Black hair care is a multibillion-dollar industry, with women spending substantial sums on hair weaves and extensions. In Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, weaves are so widespread that you hardly ever see a natural head of hair.
In the Central Business District of Lusaka, there is a shop that sells nothing but hair weaves and extensions.
“Zambian women love these things,” customer Chilufya Chisense told DW. “We have got stubborn hair. When you put on those things, it actually becomes easier to maintain, unlike using your own hair.”
Chisense is a big fan of Brazilian hair, but it doesn’t come cheap. Brazilian hair extensions cost around 5,000 Zambian kwacha ($500). It’s a lot of money to have wrapped around your head. And it’s not just the initial outlay than can be a burden on a slender budget. Zambian University student Kaniki Pirscilla told DW she spent “about 300 Zambian kwacha” maintaining her weave.”
Eznat Banda sells hair weaves and extensions in Lusaka and business is booming. “Zambian ladies can’t do without weaves,” she said. “It has become so common that you can’t go a day or two without putting on a weave.”
There are, of course, women who prefer their own hair. In Zambia, they include Precious Kaniki, who said, “I think I’m in love with my natural me. It’s easy for me to maintain my hair. I just have to bathe, put some Vaseline on and it looks nice.”
But what do Zambian men make of all this? “When you use weaves, I believe you are losing your sense of originality,” one man told DW. “If it makes them feel good or presentable, there’s nothing wrong with that,” another said.
Eznat Banda believes men’s opinions are not necessarily important, but she has the figures at her fingertips nonetheless. “Actually, I don’t think that matters. One out of 10 men would prefer having a girl with natural hair,” she said.
Some view black hair care as a purely personal affair. Others point to related issues of gender and female empowerment. But few can overlook that vast sums of money that are changing hands.
Half a trillion dollars
According to Huffpost Style, data released by the Anglo-Dutch group Unilever, which has made recent investments in the black hair industry in Africa, women in South Africa, Cameroon and Nigeria alone were spending billions of dollars on hair extensions.
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