President Zuma said pets were un-African. Months later, the numbers will break his heart

South Africans spend nearly $470m each year on pet foods; the market is growing in Senegal, Morocco, Nigeria, Ghana; and Kenya has a dog spa.

SOUTH AFRICA President Jacob Zuma kicked up quite a storm last December, when he reportedly said in a speech  that spending money to buy a dog and taking it to the vet and for walks, belonged to “white” culture. 

Zuma was understood to be suggesting it was not something true and smart Africans did  —and presumably white people were wasteful when they splashed money on pets.

Amidst criticism of reverse racism, he was not apologetic. His office later issued a statement in which it explained that Zuma was only trying to “decolonise the African mind” with his statements.

Well, pet populations all over the world are on the increase, and it’s no different in Africa where “pet culture” is taking root. A host of industries are also developing along with it. Gone are the days when dogs were kept simply for security, when foreigners assumed a pet in Africa was a domesticated wild animal and when “cat” referred to a lion and “dog” referred to a Wild Dog. Today Africans all over the continent are doling out big bucks for specific breeds, specialised foods and care services. 

Pet food sales grow

Data from the US pet food export market says that the global market for pet food is growing rapidly as pet populations around the world boom and demand for prepared dog and cat food replaces non-prepared food. The notable US market share from Africa includes; South Africa at 1-20%, Senegal at 1-20%, Morocco at 1-20%, Nigeria at 20-40% and Ghana at 20-40%. 

In comparison to the rest of these countries South Africa has the most developed pet culture and pet industries. According to the Pet Food Industry Association, South Africans are spending almost $470m each year to feed their pets - pet food manufacturers say they have barely scratched the surface. Only about 20% of the country’s dogs and 35% of its cats are fed the almost 200 brands of pet food available - the growth potential is staggering. 

Throughout Europe, an estimated 550,000 direct and indirect jobs are generated by pet ownership. Positions such as veterinarians, breeders or connected supply industries and the pet food industry and related services represent a combined annual turnover of over $31bn. 

A big reason for this exponential growth can be put down to a huge range of new products and foods available to pet owners.

The Morocco story

As people become richer, and sometimes when families grow smaller, people become more willing to spend extra money to keep pets happy and healthy. The same trend is evident in Africa where a burgeoning middle and upper class has seen disposable income and desire to increasingly seek out companions at any price rise. 

In Morocco the pet population rose substantially between 2006 and 2011. This is partly attributable to “increasingly Westernised lifestyles and a growing presence of European expatriates” as well as higher incomes that allowed households to afford pets, pet food and other pet care expenses.” 

The most popular pets are cats and dogs which number 1.84m and 479,000, respectively. This surge has buoyed Morocco’s pet food market which is now one of the largest in the Middle East and North Africa region, second only to Israel, and continues to post rapid growth. According to Euromonitor, sales of pet food products rose by 10.6% between 2010 and 2011 to reach US$40.9m. Sales are projected to reach US$50m in 2013, and US$64m by 2016. 

Nigeria dog magazine, Kenya pet spa

In Nigeria the love of dogs is evident - the country even has an upmarket magazine for dog-lovers. But Nigerians aren’t after just any dog - they are a status symbol so there is an obsession with dog breeds and dog breeders are vying for clients, selling pure breeds of an incredible variety of different imported species such as the Boerboel, Rottweiler, Lhasa Apso, Alsatian, Bullmastiff, British Bulldog and Labrador. They are not cheap - a bullmastiff puppy can go for up to $1,000.

Ghana is another country that clearly loves dogs and, like Nigeria, there is a lucrative dog-breeding industry. It is home to the West African Kennel Club, has a website dedicated to the country’s pets and even has a national pet show every year aimed at whipping up the interest, awareness creation and the consciousness of the public in pet care and bringing to the fore the potentials of the pet industry. 

In Kenya dog owners love their furry friends so much that a market for a pet spa developed. The “Very Impawtant Pets Spa” offers clients a variety of treatments - such as show cuts, anal gland expressing and teeth brushing statistics. But this is not the only industry making money off pets - the US Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service reports that Kenya’s small pet food market has grown 27% from 2006-2010. The report stated that Kenya’s pet food imports totalled about US$960,000 in 2010. 

So while man’s best friend can bring many benefits into a person’s life, the economic benefits are clearly there too - getting a pet is not just a personal service, if the country is able to develop the relevant industries surrounding pets, it can be a national service too. Zuma will be dismayed.



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