Youth in Sub-Sahara Africa spend over 50% of their income on personal care items - study

Youth consumers in Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) are very image conscious and are spending over 50 percent of their earnings on personal care items, according to a recent report.
A Rwandan designer, Sarafina Legrand, displays  an assortment of her jewelry in Kigali. Faustin Niyigena.
A Rwandan designer, Sarafina Legrand, displays an assortment of her jewelry in Kigali. Faustin Niyigena.

Youth consumers in Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) are very image conscious and are spending over 50 percent of their earnings on personal care items, according to a recent report.

The GeoPoll rapid survey was carried out among youth between the ages of 18 to 35 in Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda.

Beauty is listed as the number one trend with the hair industry estimated to be worth US$6 billion, according to an article appearing on on top ten trends in Africa in 2016 and beyond.

This is the second survey in a series on African Millennials in which GeoPoll seeks to understand just what makes the African Millennials tick, their aspirations, hopes, affinity, habits as well as get their thoughts on leadership, governance and their future in a digital age in the best way that they know how, using their mobile phones.  

Close to 70 percent of Africa’s population now comprises of Millennials, a 2011 Africa Development Bank report shows.

Africans aged 16-34 account for 65 percent of the continent’s consumer spending, according to McKinsey 2013 report.

The African millennials are seen as vibrant, on the move, tech savvy and image conscious.

They are said to have a desire to up their levels of education with extreme optimistic about their future.

Although the youth unemployment hovers around 12 percent in SSA, young Africans with jobs are taking charge of their future by saving towards education with over 34 percent of their monthly spend being set aside for this.

Among the countries that were part of this survey, Ghana had the highest rate of youth saving towards education at 46 percent, according to a statement.

It shows that many young Africans in SSA who took part in the survey have jobs (51%), however, a good number still depend on their parents for their upkeep at 32 percent.

On the commercial side, mobile and e-commerce exists but they have not become part of everyday life for youth consumers in SSA, the study says.

In East African countries where mobile payments are popular, youth consumers consider mobile payments as cash and still prefer it to other modes of payment (71 percent) for daily purchases.

It is only in South Africa where credit cards are popular but only second to cash payments.


The GeoPoll survey conducted in 2016 just after Black Friday shows that online sale on ecommerce in SSA, mobile payments and cash on delivery were still the most popular among youth consumers.

While personal care takes up 56 percent of expenditure among the millennials, the youth in Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana set aside a significant amount of their earnings for an investment in education, the survey indicated.

It shows that advancing in education is one of the most important pursuits for millennials with many saying that they save up to 10 percent of their monthly earnings towards it.

This is in comparison to buying a car, a house or travelling.

“Interestingly, gambling is becoming popular among male African Millennials in SSA due to their high affinity to sports and the proliferation of local sports betting players. This is still a very nascent industry. 3 percent of Youth consumers in SSA indicated that they spend part of their income on gambling.”

The researchers said there are knowledge gaps among African millennials on areas such as effective saving plans, wise investments and financial management.

When asked, many would like to better understand asset financing, entrepreneurship and investment opportunities available in their respective countries.

The researchers conclude that this is proof that young Africans are striving for financial independence, prosperity and believe in their own ability to charter their own course with a strong belief in the adage “Education is the Key”.

The GeoPoll survey was conducted in January 2017 among 2,726 young Africans in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria using the GeoPoll App.

In Rwanda, youth gave mixed reactions to the report in a mini-survey conducted by Saturday Times.

“The research is a reflection of most African youths but for me, much as I spend a lot on personal items, I don’t think I can spend over 50 per cent of my salary on such things.


Men do not spend a lot on personal items but some women can even spend more on that, which I think is wrong,” said Emmanuel Bizimana, a lawyer.

Sylvie Nyiraneza, a procurement officer, said while she thinks all people have different saving and spending habits she can’t spend more on personal care items.

“As a woman I know I should take care of myself but this does not mean I should allocate more on that, I have got to know that even expensive things are not the best and opt to go for more affordable items. Over all, it depends on how much one earns.”

What Rwandan youth say about spending habits

Leonard Nshimiyimana

Leonard Nshimiyimana, a journalist

Spending half of your monthly income on personal care items is very irresponsible because you can hardly save for the future.

When you retire you risk living a miserable life, as a beggar, to survive.

I spend less on personal care items and strive to put aside a coin for the future.

Bruce Kayitare

Bruce Kayitare, a teacher

I don’t spend much on personal items, my expenditures go on main expenses such as rent, food and power.

I also give tithe in church and spend on other family needs. I also reserve money for emergencies such as sickness.

Going out with friends takes a smaller part, I also spend on transport, airtime and internet. Whatever I do I make sure I save at least 40 per cent.

Elianne Kantengwa, an insurer

I save a third of my salary and know well that I’m under no obligation to buy new items every month I get salary.

I plan for this and ensure that whatever I buy was needed.

Imagine buying earrings every month or going to a saloon twice a month, this is illogical and I would not advise my peers to do so if they are to have a better future.

Jean Damascène Bicamumpaka

Jean Damascene Bicamumpaka, a shop attendant

Most of the youth spend their earnings on unnecessary things and forget to save for the future.

If you don’t save, you don’t really count, I used to spend almost all my earnings and was always broke in mid-month.

However , currently I do some saving despite the little money I earn, what I learnt is to be myself and spend within my means.

I avoid impulse buying. Since I started saving, I lost nothing and I hope I will keep the habit.


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