COVID-19 is accelerating the emergence of a health and wellness conscious consumer in Africa

Baby Boomers are more health and wellness conscious than Gen Z but that's not the whole story


  • Urbanization is posing health and wellness challenges for consumers

  • In Cameroon, Baby Boomers are more health and wellness conscious than Gen Z

  • There is an emerging health and wellness segment for African brands


Urbanization is posing health and wellness challenges for consumers


Currently, 55% of the worlds’ population lives in urban areas. Projections show that urbanization, the gradual shift in residence of the human population from rural to urban areas, combined with the overall growth of the world’s population could add another 2.5 billion people to urban areas by 2050, with close to 90% of this increase taking place in Asia and Africa, according to the United Nations. Though urbanization has contributed to the economic growth of various continents, it came with its own challenges. This has been seen with increased poverty, environmental degradation, and health problems like Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) across the world. These NCDs include cardiovascular disease [CVD], diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory diseases. In 2019, NCDs accounted for two-thirds of 53 million global deaths, killing more people than all other causes combined. According to WHO, NCDs kill, on average, 38 million people each year with CVDs (17.5 million), cancers (8.2 million), respiratory diseases (4 million), and diabetes (1.5 million), accounting for 82% of all NCD deaths.


Africa’s NCD burden has been attributed to several factors including aging, rapid unplanned urbanization, and industrialization, increasing food market globalization, and the adoption of unhealthy lifestyle behaviors. Tobacco consumption, sedentary lifestyles characterized by physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol, and unhealthy diets high in saturated fats, sugars and salt increase the risk of dying from NCDs. These risk factors are not only particular to the older age groups; they affect all age groups, increasing their vulnerability to NCDs. In Cameroon, 57.6% of the population currently live in urban areas. Rapid urbanization and a transition from agrarian life to the wage-earning economy of city life have fueled a negative impact on health behaviors. These socio-economic changes have exposed Cameroon to the double burden of infectious and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The increasing urbanization in Cameroon and the swift adoption of a Western lifestyle by Cameroonians are compounding the already increasing burden of NCDs.


According to the Kasi Health & Wellness Index, is a semi-annual benchmark that aims to measure the Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) related risk factors in Africa’s urban cities by tracking people’s opinion about their health, lifestyle habits (healthy and unhealthy), and also medical care. A Health & Wellness Index ranges from 0 to 100 and a score between 70-100 means that consumers are very health and wellness conscious. Their health & wellness is adequate because they feel they get good health care; they have more healthy habits (a balanced diet, exercising) than unhealthy ones (drinking alcohol or smoking). An index of 45-60 means that consumers are somehow health and wellness conscious. They feel that they get average medical care and have equally healthy and unhealthy habits. An index below 40 means that consumers are not health and wellness conscious. They feel that they get poor medical care and have more unhealthy habits than healthy habits.


In Cameroon, Baby Boomers Are More Health & Wellness Conscious Than Gen Z


The Health and Wellness tracker by Kasi Insights surveyed over 3000 adult Cameroonians from 2017 to 2021. The tracker is covering consumer opinions in more than 7 markets including Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, South Africa. Based on our findings, consumers in Cameroon are the least health and wellness conscious. Consumers in South Africa scored the highest (60) followed by Ghanaians and Kenyans at 50. Consumer health and wellness in Cameroon ranges between 33 and 37 between 2017 and 2021. Further analysis on the age groups in Cameroon highlighted several unexpected insights. According to Kasi Insight, there are four adult age groups which include Baby Boomers (i.e., people aged between 45-54 years), Gen X (i.e., people aged between 35-44 years), Millennials (i.e., people aged between 25-34 years) and Gen Z (i.e., people aged between 18-24 years). Young people tend to be healthier but the survey shows that they are not health and wellness conscious. In Cameroon, older people are better at taking care of themselves and hence have better health and wellness scores.


From 2017 to 2021, Baby Boomers' health and wellness scores ranged from 31 in 2018 to 46 in 2019 before dropping to 34 in 2021. The Gen Z health and wellness score ranged from 32 to 40 during the same period reaching a high of 40 in 2018. COVID-19 has worsened the health and well-being of Baby Boomers to a significant extent compared to Gen Z, their score dropping from 46 in 2019 to 34 in 2021. For Gen Z, COVID-19 had less of an impact on the health and well-being staying flat between 2019 and 2021. This finding is probably explained by the fact that COVID-19 symptoms are less severe for younger people. Additionally, older populations have a higher percentage of people suffering from diabetes, hypertension, or cancers.


An emerging health and wellness segment for African brands


Consumers are increasingly concerned about their well-being and COVID-19 has accelerated that trend for the segment of the consumers with higher purchasing power (Baby Boomers, Millennials). Health and well-being are intimately connected with products and services people use every day. The index captures what consumers drink (alcohol vs non-alcohol), eat (fruits and vegetable