Shey You Have Heard Of Shea?

The humble Shea nut tree is native to Africa. The fruit or nut from this tree has been used for thousands of years in Africa as a food source, normally called Shea butter or paste.

It provides a large portion of dietary fat for Africans and is also used for medicinal purposes. Shea butter in Nigeria can be found in markets all over but more so in the northern regions.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on

Shea Butter in the Western World

In the west, Shea is commonly used in cosmetics and to make lotions and soap. In fact, most people in the west have no idea that Shea butter or lotion comes from a tree native to Africa.

Shea products are very popular with Black Americans. The cosmetic and beauty industry in Black America is a 3 Billion dollar business annually.

Shea Butter and Nuts

The business of beauty products is so profitable, and yet there is still room for growth and expansion of market share. In Nigeria, the beauty and health industry is booming. From hair, make-up, dietary supplements – there is huge potential in this sector.

Nigerian’s have a unique opportunity to network and link up with their black counterparts in America and the UK to provide this valuable product – Shea – and profit from it.

Top Shea Producing Countries

The Shea nut tree (Vitellaria Paradoxa) is found growing wild across much of West, Central and East Africa. Nigeria is the largest producer of shea nuts and butter in the world. Little attention is paid to Shea butter in Nigeria, and this sector flies underdeveloped under the radar.


Nigeria leads the pack in Shea production. The production and harvest of Shea butter in Nigeria is labour intensive and is done on small farms scattered across the country. There are few large commercial Shea orchards or farms, an area that seems to be “ripe for the picking”.

Untapped Potential

Nigeria is blessed with so many natural resources – including Shea trees. But a lot of profit is being left on the table. Nigeria only exports 10% of the 350,000 tonnes of nuts that are produced annually.

Nigeria is in a position to satisfy 60% of the world’s demand for Shea products. There is an enormous opportunity for businesses to thrive and profits to be made.

A wild Shea tree in Nigeria

As Nigeria’s economy slowly shifts away from oil, there are other products that can help fill the gaps. Shea butter in Nigeria stands to be one of them – if people step up. Agritech is a booming sector in Africa and the more we bring attention to this part of the economy, the better we will all be.

Make Haste, and Paste

Knowing how much potential this sector has, Shea butter in Nigeria can provide an economic engine for thousands of citizens. We shouldn’t wait for foreign investors to come and exploit our own national resource, we should take the reigns ourselves and develop the production to an international standard.

As global demand grows for Shea products, Nigeria stands at a crossroad that will be able to benefit her and her citizens- will she take the right path?

Roman Kingsley

Journalist based in the United States and Nigeria, focusing on Real Estate Development and the stories emerging in and around the built environment.

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