in attaining a bigger share of the profit as producers & manufacturers of the end product of shea butter  & directly selling it in the market at retail.

Unfortunately there are few & far between cosmetics companies owned by African women, particularly on the continent. Giants like supermodel & cosmetics mogul Iman, top fashion make-up artist turned cosmetics mogul Pat McGrath along with homegrown beauty mogul Carol’s Daughter have set the blueprint  & model of what the future of the African beauty industry can be in the hands of its women. Africans must come to realize that we can become the next Revlon, Estee Lauder, Elizabeth Arden, Carol’s Daughter etc.  just from our ancient blessings of natural beauty secrets such as Shea butter & that we do not have to wait for the rest of the world to show & tell us how to celebrate & find value in our global African flyness.

New Africa is open for business with  fashion, film & music industries in Africa developing a new unprecedented awakening in the Made in Africa brand & the beauty industry hopefully following suit in its new awakening with natives & expats leading the march in a new economically viable & self-sufficient Africa. Africans have always been natural born trendsetters in fashion & beauty from being the inventors of haute couture- where everyone from rich to poor gets their daily fashions custom made one off designs perfectly fitted by the hands of  local couturiers,  & where beauty specialists have been created from the blessings of mother nature’s bountiful harvests of natural beauty products from roots to fruits. Just as mining raw gold & diamonds does not garner as much profit for most Africans because we have not gotten into the business of refining & retail, we must learn from our past & what we have been dealt to understand that our economic power is in our own hands!

Processing of shea nuts often takes place within local cooperatives where between 100 to 800 women work every season. Cooperatives are mainly operated by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or are small local businesses. The women employed via the cooperative either sell the nuts they collected from the communal lands where the Karite Tree grows or they process them into unrefined shea butter. It takes three kilos of shea nuts to create one kilo of shea butter (1kg equals 2.2 pounds).  Shea processing takes two routes. The raw nuts are sold to Asian oil companies in bulk who extract, refine and sell the oil to Europe for cosmetic purposes. Whereas unrefined shea butter is locally processed, certified organic, graded for purity then pushed onto the world market by upper level distributors. In both scenarios a hefty markup is added with none of the profits trickle down. “Poverty pimps, that’s all many NGOs really are,” stated Dr. Samuel Hunter of the American Shea Butter Institute. “They claim that they are in the villages to help the people when in actuality their application of fair trade versus a living wage is often the biggest enabler of poverty for the women throughout this region.” READ MORE