I set out to build Ghana’s most innovative beauty company: here’s what I’ve learned

Nana Konamah ---lead product developer for Pure Persona


The global beauty industry has been growing at a steady rate, and the half a trillion-dollar industry does not seem to be slowing down in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic; in fact, specific specialty areas are picking up steam in light of the global health crisis.

With sustainability in question, consumers have turned to products that result in lesser harm to people and the planet. People are flocking to buy makeup that not only combines skincare- but in fact prioritizes it. All natural, shea butter- dominant body butters are having another moment with companies like Beauty queen Hamamat’s Hamamat African Beauty line reporting sold out products week after week.

With the global shea butter industry valued at over US$1.12 billion with a 6.6% growth rate (2018) the opportunity this presents to the beauty industry in Ghana is enormous. Ghana is already seen as the world’s shea butter capital.

With the waning popularity of palm oil under the concerns of environmental decimation in south east Asia, shea butter demand is going through the roof. If we thought shea butter has already peaked, think again, the raw form of the product which accounts for one of Ghana’s most sought-after exports keeps rising in demand not only for manufacturers but also for users. In Ghana, we are seeing the launch of new shea butter-based companies almost every other week.

And it’s not only shea butter that has an opportunity, as consumers become aware of the benefits of neem oil, especially as an anti- germ agent, as well as baobab and Moringa oils, beauty industry raw materials originating from Ghana are certainly having their moment.

This is exactly where we could shine and where we may also miss the opportunity if we as a country and industry are not expedient. In the past, Africa has served as the main source of the raw materials needed to build the infrastructure of the west. Cocoa from Ghana and Ivory Coast alone account for 2/3rd’s (66.67%) of the world’s chocolate, but ranks nowhere on the list of chocolate makers and other cocoa value-added products. Ghana gold is notoriously collateralized leaving our country with a dearth of any respectable gold refineries.

It can be different with beauty, but only if we choose to do it differently.

Owing to the relative ease of cosmetic manufacturing, the beauty industry can position itself as the cliched “great beam of hope” in Ghana’s manufacturing future.  Not only do we have direct access to raw materials we also have the consumer base with the right kind of purchasing power.

With Accra as home to the secretariat for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement it offers a unique opportunity to take advantage of markets beyond our borders. We have what it takes to build a booming industry that uses homegrown ingredients and centers African beauty standards, but to pull this off we’ll need a lot more than just raw ingredients. In order to sustain true value addition, we need to innovate.

This means we need to produce consumer goods that make use of young scientific talent to produce products that can compete with the likes of Korean beauty giants in quality formulations, packaging and sustainability. So sought after are Korean beauty products, affectionately named: K- Beauty, that it’s not surprising to see sections dedicated strictly to K-beauty in some of the world’s highest grossing department stores.

If we sincerely want to see growth in the industry with profits that stay here and circulate back into the Ghanaian economy, it will no longer be enough to consider value added as simply repackaging raw materials in smaller fancier units and reselling at a higher price. No, we would have to apply science, while maintaining the integrity of our natural and organic ingredients.

Making and selling world class natural and organic beauty products in Ghana and beyond would require innovations not only in product but also in business processes. When I launched my product Pure Persona by Nana, we prioritised digitisation from the outset. I launched in June 2020 in the throws of a global pandemic and worldwide up roar around police violence in America.

We really had no choice but to go digital. Digital- first was already our company philosophy, but with the world’s situations as it stood, it was easier to convince stakeholders (including members of my own team) that digital was the way to go.

We developed a full digital launch plan complete with inspirational talks with public figure Anita Erskine and a live performance from the award-winning Ghanaian singer- songwriter The Ria Boss. All our press engagements for the day were 100% digital including interviews and press releases on Ghanaweb, Bella Naija Style and TV3. Our digital team worked with rigor to not only make sure we had a website that was functioning, but one that could also make payments and generate conversions.

We started the launch a week early with sweepstakes to give away our hero product: The Pure Persona by Nana Discovery Kit, a strategy that helped us launch with an email list already in the hundreds and 1000 new followers all by launch day.

Our reach on twitter was in the millions and our total impressions during launch week online exceeded that of over 3 million. We showed that digital first was not only possible, but the Ghanaian, in fact the African consumer, is ready for this sort of innovative approach from producers.

Ghana is poised to be the most respected player in the African beauty industry, but it depends on our ability to apply the appropriate innovations not only in product but also in process. We can take a page out of the Korean beauty book, and build an industry with some of the most sought after products in the world. Who knows, we might even earn our own G-Beauty stand at Selfridges.

>>>The writer is an entrepreneur, content creator, philanthropist and host of Nana Konamah TV. She’s the founder and lead product developer for Pure Persona by Nana a beauty and lifestyle brand dedicated to using natural ingredients from Africa to formulate the highest quality products and emphasizes inner beauty as the roadmap to overall beauty. Learn more about Pure Persona at www.purepersona.com. You can also Learn more about Nana Konamah’s work as a wellness activist and lifestyle influencer at www.nanakonamah.com.

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