My brother – the lawyer – owns two impressive dogs; Feddie and Cross.

Feddie, the playful one, is a pure breed Boerboel, one of the best known dog breeds from South Africa. Cross, the tough guy, is a fierce sight to behold. It’s not surprising because he’s a Rottweiler, a German dog breed that is reputed for its tenacity, loyalty and fearlessness.

Although I have always loved dogs since childhood, I have never seriously considered owning one as an adult. I prefer plants and flowers; at least they’re more forgiving if you forget to feed them for a few days. 🙂

But recently, I think my mind is changing and I’ll explain why later in this article. And to prepare myself for a new canine ‘child’, I had a long and interesting conversation with my brother about his dogs – how much it costs to maintain them, as well as the demands on his time, and so on.

The information I gleaned from that conversation provided the inspiration for this article. My research into the pet business in Africa (especially for dogs) reveals a silent but fast-growing multi-million dollar industry that provides a wide range of breeds, pet food and pet-related services.

Make no mistake about it, the business of pets and pet-related products and services is a massive global industry.

Throughout Europe, an estimated 780,000 direct and indirect jobs are generated by pet ownership, such as veterinarians, breeders and connected supply industries. And every year, Europeans spend more than $34 billion on their pets.

In the United States, owners of dogs, cats, fish, birds, horses, reptiles and small animals spend more than $55 billion every year on pet food and pet-related products and services.

In this article, I’ll take a close look at the underlying reasons why the demand for pets (especially dogs) is growing across Africa. I’ll also reveal some of the most interesting business opportunities and niches that are opening up in this young, silent and fast-growing industry.

Like most of my other articles, I’m sure you’ll love this one.

But first, why exactly is the demand for pets growing in Africa?

“There is no smoke without fire.” It’s a popular proverb I hear a lot. And it’s true.

At the heart of every thriving business, market or industry there are certain underlying factors responsible for its growth and success. The pet business in Africa is no different.

In this section, I’ll share with you three key reasons why the business of pets is growing and thriving across the continent.

1) Africa’s large and expanding middle class

Middle- and upper-income individuals and households make up the biggest source of demand for pets in Africa. People and households that comprise this segment are usually modern and educated urban dwellers with more disposable income – hence, they can afford pets.

According to a Deloitte research report, “Africa’s middle class has tripled over the last 30 years, with one in three people now considered to be living above the poverty line – but not among the wealthy. The current trajectory suggests that the African middle class will grow to 1.1 billion by 2060. As African economies continue to grow, the wealth is trickling down and Africa now has the fastest growing middle class in the world.”

As the population and spending power of Africa’s middle class grows, it’s expected that the demand for pets will follow in tandem.

2) A growing demand for private security in urban areas

Insecurity remains a top concern for people who live in Africa’s sprawling urban areas. Every year, cities like Lagos, Jo’burg and Nairobi record a considerable number of muggings, burglaries, robberies and sometimes kidnapping.

For me, I started considering a guard dog after a couple of night robbery incidents in my neighborhood. A human guard is expensive to maintain (due to recurring monthly wages) and there are some privacy concerns that come with having a ‘stranger’ in my home space.

In my opinion, a good guard dog is more effective than an ‘unarmed’ human guard. Dogs don’t need salaries; a fair meal, love, care and a place to lie is all they ask. And for these, they’ll scare off intruders, play with the kids, and stay obedient and loyal to my family for life.

Sounds like a good deal to me. 🙂

3) A fast emerging pet culture

In the evenings, it’s common to see people walking their dogs. Over the past few years there’s been a noticeable increase in the number of people and households that now own some kind of pet. It could be a dog, cat, bird, fish or some small fluffy animal.

The growing influence of Western lifestyles, the effects of ‘urban loneliness’ and the search for unconditional love are just some of the key reasons why more people are seeking animal companionships.

Also, pets — especially the foreign and exquisite varieties — have become a status symbol for people who own them. More people now consider a pet as a cool thing to have.

There is also the impact of the internet and other non-contact communications technologies which are making people more solitary. As lifestyle changes like these continue to take hold across the continent, the demand for animal companions will likely continue to grow.

A VIP Dog Spa in Kenya and the 5-Star Luxury Hotel for Dogs in South Africa

Pet business in Africa - AtFritz

Photo credit: AtFritz, Africa’s first five-star accommodation for canines

In December 2015, Yanic Klue – a young entrepreneur – opened AtFritz; a five-star hotel for dogs in Cape Town, South Africa. This luxury dog hotel has everything a normal ‘human’ 5-star hotel has including: fine dining, an à la carte menu, a concierge service, a spa and even satellite televisions for the dog guests.

AtFritz features rooms with names such as Jurassic Bark, Hollywoof, Pupeye and the Dogald Trump suite. Larger rooms for more glamorous pups include the Platinum Suite, and the Dogald Trump room, which includes a double bed and sofa for guests.

For a night’s stay, prices at this luxury dog hotel range from 250 Rand (about $17) to 500 Rand ($34).

During the last Christmas and New Year’s holidays when a lot of dog owners in Cape Town travelled out of town to celebrate with their families, the hotel was fully booked to its 100-canine capacity. In fact, while separated from their pets, owners can monitor their TV-engrossed dogs via webcam and a smartphone app.

In Nairobi (Kenya), the ‘Very Impawtant Pets (VIP)’ Spa is another interesting business that targets pet owners who want and are willing to pay for special treatments and grooming for their pets.

The VIP Spa provides an interesting and wide range of services including: nail clipping and filing, ear cleaning and hair removal, tear stain lightening, facial tidy up, teeth brushing and mouth wash, anal gland expressing and ‘pawdicures’.

The Top 3 Lucrative Businesses in Africa’s fast growing Pet Market

As you can see, there are already a few interesting niche businesses, like the luxury hotel and VIP spa, that are exploiting the growing market for pet products and services in Africa.

In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the major lucrative areas of Africa’s pet market.

1) Dog breeders are smiling to the bank

Pet business in Africa - dog breeders

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Most African dog owners are not interested in just any kind of dog; they’re demanding for foreign, sophisticated and exquisite breeds. This behavior is hardly surprising as sophisticated dog breeds are widely regarded as a status symbol in many parts of the continent.

There is now a growing demand for a wide range of imported pure breeds especially the Alsatian (popularly known as the ‘German Shepherd’), Boerboel, Rottweiler, Doberman, Lhasa Apso, Bullmastiff, British Bulldog and Labrador.

And these breeds don’t come cheap. A Bullmastiff puppy, for example, sells from $1,000 in places like Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya.

Most breeders import mature parent stocks of these dogs from overseas, breed them and sell the puppies. As long as the mothers are well fed and taken care of, they can litter between 3 and 7 puppies at a time.

While being a dog breeder requires an upfront investment of time, working capital (especially for feeding and medication) and a good understanding of dog breeds and their characteristics, the potential payoff from the breeding business can be huge if you target the right clients.

2) Pet food is a multi-million dollar business opportunity

Pet business in Africa - pet food

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The global market for pet food is valued at more than $65.8 billion and is projected to reach $95.7 by the year 2017 – a positive growth of more than 45 percent.

And in places like South Africa, pet owners spend about 5 billion Rand (over $330 million) to feed their cats, dogs and other pets every year.

In Morocco, which has a cat and dog population of 1.84 million and 0.5 million respectively, sales of pet food products reached US$40.9 million in 2011. Sales are projected to reach US$64m by 2016, making Morocco the largest pet food market in the Middle East and North Africa.

According to the US Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service, Kenya spent $960,000 on pet food imports from the USA in 2010. This figure should have nearly doubled since then.

The same growth trends for pet food are evident in similar fast-growing markets like Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria.

On the African market, there are more than 200 different brands of pet food that target pet owners. But generally, there are three main types of pet food that are available on the market.

According to Barry Hundley, the Executive Director of the Pet Food Industry Association of South Africa, there are the expensive, specialised pet food brands typically sold by vets; then there are grocery brands sold by supermarkets; and non-grocery brands available in a wide variety of outlets and produced by the proliferating “rats and mice” of the industry.

Whether you’re an importer of pet food products from overseas, or you’re a local manufacturer, a wholesaler or retailer, the potential for growth in this market provides a lot of room for new players at all levels of the pet food supply and distribution business.

3) Pet services and accessories are growing really fast

Pet business in Africa - pet services and accessories

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The range of pet-related products and services is quite diverse. Many people treat their pets like their children and, following that logic, most products that people want for themselves, they’ll want for their pets. Just look at recent trends in the industry– organic foods, homeopathic products, luxury accessories — and you’ll easily find they mirror counterparts for human folk.

Apart from traditional products and services like veterinary care, pet toys and pet training, other interesting niches are opening up like the VIP pet spa in Nairobi (Kenya) and the 5-star luxury hotel in Cape Town (South Africa).

There are also several pet services that are quite common in North America and Europe, but haven’t found their footing yet in Africa. Services like pet photography, dog clothing and accessories, dog walking, dog obedience training and pooper-scooper services will be interesting areas to watch.

It’s Africa’s time for pet entrepreneurship!

You don’t have to be a pet lover to see the wide range of business opportunities that are opening up in Africa’s fast-growing pet market.

Due to growing disposable incomes, private security needs and changing demographics and lifestyles, more urban Africans (especially in the middle and upper classes) are seeking animal companionships.

Now is a great time for ‘African-made’ pet food and indigenous products and services to serve the continent’s growing pet market. We need to seize these opportunities while this market is still young, silent and growing.

Where are the pet entrepreneurs?

Let’s go Africa!