West Africa: Disposable Baby Diapers Industry

The fast development in the West African economies has grabbed the attention of many industrial players. Many investors are now exploring new opportunities in the sub-continent.

The primary investment is seen in the manufacturing sector, as companies can leverage low material cost and labor cost to their advantages. Even the governments in many countries are drafting strategic economic policies to boost investor sentiments in the region.

When it comes for the disposable Hygiene industry, a surge in new and open trade policies and strategic agreements in the region is contributing significantly in the growth of the disposable baby diapers industry as well.


Market potential for baby diapers

The disposable baby diapers industry in West Africa is just at its beginning phase and is expected to become stronger and grow bigger.  

As for the market, which holds high potential for further growth, it is currently grabbing the attention of international producers to enter the market.

During the last year, the high growth rate of 10% of West Africa’s disposable baby diapers market as compared to the global disposable baby diapers market growth of 4.5% for the same period, is attributed to various macro and micro economic factors, which are described in this article.


The growth rates

In the West African sub-continent, the increase in GDP over the past decade had a positive influence on the spending power and socio-economic development of the West African consumer, therefor diaper market showed a remarkable growth rate.

Currently, the baby diapers market is showing growth signs, largely driven by a rising baby population and increase in per capita disposable income. The efforts by governments in the region to get women into the work mainstream increased the female labor population, which has directly helped boost the disposable baby diapers demand in different countries of the sub-continent.

The highest share of baby diapers market in 2019 was in Nigeria followed by Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Ghana.

In these countries which hold high potential in terms of market size and growth in disposable baby diapers market, the highest estimated volume sold in 2019 was 2,100,000,000 pieces in Nigeria; followed by Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and with the least estimated 200,000,000 pieces sold in Senegal.


Who is driving the market?

In some countries in West Africa, consumption of consumer goods has risen. The disposable income level has increased. As a result, expenses on baby care products have increased.

Now, consumers are looking for better products for their families and babies.

Also, the lifestyle and standard of living of West African female consumers is increasing, and being the decision maker in the family, they contribute significantly to the baby diapers bought for the baby.

However, the high-income inequality in the region means that not all consumers are able to afford these products. Low cost products supplied locally and imported from emerging market have a good market share as well.

On the other hand, the diaper usage per baby per day is very low, in the range of 0.1, compared to 4 -5 diaper usage per baby per day in the western countries.

Consumer awareness on the frequency of diaper change is very limited in most of these countries.

Currently, many international companies are starting awareness campaigns on the benefit of using diapers and the frequency of changing them, with the aim that the market volume could be increased during the next years, which holds significant potential for the future.

Thus, companies are increasingly targeting the market with their product promotions and offers such as containers with diaper packs or other freebies with the diaper packs, in order to influence the consumer decision.

Currently, the baby diapers market in the West African region is dominated by Chinese suppliers under local brand names, with an exception related to Nigerian market, where local and foreign companies are already established since few years.

For disposable diapers, Procter and Gamble, leads the market in Nigeria followed by Kimberly-Clark and Wemy Industries.

Some of these International companies already started manufacturing baby diapers in West Africa, like P&G and Hayat Kimya in Nigeria. This trend will continue in the next years in other countries.


Disposable baby diapers manufacturers in West Africa

Driven by ongoing economic developments and rising baby population, many diaper raw material suppliers have started investing in the region. This has driven many baby diaper manufacturers to set up manufacturing plants in the region. P&G, which has the largest market share in the region, has been the pioneer in the segment and was the first company to enter the West African market (i.e. the new plant started up in Nigeria). Following P&G, other diaper manufacturers invested in the region, such as K-C and Hayat Kimya.

Moreover, due to the existing market potential, many local manufacturers started to enter into the diapers manufacturing business. Having limited initial investment, most of them rely on Far East and Chinese technology.

However, considering the limited presence of branded products in the market, which are mostly available in places which have adequate infrastructure and logistics, the demand of non-brands is high in rural and underdeveloped areas, Also, the low cost of non-brands makes them more affordable, specially across poorer segments of the society.

Taking advantage of the situation, the new local manufactures are promoting their products in specific areas and enjoying a good market share.


Increasing hygiene awareness

With the rising female literacy and labor participation rate, there is an improvement in their hygiene and sanitation awareness too. This has induced a trend for preference of better healthcare products for self and babies among women. The trend could be further supported by rising per capita disposable income and national GDP in the future.

The growth prospects of the disposable baby diapers market influenced by the fast-economic development in the region, offer considerable benefits to the machine supplier and the manufacturer, and all other stakeholders in the supply chain.

Accordingly, if efforts are laid on increasing awareness about the benefit of using diapers and the frequency of changing them, the market volume can almost be increased by 20 to 25% each year, which will be a fraction of developed markets, and holds huge potential. Estimates show that by increasing diaper usage to 1 diaper per baby per day, the West African baby diaper market can reach 6 billion pieces per year.


High poverty levels

There is a high level of income inequality in West African countries, and a significant percentage of population live below the poverty line. Despite, the improving economic conditions of some countries, the Gini index for the region is dropping. Most of the West Africa region show high percentage of population living below poverty line, for example in Nigeria 70% of population lives below poverty line.


Disposable baby diapers supply chain

The supply chain of baby diapers in West Africa can involve more intermediaries as compared to developed markets and it can vary from country to country, depending on the ongoing industrial and retail developments in each country.

The lack of an organized and developed distribution network in the West African market is a big challenge for the manufacturers to ensure their products are reaching the consumers at far away and rural locations.

Due to the ease of trade norms and reduction in import duties in some countries, (i.e. Ghana and Ivory Coast) the local manufacturers are facing competition from global brands producers and private labels suppliers from emerging markets (i.e. China and the Far East) who are directly exporting their products in the West African market, which are competitively priced.

All this is resulting in price benefits for the consumer, who can get quality products at low prices. As a result, the market growth in baby diapers will continue to increase.


Local distributors / Potential for a future development

Currently, the disposable baby diapers market is dominated by branded products even if there is a presence of large number of private labels in the market. Branded products hold a big share of the baby diapers market in West Africa, in terms of market size. By market volume too, Chinese brands and private labels disposable baby diapers have an important share of the West Africa baby diapers market.

In West Africa, there are many distributors who cater to multiple markets. Most of them are importers and/or exporters, who can directly import the products from the global markets, especially from emerging countries, such as Turkey, India, China and the Middle East.

Barring some countries such as Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Ghana other countries are dependent on select distributors, and so manufacturers in these regions are not able to exercise bargaining powers. Also, the lack of local market knowledge and proper transportation infrastructure makes the manufacturers dependent on local importers and exporters.


Potential for newcomers

Few years back, the risk of raw material shortage and increase in prices forced some of the manufactures to create joint ventures with raw material suppliers from emerging markets.

The new manufacturers entering the West African market are either regional / global producers and/or small domestic manufacturers. Global producers can share their expertise in the field of technology and business; therefor their machinery selection is based on performance, and quality.

On the other hand, the small domestic manufacturers are selecting their machinery based on the affordable price and the level of investment that they can start with.

Nowadays, due to the Covid-19 and the volatility in the raw material market, the same challenge is threatening the local manufacturers who are facing serious problems from rising competition from other players who can supply by having access to raw material at much competitive prices and better quality level.

Nowadays, the economic policies/regulations and consumer protection in the West African countries are not up to the level to check the quality of the marketed products and can result in small manufacturing supplying poor quality products, to gain pricing advantages.


Increasing trade cooperation within the continent

Intercontinental trade agreements including SADC (Southern West African Development Community), AFTZ (West African Free Trade Zone), ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) and ECCAS (Economic Community of Central West African States), are attracting companies to invest in the region, which are driving the macro and micro economic factors and contributing to overall development of all markets in the region.

Similar efforts are also made to boost intercontinental trade among neighboring states too.


Increasing competitiveness

Governments in the West African sub-continent are signing newer trade agreements, developing new economic policies, and opening the domestic markets for foreign investment. All these are done to make the region more attractive for global business leaders to invest in. Even the regional cooperation among neighboring countries is being promoted for further exploring mutually beneficial opportunities. As a result, new domestic players and global players in the region are increasing and making the competition intense.

Driven by the competition, not only will the prices fall, it will make the diapers affordable for other segments too and open up newer opportunities for manufacturers to promote their products. These opportunities can exist in rural areas, low income level families, baby care centers, and so on. Also, some government initiatives to liberalize the economy and draw global players in their domestic markets will see new and different products coming into the market, giving customers more options. It will thus drive the market by attracting customers who resisting or refrain from diaper use.


A promising future for machinery and technology suppliers

The baby diaper market in West Arica reserve a huge potential for the manufacturers who are currently enjoying the easy entry to the market with the latest technology and high-performance machines as well as the low-cost machinery.

As a result, both high quality and cheaper products are introduced in the market. This trend will in turn boost the market growth.

Most of these new investments will be catering to multiple segments with a diversified product portfolio both across the product line extension and expansion.

However, soon, the need of an efficient production process, is required to retain the competitive advantage of any manufacturing facility.

In this respect, the newcomers into the market will consider bringing new technologies and efficient processes with them so as to survive and grow in the market.



West Africa: Disposable Baby Diapers Industry