A growing health-oriented culture is sweeping across the continent

There’s a bustle of activity outside Virgin Active Gym in Johannesburg, South Africa. The door revolves continuously as people walk in and out. Inside, the floor is packed, and the air is thick with a cacophony of sounds. There’s the occasional clink of metal coming from the weights section, the fast-paced house music escaping from the Zumba studio, and the constant humming of treadmills and indoor bikes. This is a daily routine for many health and fitness enthusiasts, not only in South Africa, but across the continent.

You don’t need to visit every country in Africa to realise how many Africans are spending good money to stay in their best health. All it takes is a quick scroll through social media, and you’ll see the magnitude of the growing health-oriented culture sweeping across the continent.

An increasing demand for wholesome foods


As more Africans become increasingly discerning about what they put in their mouths, healthy eating is turning into a lifestyle for those who can afford the price tag it comes with. As Google stated in its 2016 Food Trends Report, people are, “Turning to food to fill needs beyond hunger or cravings. They want to be educated on the impact of each ingredient on one’s body, and how to optimise their diet in order to look and feel their best.” The demand for wholesome foods is at an all-time high, and more people are willing to splurge for those special diets.

The organic food revolution is quietly sweeping across the world, and Africa isn’t about to be left behind. Today, organic products are available in most stores all over the continent as farmers produce large quantities to meet the increasing demand from Africa’s growing middle class. The continent’s top producers of organics include Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Tunisia, and Sudan.

Investing in physical well-being


With the abundance of wellness information online, health junkies are combining nutritious diet and exercise to achieve the lifestyle they want. The health and fitness industry is among the most profitable industries in Africa. Consider the latest report by The Economist that gym companies in South Africa rake in over R12 billion (more than US $900 million) in revenue every year. According to the publication, this is the highest figure of any gym industry in the world. While the figure may not be representative of the whole continent, it paints a fair picture of how much Africans invest in their physical well-being.

Yoga is also massively gaining popularity on the continent as many people start to realise the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of the practice. While yoga has become highly commercialised and associated with premium lifestyle, a Kenyan nonprofit organisation is making the practice accessible to anyone. The Africa Yoga Project, an initiative launched in 2007 to empower the youth, has grown into a continental phenomenon reaching out to various communities and teaching people about the benefits of the ancient tradition that dates back 5,000 years.

Health products and services on the rise


With more disposable income, Africa’s growing middle class is the main driver of the healthy lifestyle trend. In Kenya, almost 50% of the population falls under this group, and the booming wellness market in the East African country has given rise to a wave of health companies eager to get a slice of this growing sector. One of India’s largest weight management companies, VLCC Health Care, ventured into Kenya last year, offering consumers a fitness and diet plan that starts with an analysis of a customer’s DNA.

At a time when customers know exactly what they want, it’s important for brands to keep up with the changing consumer demands. Companies that don’t meet consumer needs risk being left behind. Trendwatching.com predicts that, “Health products, services, and experiences that promise well-being and let users tell a story are bound to cause delight in 2017.”

All signs point to a growing health market in Africa, and for anyone looking to start a healthy foods business on the continent, there has never been a better time.

Moza Moyo is based in Johannesburg and is passionate about telling news stories that change the African narrative. His writing touches on an array of issues and topics, including human interest, business, race, and culture.