Beatrice Baiden was a participant in our Financial and Economic Reporting course in Johannesburg in June.
I went to my usual hair stylist to get some hair extensions to make my natural African hair look longer and wavy. “I have the right one to suit your taste”, Maggie the stylist told me. For a moment, I just could not believe my eyes. 762 Ghanaian cedis (400) for a set of three virgin Brazilian hair pieces, just for my head!
This is more than my monthly salary. Talk of a non-graduate teacher in rural Ghana and this amount is worth more than two months’ salary.
But the craze is on. Using brands such as Kinky and Noble, a fast growing section of Ghanaian women regardless of their financial status are ‘investing in their hair’.
Vivian Kai Mensah, a colleague from Ghana who paid $200 for her extension, says the product is worth the cost. Comparing buying synthetic hair extensions which she disposes off after using only twice, she says she can use Brazilian hair for as long as she wants.
The endorsement of such products by African celebrities such as Babalwa Mneno (South Africa), Genevieve Nnaji and Ini Edo (Nigeria) and Jackie Appiah (Ghana), may have largely contributed to this boom. It is no longer an issue of ‘the high class’. The hair extensions are available in a lot of shops especially in urban areas across the Africa continent.
Bolaji, a Nigerian friend, tells me ‘the Brazilian hair craze disease’ has also plagued her country. Zeddy, a 28-year-old Kenyan woman who is passionate about natural hair, says the same is true in Kenya.
The hair trade has other sides to it. In 2009, the Myanmar Times carried a report on women in the country selling their hair to build a bridge. The report said a respected monk, Sayadaw Waiponla, started the project to rebuild 16 old bridges between two villages. At today’s exchange rate, the price of the hair cost between $115 and $460 for 1.6 kilograms, depending on the length. More than 3,000 women are reported to have donated their hair and this was sold to Chinese traders for use in wigs and hair extensions.
This mad rush for Brazilian hair has also attracted crooks, who are now cashing in. Unsuspecting clients have had their money taken in exchange for fake Brazilian hair, some called Yak Wool.
So how virgin is the Brazilian hair, and is it really worth the cost? A ‘hi-life’ artiste from Ghana, Gyedu-Blay Ambolley, is reported to have said he will not perform with female musicians who put on a Brazilian or any other wig. He wants them to portray African culture and identity.
Well, I’m still thinking about whether I will get my new look with a Brazilian hair or not. But this is the latest big business many entrepreneurs are venturing into.