Profit-making idea: Production of essential oils in East Africa

Maxima Nsimenta is CEO of Livara, a Ugandan brand that manufactures natural and organic products for hair, skin and body. How we made it in Africa asked her to identify an untapped business opportunity in Africa. This is her response:

“There is huge potential for quality essential oils because they are not widely available south of the Sahara. I have to import many of my raw materials and ingredients from the US or India because of the quality and quantities. This market is ripe and ready and just waiting for us to get serious.

“We import quite a lot of essential oils, yet it is possible to produce locally. We grow flowers in Uganda and Kenya but mainly for export to Amsterdam and Europe. We do not go the extra mile of using parts of these plants to extract essential oils. For example, lavender is a beautiful flower, very rich in oils; we could extract the lavender essential oil. A small bunch of lavender sell for around 15,000 shillings (about $4) in Uganda; however, 20ml of lavender oil will go for around $40.

“There are many local industries that require essential oils. They are used in pastries and drinks, as well as everyday cosmetics such as lotions, creams, hair products and perfumes. Some small-scale industries – like those that manufacture scented candles – also use essential oils.”