making up make up for the astonishingly large Ugandan market

LAST Wednesday I had two girls giggling at me over the incredulous looks on my face as they recounted tales of make up that I could not understand.

I was meeting both of them physically for the first time ever and their facial appearance had not been an issue in my mind for the first forty five minutes we were together in conversation before the topic of make-up came up.

When it did and they entered into that zone females do that is the stereotypical equivalent of some men talking about soccer or motor vehicles, I kept trying to draw them back until one mentioned that they had first met when one paid the other Ushs20,000 for some lipstick.

They were at a Blankets and Wine event and the first girl was walking past the second girl when the first girl was struck by the lipstick the second girl was wearing. She stopped to ask about it and voila! Money exchanged hands and a friendship began.

The fourth person in the conversation was a fellow man, called Primus Agaba, who made me feel inadequate because of his vast knowledge of women and make up. He readily followed their conversation and even joined in even though they kept meandering into terminology that I recognised as english but could make little sense of otherwise.

He made me re-assess my position as a former boyfriend, ongoing husband, father, uncle and brother of various girls. After hearing him talk for twenty minutes, the only females in my life I wasn’t worried I had offended over the years with my blatant obliviousness were my darling mother and grandmothers before her – because they had zero involvement with cosmetics and make up. I suspect that I am still married probably because my wife is almost the same.


The conversation went on for a while longer before it occurred to me that the Ushs20,000 mentioned earlier might not have been paid in exchange for a tube of lipstick, so I paused matters for clarification.

The first girl had paid the cash for the tube of lipstick to be unscrewed by the second girl, then applied onto her lips, after which the other screwed the cap back onto her lipstick, pocketed the money, and put both into her handbag (presumably).
I was flummoxed. I could understand the concept well enough, of course, but up till that point it had not occurred to me that such payments could be made in exchange for the mere application of make up.
First of all, the idea that a person could be walking through an event where food and drinks are being sold and would enter into an impulse expenditure of Ushs20,000 was a little jarring. That’s a double whisky in moderate places, and I don’t find it easy to fork it out fwaaaa. It is also the equivalent of four face-paintings at a children’s event, which expenditure I absolutely dread whenever I am walking into these things.
Digging deeper into the matter brought starker realisations – one of them told me that at one point in her life she spent about Ushs150,000 for a tube of imported lipstick. She has since found much more affordable (I like using that word instead of ‘cheap’) options, but of course they are all imported and some of them have names that make the eyes of the more knowledgeable female dilate when they are spoken.

And they told me that sometimes a lady you might know will spend Ushs140,000 for make up on an ordinary work day because of a job interview.




But that’s nothing if you compare it with the cost of make up for a wedding!
Apparently a bride and her entourage will pay these incredible sums for make-up to be applied sometimes during rehearsals, just to see what their different options will look like on the big day, and then again on the big day itself. That morning, make up is applied by professionals and a premium may be charged if that application is done earlier than a certain hour. Not only that; if the make up person is required to do any additional work later on in the day, then more money will be forked out – but the more frugal bridal party might pay a sum up front for a make up pack they can carry with them the rest of the day.
All of this costs hard cash that ordinary mortals such as myself have been unaware of all this time – it’s a whole separate economy.
And I realised that over the years that is one of those items on wedding budgets that I have never paid much attention to – so I called up a couple of those emailed to me and realised that in most cases it was hidden or thrown in under ‘Salon’. The Make Up expert broke down the numbers for me to my total astonishment, and the ladies laughed even more at my incredulity – while Primus smirked that smirk of a man proven superior over his neighbour.
I didn’t care for my status at that point – I had to check what components went into make up in general, and my first stop was lipstick: it’s basically waxes (beeswax, paraffin, and carnauba wax) oils and fats, emollients (the stuff that makes it soft), and pigments.


skaheru makeup 2


All this can be found in Uganda – even the Carnauba wax. We CAN make lipstick. We SHOULD make lipstick.
Because if girls are ready to pay each other Ushs20,000 for a few swipes of the thing to be applied onto their lips, then there is no shortage of demand. If you do more complicated mathematics and presume that there are 1,000 weddings taking place in this country every Saturday, and that each bride (ignore the rest of the entourage for now) will spend at LEAST Ushs100,000 on base make up, then that is Ushs100,000,000 a weekend being spent on make up.
Is that not enough reason to get scientists and entrepreneurs together to mix waxes, oils and fats, emollients and pigments?


7 thoughts on “making up make up for the astonishingly large Ugandan market

  1. Haha! Never underestimate the power of cosmetics.The global cosmetics market is expected to reach over US$390 billion by 2020. This beauty junkie will happily drop UGX100,000 on a single quality product, let alone a face of base make up. I’m sure someone is already typing up a business plan, I mean, I’m no expert, but I already create lip balm for personal use.


      1. It was previously a hobby, so I only recently took it seriously. I’m in the process of product development testing the market before officially launching the product, hopefully by the end of the year.


What do YOU think? Leave a Reply in your own words

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s