Africa. A land of hot sun and dry earth. It’s known for its inherent dangers, for safaris and diamond hunting and starvation. Africa has found itself on the map for a myriad of different reasons. Cosmetic surgery is not one of them. It’s not hard to discern why.
In comparison to other continents and countries, Africa is considerably lower in terms of wealth and economic prosperity. Which is a major reason why cosmetic surgery hasn’t been prominent. Most countries that have higher rates of plastic surgery are developed and wealthy (e.g. South Korea and the United States). Upper and middle class sectors are on the rise, leaving citizens with more money and luxuries.
But what Africa lacks in money it makes up for in variety of culture. Until recently, plastic surgery hasn’t been part of them. African ideals of beauty have traditionally been converse from those of Western standards. And while the standards don’t always align with one another, it’s clear that bigger has usually been considered better.
Take, for instance, the wife fattening farms in Mauritania. Until recently, overfeeding was absolutely rampant in the country, with a third of the women being force-fed when they were young. In earlier years, being obese was considered a symbol of wealth, and in order to marry, parents sent young women and girls away to be fattened so they might find a suitable husband. The same practice has been known to occur in other countries, like Nigeria.
Now, however, times have changed and only an average of one in ten girls is overfed. A skinnier ideal has taken hold in the more urban areas, though some men in rural towns still believe that fatter women are more beautiful. In general, women in Mauritania today are taking a healthier approach to beauty and tend to eat naturally.
Why? Western standards are spreading.
Throughout the rest of the world, breast implants have proved to be incredibly popular among young women. But in African countries where cosmetic surgery is on the rise (places like Kenya, Rwanda, and Ghana), young adults are actually participating in reductions surgeries. Fat removal has also become popular, along with breast lifts, tummy tucks, and waistline reduction. Western media has certainly done some far-reaching work influencing those of different cultures.
And plastic surgery is expensive, even in a continent that we think is affordable. So those who lack monetary funds but still want to be cut up offer valuable items as collateral. They’ll also go through the process of credit checks to obtain loans to get the money they need for the procedures. Many South Africans go through First Health Insurance (FHI), a company that finances cosmetic surgery, to get special financing.
It would seem, however, that this line is drawn at Western bodies rather than Western faces. Young women may want to have the bodies of American models but insist on defining their facial features rather than downplaying them. Which is in stark contrast to the early ethnic American tendency to mix into the melting pot.
Despite a history void of vanity-based procedures, due to recent popularity there is still plenty of room for qualified surgeons. The demand in Nigeria is too small to support full-time cosmetic practitioners, which is probably in everyone’s best interest, seeing as there are no aftercare facilities. That means higher risk of infection and botched jobs.
However, there are other areas, like South Africa , that are showing immense promise in the field. Cosmetic surgery in South Africa is some of the most affordable in the world. So if you can get past the beats of Die Antwoord, it could be a viable option.
Plenty of surgeons are marketing themselves online in Cape Town and Johannesburg, like Paul Skoll and Mark Steinmann. Their websites are very clean and sterile looking and they appear to be very professional. Among their myriad of other services, Skoll offers labial reductions and mommy make-overs, while Steinmann offers eyelid and vaginal rejuvenation. All four are concerning and I don’t think I need to explain why. Especially the mommy make-over.
But it would be prudent to mention that surgeons don’t always perform with the necessary authority, and many complaints have been filed against doctors that were ‘shady’. It seems that regulation of the market still has a long way to go. And still, regardless of the dangers, it’s still a popular destination for beauty tourism.
After all, who wouldn’t want to have their face cut up and then partake in an African safari? Or better yet, since you’re in Africa of all places, why not pay for liposuction and then go to some of the designer shops nearby? That’s what the other women are doing.
But one has to remember that not all surgery is cosmetically based. As I mentioned previously, plastic surgery was primarily reconstructive. ReSurge Africa is an organization working to establish reconstructive surgery in the western portion of the continent. Many children and adults have deformities due to burns, tropical diseases and birth deformities, so the center set out to rehabilitate those who suffer from such problems. They set up their first center in Ghana are currently working on a partnership with Holy Spirit Hospital in Sierra Leone.
What’s particularly fantastic about ReSurge is that they aren’t an organization that simply houses volunteer surgeons passing through the area. They have a number of staff that stay long term, training to become part of the center and make it successful. And while they have a permanent medical staff, there is always room for medical volunteers, like nurses, plastic surgeons, anesthetists, and therapists.
It’s amazing and refreshing to see centers that are using plastic surgery for good, especially in a continent where Western standards are setting the stage for more vanity.