Africa: The Next Frontier for Innovations

As the world continues to navigate post-pandemic and through other emerging global challenges, Africa has shown great resilience and with that has come great innovations that have an impact on many aspects of humanity (socially, health wise or environmentally). Through the TLC African wellness stories, I had the opportunity to interview some phenomenal institutions across the continent whose innovations are already changing the continent’s wellness landscape.

TREND 1: Wellness Tourism in Africa

Wellness tourism in Africa has suffered greatly due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Many people lost their jobs due to the lockdown and many wellness hotels had to close. New (Wellness) Guest segments have expanded, and source markets have focused on the national and domestic market. The domestic segment is projected to continue to account for the highest revenue share owing to increasing expenditure for domestic wellness activities. In addition to the traditional guests, many more young people and families are now visiting wellness facilities, in part due to increasing health awareness and the need to strengthen the immune system. Awareness of physical and mental wellbeing is gaining in importance. The demand for mental wellness offers (e.g., coaching) has increased enormously. The “new” guests spend longer periods of time in destinations. In addition, wellness is combined with different outdoor activities and other general holiday activities (e.g., entertainment, socializing, etc.). The environment of the destination and nature (outdoor wellness) is gaining importance. Back to the origin: The holistic approach is gaining additional attention as well as a return to original methods, traditional rituals and locally produced products with natural ingredients. Natural and local remedies are becoming more important. Especially, but not only in the energy sector, investments have been made or are being planned to increase sustainability. The materials used in wellness facilities, equipment and buildings should feel good to the guest and, as far as possible, come from local resources. They should also be produced in an environmentally friendly way and be beneficial to health.

TREND 2:  Corporate Wellness in Africa

The ongoing pandemic has many companies reconsidering their plans and investment areas for employee wellness in 2022. Companies are working to enhance the employee experience, retain workers and improve their overall health. During the pandemic workers’ livelihoods, perks and benefits have been adversely impacted and workplace wellness is one such area presenting challenges to employers, necessitating shifts in plans for employee wellness. One major challenge is the worsening mental health of employees due to prolonged periods of anxiety, stress, burnout and substance abuse. This is leading employers to explore online resources and digital health solutions. Employers who offer health benefits are placing a keener eye on programs that have wellness built in and selecting insurers who are more responsive in tackling chronic conditions and severe acute illness across the entire workforce. A focus on where and when employees work is now an expected norm; leading companies will be exploring opportunities and challenges faced by their employees working in a hybrid model. As a result of the pandemic, workplace wellness is now viewed as more than physical and mental health; social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, occupational, intellectual and physical aspects are all considerations. Employers will need to ensure that they are providing robust wellness programs that address all these dimensions. More emphasis will be needed on wellness as the lines between work and life become increasingly blurred. The pandemic impacted many people financially and they are yet to recover; financial worries have become a major cause of employee stress. Many employers may want to consider providing tools and resources around financial wellbeing in 2022.

TREND 3: Embracing Good Nutrition for a Healthy Immune System in Africa

Since time immemorial, food has always been the foundation of African culture. From birthdays to weddings, to funerals, where two or more are gathered, there shall be food. Therefore, the story of wellness as Africans is rooted in the food we eat. When we talk of a “diet,” every culture in Africa has unknowingly passed down the knowledge of how to nourish and maintain a healthy family through the food prepared for them. How each meal is prepared and what each item is accompanied with have been the nuggets of wisdom passed down the generations. As every young child sits in the kitchen, listening to the older generation tell them how those before them prepared supper and were taught the “family secret recipe,” what was imprinted into their minds and memories was not simply moments in time, but information on dieting, portions, and balanced meals. The Pandemic has brought back these discussions and almost every single household can attest to a remedy that helped them cope with the flus and of course more recently, COVID -19. African households and families of different cultures understand how these unwritten yet fully understood rules came about, and we are now preserving this knowledge so that we not only continue to pass it down through the ages, but most importantly, preserve the African indigenous food culture that has seen us maintain such healthy and wholesome meals, even in modern times.

TREND 4: Contributing to Climate Change for Carbon Credits in Africa

Africa’s forest cover has continued to decline over the decades, weakening the ability of the continents ecosystems to withstand climate change. Theodore Oben, from Cameroon, the Managing Director of Green Zone International, is on a quest to change this trend. His innovation has launched a carbon offset project that will not only contribute to efforts to combat climate change but will ensure the wellness and wellbeing of the people and communities in which it is implemented. This project will help farmers plant over 3 million trees (80% of them fruit and nut and indigenous trees) in Cameroon, providing farmers with a great social and financial impact from harvests of their fruits and nuts. Part of the carbon credits that will be generated will also be used for community development. This innovation is currently being commenced in Cameroon and Kenya and is set to expand to other countries in Africa.

TREND 5:  Renewable Energy and Clean Cooking in Africa

Inefficient household cooking fuel contributes to premature deaths globally. In Africa, the most affected are women and children since they spend a lot of time cooking for the household. One of the major contributors to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is biomass fuel which includes wood, charcoal, or crop residue. Dr. Linda Davis, is the founder of Giraffe Bioenergy, an organization developing local production of clean, safe and affordable cooking fuel in Africa. Dr. Davis’s innovation addresses clean cooking, thereby contributing to the household wellbeing and the community.

TREND 6: Embracing Digital Platforms to Enhance Food Security in Africa

The science of farming; from texts to mobile phones and digital apps.

In Africa, small holder farmers constitute 50 – 70 percent of the population. Yet, most of this population that is involved in food production is poor. Yvette Ondachi’s, founder of Ojay Greene, innovation in digital technology through a mobile app has been able to move subsistence farming to micro-enterprises. This digital platform is also designed to help agronomists track the quality and quantities of production as they visit the farmers at regular intervals. It enables interaction with small holder farmers by employing a four-fold approach of engaging, educating, equipping and empowering them. This digital platform performs satellite image monitoring and can integrate this data with other endpoints like weather, index, pest alerts and disease control, production yields, market linkage, training preparations and planning. This mobile technology is also able to provide small holder farmers access to profitable markets and earnings that not only improve their livelihood but also their household wellbeing and food security.

Africa has always had its own pace and special uniqueness. We have noticed some typical African trends and asked our wellness experts what they think will be particularly noteworthy for this coming year. Here is what they had to say.


Here we highlight the huge difference between Europe and Africa. In Europe, all the spa staff got furloughed, which meant going back to a usually comfortable family home and getting 80% of your salary paid for by the government. In Africa, it meant going back to the village with no pay and trying to keep alive on the land; this is what it is like for a masseuse in Addis Ababa through lockdown and now partial civil war. Parts of the world have no idea what poverty means and the importance of those jobs that African women get in the spas, feeding whole families often 100 km away. This is not the wellness industry. It is a luxury poor people can’t afford.

TREND 1: Local entrepreneurialism, natural Ingredients and local products

Emmy Stoltz, Head of Spa Distribution, MatsiMela Home Spa, says since COVID, most people want to support small, local businesses, and this has led to a bigger focus on ingredients readily available in Africa, for Africa. “We have always had an extremely abundant offering, and now, more than ever, it makes sense to tap into these. With borders closing and flights limited, the import of products as well as ingredients has become expensive, cumbersome and timely. We have seen a big focus on African “muds” and all their benefits.”

TREND 2: Tapping into our Heritage, rituals and ancient secrets

Africa boasts such a rich, authentic heritage of tradition and culture. So many wonderful stories to be told, authentic African rituals to be shared, and beautiful designs to be shared. Jacoline Wentzel, South African Chapter Chair for SWAA and Spa Design Consultant, expects to see more about African heritage in design, products and ancient rituals coming to the fore.

TREND 3: Community caring, Volunteering – More UBUNTUISM

African people are known for their community-orientated support. SWAA has always promoted UBUNTUISM. SWAA President Elaine Okeke Martin says, “We expect to see more support for communities and a deeper focus on the actual involvement of caring for those who need it. Volunteering and genuine care for others counteract the effects of stress, anger and anxiety. Helping others continues to boosts our overall psychological wellbeing, and we expect to see more of this.”

TREND 4: Energy Healing and Traditional Healers

Returning to your roots, Nthabiseng Shongwe, Operations & Communications Director for Spiral Aloe Health & Wellness, has seen an increase in the services of herbalists, naturalists (Nyangas), and traditional healers (Sangomas), offering support through their practices to individuals both in Africa and abroad. Many ancient healing rituals are bringing people back to their roots and offering a sense of calm and wellbeing during this pandemic.

TREND 5: Holistic self-care touchless treatments and products for Mental Wellness

Online meditations, sound healing, self-massage for facials and stress release, and branded natural products that offer healing properties to reduce stress are trending all over the world, and Africa will be no exception.

TREND 6: Virtual Everything is the new Engagement

From conference to training to shopping to communication to fitness, virtual will be the new way to connect. Having an online presence is not enough. People want to be part of the virtual story. Online virtual training is the hottest trend for schools. Maje Ayida, fitness expert from Nigeria’s Eden Life Style, confirms this and has noted higher engagements when virtual training fitness programs are presented.

TREND 7: African Plant Extracts for therapeutic and healing Herbs

Medicinal plants are gaining respect. Artemisia afra, Aloe ferox, Sutherlandia frutescens, Kiggelaria Africa and Cannabis have long shown to be healing compounds. With more scientifically validated proof, we expect deeper insights and research to yield plant healing breakthroughs from Africa. Molecular docking processes are screening potential bioactive compounds isolated from medicinal plants in South Africa.  

TREND 8: Secluded, self-care, self-catering, self-drive getaway holidays in Nature already

This segment gained a lot of attention post-Covid. They are sure to become a big part of Africa’s offerings in 2021, as people desperately seek to get away but be safe and experience nature’s healing properties too.