Our summit has inspired investments in natural hair business – Enwezor
Adanna Ifeoma Enwezor is the executive director of Photizo Life Foundation. She is also the founder, African Hair Summit and Abuja Hair And Beauty Expo. In this interview with GERALDINE AKUTU, she spoke about the fourth edition of the African Hair Summit, holding at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja on June 14 and 15
What’s African Hair Summit all about?
The Idea was born after I got severely burnt by a texturizer I used to relax my hair. I carried out my research and found out that the black hair and beauty industry was linked to several illnesses such as cancer, fibroids, infertility and hair loss, to mention a few. This bothered me so much, because as at that time, there was no platform addressing such health related issues in the beauty industry in Africa or promoting the manufacture of healthy hair and beauty products. So, I decided to create the African hair summit platform, which was officially launched in 2016 to raise awareness about these health issues, push for healthy alternatives through business empowerment programmes and also, promote our African hair and cultural heritage. We can’t talk about African Hair Summit, without mentioning Photizo Life Foundation. The foundation is a non-governmental organisation established to improve the health, mental and social wellbeing of Africans.
We achieve this mostly by promoting organic living and constructive lifestyle choices. Studies have shown that a high percentage of the hair and beauty products in our local markets, have negative health repercussions, and are not suitable for the African Natural Hair. To help address such issues effectively, we encourage the local manufacture of organic products to elicit more natural hair and beauty practices through strategic events like the Summit. The Summit seeks to sensitise people about the health risks linked to the black hair and beauty industry; to encourage healthy hair and beauty practices, promote our African Hair Heritage, grow existing organic skin and haircare businesses across the country and help support interested individuals to start-up businesses in the natural hair and beauty industry in Africa.
What were your initial challenges when you started?
Funding has been one of our major challenges, because it’s a new sector, people are not really aware about the importance of this sector. We definitely need the funds to come in, so we can continue to do all that we have started, in terms of health awareness and business empowerment, also promoting our cultural heritage, which is very important as well. The project is growing and so is the workload and demands that come with it. For instance, going to local communities, organising trainings/expos etcetera, we definitely need funds.
The project is expanding and we are going into different states of the country and other parts of Africa. So, we would definitely be glad to have more donors, organisations and individuals think of how to add value to this project. Also, publicity/advertising such as, radio, television and print media, we need more publicity in order to create awareness of the existing issues we are dealing with and the health, cultural and economic benefits that come with this project.
What grounds have you broken so far?
We are able to get here, through, hardwork, devotion, commitment, teamwork, selflessness, the support of our partners and most especially, God’s grace. We have recorded so many success stories since inception. The foundation’s mission is to save lives. This is evident in the many successes recorded as a result of our projects since we launched in 2016. With over 1500 guests and natural hair vendors at the Summit in 2018 alone, the foundation has continuously promoted our African culture and encouraged business startups within the African natural hair and beauty industry, inspired many to embrace their natural hair and also, in local communities, educated and groomed hundreds of women and young girls in the area of skills acquisition, thus, helping them further engage in the local manufacture and sales of organic products.
We have partnered stakeholders, such as the Federal Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), SON, Christian Aid, Embassies and various Multinationals, Women’s Rights Groups (NGOs), African Independence Television (AIT), Abuja Enterprise Agency (AEA), Lona Group, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), MTN Health and Business Experts, Schools, Salon owners and hairstylists, local manufacturers of hair and beauty products who have worked with the projects since inception, also guest speakers, patrons and envoys such as Nike Osinowo, yellowsisi, Kemilewis, Charles O’ Tudor, Dakore Egbuson-Akande, Kate Henshaw, Michelle Ntalami, Ifu Ennada, Chisomeje Isioman, Ehi Okoedion and host of many others. Remarkably, the Summit, which features health and business workshops, documentaries, exhibitions of locally made hair and beauty products, poetry, hair runway show, hair braiding and hair barbing corners and free hair consultation has been previewed on both local and international media platforms.
What would you say is the impact of your outreaches?
Our biggest strength is basically in the lives we’ve been able to impact health- wise and the physical change. We’ve had thousands women actually just go natural since we started this movement, a lot of people are now comfortable wearing their natural hair; they want to rock their natural hair at every function with pride. They send us their pictures via mail and social media telling us their growth process, hair improvement and how they feel comfortable with their own hair. They keep thanking us for what we are doing, its makes us stronger and more determined, this feedback keeps us going.
Also, the natural hair businesses that have been inspired to start as a result of the African Hair Summit. We now have a lot of people going into this business of natural hair and beauty and are now showcasing on our platforms, some were in the Summit 2016/2017 and they hadn’t started the business at that time, but now they have, it’s very encouraging to see hundreds of women go into this business and on a daily basis, they keep striving to grow and explore more opportunities in the sector.
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