The Growth of Cosmetic Surgery in Africa

October 07, 2011 at 12:00 am | Lifestyle

Meghan Reid

Meghan Reid

October 07, 2011 at 12:00 am | Lifestyle

In the latest issue of Arise Magazine, Zoe Alsop explores the growing popularity of plastic surgery in African countries.

The African standard of “big is beautiful” is starting to change to a more thin beauty ideal. In countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Sudan and Kenya, more Africans are going under the knife to remove excess fat, breast lift and tummy tuck. Many Africans have been influenced by Western media and this influence includes the shift toward preference for a smaller waistline.

Although the interest is steadily growing, plastic surgery in Africa is still quite uncommon and there is room for more licensed doctors in the field. The article goes on to interview an entrepreneur, Modupe Ozolua, who noticed the growing market in Nigeria and decided to bring American and European surgeons “…to perform cosmetic surgery on the city’s elite, as well as clients from Ghana. But only when there are enough clients to justify the trips.”

In the piece, “Shape Shifters,” Zoe Alsop interviewed a woman who received cosmetic surgery and was happy with her results. According to the article, some doctors welcome this growth while others believe it to be a tool for the money hungry.

As I read the article I was torn between chalking this up as another obsession with Western standards or as just a shift in culture. As much as I would like to believe the latter I have to go with my first instinct. The traditional Western standard that equates beauty to thinness has proven to be unhealthy and often unattainable. Most women are not skinny and this is perfectly fine. This growing interest in cosmetic surgery may create/perpetuate an unhealthy self-image among African people who have traditionally believed that curves are beautiful.

Excerpts from the article:

“South Africa’s Association of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, formed in 1956, now has more than 120 members. Local estimates suggest that surgeons dedicate 40-100% of their practices to cosmetic procedures. It’s the most established industry in Africa, but other countries are slowly catching up.”

‘The market in Nigeria is still too small for cosmetic surgery to be a full-time job for surgeons, a reason Ozolua uses overseas practitioners.’ “There are great reconstructive surgeons [in Nigeria],” says Ozolua, but she admits that because cosmetic surgery requires practice there isn’t enough work in Nigeria to keep doctor’s skills really sharp.”

“Ozolua’s timing could not have been better. Even in Nigeria, where abundant flesh has traditionally been equated to beauty and status, and where some tribes still fatten women up to make them more ‘beautiful,’ women and men increasingly aspire to look more thin.”

“But not everyone is convinced about plastic surgery growth in Nigeria. Dr. Daudu Abubakar Katagum, a pediatric surgeon in Abuja, told BBC News Online that there are more likely to be errors given that plastic surgery is not standard practice in Nigeria. “Practitioners are only doing it for money,” he said. “Since there are no aftercare facilities, there is a real risk of infection in the affected areas after surgery,” he says.

“Africans may want Western waistlines, but it seems they’ll draw the line at Western features, says Dr. Des Fernandes. According to him, black clients would rather enhance what they already have. “People don’t want to change the ethnic quality of their nose, they want to define it,” he says. “I’m not putting a Scandinavian nose on an African face.”

To read the entire article, check out the Spring 2011 issue of Arise Magazine.

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