First of all: The things you can produce here are really almost endless! Some are so simple, and you can start to design and produce them in your own home using the help of skilled locals. For other products you may want to get some machinery to manufacture the items. But even here we are not necessarily talking about a full-blown manufacturing firm!
Having a new baby is usually a big and serious project for many African parents. Because of a child‘s sensitive needs, lots of new stuff usually has to be bought. Some of these items may be bought every single time a new baby is expected, while other items – like prams, cots, mattresses and toys – will probably be purchased just once and used for all the children born in a household.
These items include, except for those already addressed above, everything a child (and its parent or caregiver) requires from the time it wakes in the morning until it sleeps at night.
The range of products that make up the baby accessories category is huge, with several big, small, local and foreign competing brands. We‘ll just go through the major categories and highlight a few items within them.
Sleep-related gear – This category includes: cots, bedding, baby monitors (a kind of walkie-talkie‘ that transmits a baby‘s noises to the mother in another room), beautiful blankets or sleeping bags, mattresses etc. Some of these items are very easy to produce!
Feeding equipment – Teats, feeding bottles, teething accessories, sterilizers, breast pads, feeding pillows, bibs, breast pumps and breast cold-packs. Little bowls, plates, and spoons.
Other stuff – Changing mats, bathing equipment, prams and strollers, high-chairs, drawers and cabinets for storage, baby mobiles, baby and toddler toys, bouncer chairs, play blankets.
There are still many countries in Africa where such baby care products can hardly be found and mothers have only access to it through family members from abroad.
Importing baby accessory items is one possible business avenue for you. You could then distribute (be very aware of how powerful already existing importers/distributors are in your country of operation!) or open your own shop.
But the approach that will really give you a competitive advantage and that has the biggest potential for growth is when you manufacture some of the products yourself. Made-in-Africa baby care products are an absolute rarity to this day, and this is the market you could own faster, as you will have a competitive advantage using local creativity and cutting production costs.
Almost all children‘s clothes on the market are Western-styled. African-inspired styles and fashion for children‘s clothing would be a great idea that could capture the market‘s attention.
Top Countries & Policy Guidance
These ideas would be suitable for all economically advanced countries with a fast-rising middle class.
Action & Tips
There is a huge spectrum of baby accessories out there; just have a look at the shops or online shopping sites of major European or American retailers, such as Mothercare.com. Look at their website and products for inspiration! Start your baby care business with small or simple items that can be easily produced and manufactured – you can expand your business later by adding more products.
Develop a made-in-Africa quality baby care brand right from the start – you will find your greatest success potential in that strategy!
Carol Ngige – Beauty Bee (Kenya)
When Carol Ngige became a mother she visited a friend and saw a breastfeeding pillow. The product was not available in Kenya and most mothers imported it or used ordinary pillows for breastfeeding. Carol was inspired by the idea to produce breastfeeding pillows for the Kenyan market.
She borrowed a sewing machine from her mother, hired a tailor and started manufacturing at her home. This is how her company Beauty Bee started in 2006. Carol continued operating the business from her house for the next three years and slowly expanded it from there, employing people and moving into an office with a workshop area.
The company has since expanded its product portfolio and Beauty Bee products are stocked by leading supermarkets in Kenya, as well as baby shops and hospitals. It wasn‟t an easy drive, but one that required much patience and Carol had to “knock doors tirelessly” to get her products stocked by supermarkets. Seven years later Beauty Bee manufactures breastfeeding pillows, nursing covers, maternity briefs, changing mats and travel neck pillows for babies.
Carol also runs Baby Banda Fair, an annual event that allows her to bring market stakeholders, such as health professionals and related companies, together onto one platform. She also offers services training and advising parents in Kenya.