Local cosmetics manufacturers come of age. Ooh, have they?


Solomon Lule.

Carine Roitfeld, the former editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris, also founder and current editor-in-chief of CR Fashion Book, once said: “Makeup can help you capture a moment.”

This statement was spot-on and remains relevant, with makeup a very popular item that helps many win hearts, change perceptions, improve ratings and, yes, capture moments. Unfortunately, for those that misuse makeup, the results are regrettable!

Cosmetics – jelly, creams and lotions, etc – are some of the main products used in body makeup. Globally, these are popular products found in almost every household. The ladies love them and so do children and several men.

In Africa, latest available data shows that the biggest cosmetic and other beauty products markets, as measured by the industry cash value, are South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.

In Uganda, the cosmetic industry has registered tremendous growth in the last three decades characterized by aggressive marketing, factory expansions, increased importation and exportation.

While international/imported brands such as Vaseline, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal, Clere, Nivea, and Oriflame have dominated the exclusive high class and fast growing middle-class market segments, locally manufactured cosmetics have been the darling for the millions of Ugandans in the mass market – a segment that makes over 80 per cent of the country’s total population.

Over the years, some of the native brands that have shaped the market include Mukwano Jelly, Sirika Baby, Mwana Mugimu, Amagara, Aloesha Organic, Sleeping Baby, Avis, Samona, Sure Deal and Movit.

According to Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA), a body that governs local producers, Uganda has more than 20 companies involved in cosmetics, with each manufacturing one or more products.

Information from Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), the country’s official standardization and quality assurance body, indicates that there are about 70 locally manufactured and certified cosmetic products largely sold within Uganda, but with growing exportation for the same.


The last 15 years have seen local cosmetics manufacturers deploy all tactics to woo potential customers. The tactics include products improvements and aggressive marketing – advertising, promotions, brand ambassadorships and sponsorships.

Aggressive marketing is rooted to the 1990s when Sirika Baby, a fast-growing local cosmetic then, used a song titled Sirikawo Baby by Menton Summer (RIP) and Emperor Orlando to market itself. An improved version of this song including clear promotion messages for this cosmetic product was produced and somewhat became more popular than the original due to its unlimited presence on 88.8 CBS FM’s prime morning show Kaliisoliiso in addition to being played on other fairly popular stations. Since then, almost all big players in this sector have outspent themselves for their products to remain marketable.

Actually, a 2017 Media Ad Spend Analysis prepared by Ipsos Connect, covering 21 sectors, ranked the ‘Hygiene and Beauty Care’ sector as the sixth biggest spender on advertisement in that year. But this spending spree has been ongoing for the last two decades.

Notable spenders in this sector in the past 20 or so years include Sirika Baby, Avis, Samona, Cash Beauty, Sure Deal and Movit.

While the aforementioned companies and others have done significantly well, the last few years have seen Movit take the upper hand in both actual spend and market perception, closely followed by Samona and Sure Deal.

For instance, an online ‘Advertisement of the Year’ poll answered by about 500 people and whose results this publication has seen indicated that Movit’s Baby Junior (read Baby Ndunya) advert was both the best and ‘most popular’ advert of 2017, attracting audience from people across all ages.

Further, according to Ipsos data, in 2015, Movit spent some Shs 13 billion on adverts and was ranked 8th among the country’s Top 15 Media Ads Spending Companies. The same list had Samona coming 15th, having injected about Shs 6.2 billion in advertising.

In 2016, the list of the Top Spending Companies had Movit come 7th with some Shs 13.4 billion used on Media Ad Spend alone.

Lastly, a related Ipsos Connect report indicated that from January to September 2017, among Uganda’s Top 20 Media Ads Spending Companies, Movit ranked 9th, having invested about Shs 10.6 billion on Adverts in nine months.

Analyse matters to do with sponsorships and, again, you will meet cosmetics players in the mix of things. For almost all entertainment concerts (music, comedy and drama) held in Uganda, there is usually a local cosmetic company among the sponsors. The biggest investors here are Movit, Samona, Cash Beauty and Sure Deal.

According to Charlette Kyomuhendo, a beauty products dealer, the cosmetics sector is one that proves Uganda’s potential, whose success should encourage players in other sectors.

“As a dealer, I can tell you that local products are marketable. The producers have done their homework and now bring us good products. Our costumers love results and as long as the product on the market will deliver the expected results, it will be widely bought,” Kyomuhendo said.

“This is further boosted by the fact that manufacturers also do a great advertising job, making it easy for us who directly interact with the end-users.”

In a recent email exchange, Vianney Kushaba, a cosmetics industry consultant who has worked with the likes of Samona, Neem, Nivea, LA-belle, Fa cosmetics and currently with Movit, noted that locally manufactured cosmetics are not only doing well in Uganda, but are also sought-after in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) countries. This is thanks to presence of favourable trade policies in the region and massive advertising. Kushaba noted that the same is not happening outside COMESA due to anti-business trade barriers there.

“Ugandan cosmetics like Movit products are doing well not only in Uganda but also Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and Zambia. We are at the start of this exportation journey and we need government to support the industry through reaching trade agreements with more countries outside COMESA,” Kushaba said.

“Even though the local consumption of locally made products is growing, there are still several people that think imported cosmetics are superior and of better quality. This is just a myth and not necessarily true. Ugandans need to change their attitude and perceptions about Ugandan products. Local manufacturers like Movit are investing billions in quality products and it is only fair that we support them.”


Nonetheless, several players remain entangled in noncompliance battles with their products being confiscated by UNBS and heavy penalties imposed on them.

In an email exchange, Godwin Muhwezi, the principal public relations officer of UNBS, noted that presence of counterfeits on the market is a major issue that UNBS, together with other support agencies, continues to deal with through continuously developing product standards.

“We certify products that have passed our audits and laboratory tests as a quality assurance measure. The UNBS market surveillance team is responsible for monitoring the market to ensure that products on the market meet standards for health and safety and that dangerous products are banned from the market and, if necessary, impose penalties and prosecute culprits,” Muhwezi said.

“Between July and December 2017 alone, the UNBS market surveillance team seized about 232 metric tonnes of goods worth Shs 1.7 billion. These included about 850kgs of cosmetics. The seized goods would have otherwise been detrimental to the health and safety of consumers.”

But noncompliance is not unique to Uganda. Imports currently go through the Pre-Export Verification of Conformity (PVoC) system to weed out those that do not meet Ugandan standards before they cross our borders.

Muhwezi noted that between July and December 2017, under the PVoC program, 4.6 billion products were inspected and 16 million products failed, including cosmetics.

“As a result of UNBS intervention under the PVoC program, we are able to stop 16 million substandard products from being imported into the country, thus protecting over 16 million Ugandans from potential hazards posed by such substandard products,” he said.

But even though noncompliance is a serious issue, it is not just a cosmetics sector concern but, rather, a major trade problem across the country. With that in mind, it is safe to say that Uganda’s cosmetics industry has come of age.

We salute the ladies, the main consumers, who have made this possible.

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