Revolutionizing wellness in Nigeria: Meet the pioneers fusing tradition with modern innovation

Revolutionizing wellness in Nigeria: Meet the pioneers fusing tradition with modern innovation

Nigeria’s wellness industry is experiencing a significant transformation, blending modern innovations with rich traditional practices. This burgeoning sector is shaped by pioneers like Karina Karunwi of Ere Wellness, Amanda Iheme of NDIDI, and Ore Lawani of Arami Essentials, each championing a unique facet of health and wellness.


“Our work is reversing generations of pain and broken relationships with self and others,” says Karina Karunwi, whose personal struggles with bulimia and PCOS inspired her to create Ere Wellness. This platform offers Wellness Workshops based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques, covering topics like Leadership, Communication, Mental Health, Team Building, and exploring our relationships with food and exercise. Karina’s workshops and community events have touched the lives of thousands, promoting open conversations on body image, mental health, and leadership.

Amanda Iheme, a clinical psychologist and the founder of NDIDI is another trailblazer in this field. “My interest in understanding how the human mind works inspired me to study clinical psychology,” she explains. Amanda’s practice focuses on integrating culturally relevant mental health services, emphasising the importance of understanding clients’ cultural backgrounds and value systems. By collaborating with NGOs and conducting lectures in public schools and community centres, NDIDI actively promotes mental health awareness across Nigeria.

Meanwhile, Ore Lawani’s Arami Essentials is revolutionising the beauty industry, focusing on natural, ethically sourced skincare products. “We’re all about embracing ‘African modernism’ – marrying the time-tested wisdom of Africa’s beauty traditions with contemporary innovation,” says Ore. Her brand showcases the efficacy of traditional African ingredients and fosters a vibrant community through social media and exclusive programs. 

The increasing demand for wellness services and products in Nigeria is a reflection of a larger trend towards holistic health. Consumers are now actively seeking out services and products that cater to their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. This trend is further bolstered by integrating modern techniques with traditional African practices, creating a unique wellness paradigm that profoundly resonates with the Nigerian population.

Recent research highlights the shift in consumer behaviour towards wellness. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, the global wellness market is estimated to be worth over $1.8 trillion, with an annual growth rate of 5 to 10 percent. In Nigeria, this growth is mirrored by an increasing number of wellness centres, mental health clinics, and natural beauty brands that cater to the population’s diverse needs.

Holistic health and wellness practices are becoming essential in contemporary Nigeria for personal well-being and fostering a supportive and resilient community. The efforts of Karina Karunwi, Amanda Iheme, and Ore Lawani are a testament to the positive impact that dedicated wellness initiatives can have on individuals and society at large. As these leaders continue to innovate and inspire, the future of wellness in Nigeria looks brighter than ever.


Karina Karunwi: Nurturing holistic health with Ere Wellness

Karina Karunwi’s journey into the wellness industry was deeply personal and driven by a desire to fill a significant gap in Nigeria’s wellbeing and mental health sector. As a teenager, Karina struggled with bulimia, an eating disorder that profoundly affected her body image, relationships, confidence, and mental health. “As you can imagine, this affected my body image, relationships with people in my life, confidence and mental health,” Karina shares. Her experiences with bulimia, coupled with managing Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), led her to seek therapy and embark on a path of recovery.

“The response and shared experiences of other women, men, and professionals inspired me to begin to host Body Image & Mental Health Workshops,” 

Inspired by her own journey and the responses she received when sharing her experiences online, Karina began hosting Body Image and mental Health Workshops. These workshops laid the foundation for Ere Wellness, a platform dedicated to holistic health, combining traditional African wellness practices with modern techniques.

How does Ere Wellness blend tradition with modern wellness?

Ere Wellness stands out for its integrative approach to health and well-being. They host Wellness Workshops based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques, covering topics like Leadership, Communication, Mental Health, Team Building, and exploring our relationships with food and exercise. By blending tradition with modern wellness and emphasising community and connection, Ere Wellness reflects the Nigerian culture’s focus on community. In addition to their workshops, they nurture a women’s community and offer Body Image Conversation Cards, promoting open conversations about body image and mental health.


How is Ere Wellness changing lives, and what’s next?

The impact of Ere Wellness extends far beyond individual health benefits. Karina recalls a particularly memorable story of intergenerational healing from one of her workshops. “A young lady shared that thanks to the workshop, she had been able to heal her relationship with her mother,” she says. This instance of reconciliation and healing highlights the profound effect that open conversations and shared experiences can have on individuals and families.

“We foster a community of women who are dedicated to being a better version of themselves every day via open conversations on career development, mental health, body image, sex, and more,” 

Ere Wellness has developed a supportive community of over 2,000 women, with more than 500 participating in online and in-person events. These events, sponsored by companies that value community building, feature industry experts who lead discussions on topics ranging from mental health to career development. 

Overcoming hurdles and celebrating milestones

Despite its success, Ere Wellness has faced significant challenges, particularly in overcoming cultural conservatism and the associated shame in wellness conversations. “Our culture of being conservative to our detriment has been a challenge, as it introduces shame into conversations,” Karina notes. This cultural barrier has sometimes led to resistance and negative feedback, but Karina views these as opportunities to tailor her approach and better serve her community.

A major accomplishment for Ere Wellness was being invited to facilitate wellness workshops for Microsoft in Nairobi, Kenya. “That was definitely a huge milestone for us! It served as additional confirmation that the prioritisation of mental health and wellbeing is rising in Africa,” Karina shares. This recognition underscores the growing importance of wellness in corporate settings and the broader African context.

Looking ahead

“I see wellness practices being more tailored for and more accessible to us as Nigerians, especially Nigerian women, in realistic and sustainable ways,” 

Karina envisions expanding Ere Wellness’s impact on women’s lives and community growth across Africa. She aims to make wellness practices more accessible and tailored to the specific needs of Nigerians.  By continuing to integrate traditional practices with modern techniques and expanding her community outreach, Karina hopes to ensure that wellness becomes a part of everyday life for a broader segment of the population.


Amanda Iheme: Healing through therapy with NDIDI

“In a multicultural environment like Nigeria, we try to understand our clients’ cultural backgrounds and value systems,”

 “My interest in understanding how the human mind works inspired me to study clinical psychology,” Amanda explains. This interest, combined with her own experiences seeking mental health care in Lagos, highlighted a significant gap in the quality and accessibility of mental health services. Realising the need for quality mental health care, Amanda founded NDIDI, a practice dedicated to providing accessible, culturally relevant mental health services to Nigerians.

At NDIDI, Amanda emphasises the importance of integrating culturally relevant practices into mental health services. This approach addresses the positive and negative impacts of cultural backgrounds on well-being. By recognising and incorporating beneficial cultural practices while helping clients change responses to detrimental ones, NDIDI creates personalised treatment plans that resonate with their clients’ lived experiences.

How NDIDI is making a difference in people’s lives

“Since we started seven years ago, we have treated and taken care of people living with mental illnesses such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and neuro-developmental disorders.”

Amanda reflects on the broad impact NDIDI has had on individuals dealing with various mental health disorders. Since its inception, NDIDI has helped people navigate mood disorders, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and neurodevelopmental disorders. “We have helped them navigate transitional phases in their personal and professional lives,” Amanda says. NDIDI’s advocacy for mental health policies in corporate settings further demonstrates its commitment to improving mental health care access and awareness.

“On our social media platforms, we create and share content about mental health care and mental illnesses,”

NDIDI’s community engagement efforts are extensive and impactful. The practice collaborates with NGOs to provide mental health care and awareness in underserved communities. They facilitate lectures in public schools, local government community centres, and spiritual centres, ensuring that mental health education reaches a broad audience. These efforts not only raise awareness but also destigmatise mental health issues, making it easier for people to seek help.

Overcoming challenges and celebrating successes

“It can be tricky sometimes to teach people about seeking health care in an area where they understand ailment to be a result of a spiritual attack,” 

Establishing and growing NDIDI has not been without its challenges. One of the biggest hurdles has been increasing mental health awareness in a country where many still view mental illness as a spiritual issue. Despite these challenges, NDIDI has made significant strides in creating affordable healthcare services and addressing misconceptions about mental health.

Surviving and thriving in the challenging business environment of Nigeria is a notable accomplishment. “Running a business in a country that constantly tries to suffocate you can be exhausting,” Amanda shares. Yet, NDIDI’s resilience and growth are testaments to its success and the dedication of its team.

NDIDI’s role in the future of mental health services in Nigeria

Amanda’s vision for NDIDI is ambitious and inspiring. She dreams of growing NDIDI into a hospital and research centre for psychology and mental health care. In the short term, she aims to expand the team and increase the services offered while maintaining a global standard of excellence in service delivery. 

Since NDIDI’s inception in 2017, significant improvements have been made in Nigeria’s mental health services landscape. The passing of the mental health bill during Buhari’s administration marked a milestone, providing legal protection for both patients and practitioners. “Things are changing, slowly but surely,” Amanda observes. There is also a growing interest in psychology careers, leading to better job prospects for graduates in this field. This positive shift indicates a brighter future for mental health care in Nigeria, driven by pioneers like Amanda, who continue to advocate for change and provide much-needed services.


Ore Lawani: Elevating beauty and wellness with Arami Essentials

Moving from the UK to Nigeria in 2014 was a transformative experience for Ore Lawani. She was struck by the abundance of natural ingredients and the rich history woven into local beauty traditions. “Growing up, my knowledge of this was limited to what I learned from my mum, mainly around shea butter and black soap,” Ore shares. Inspired by these discoveries, she founded Arami Essentials to bridge the gap between traditional African beauty secrets and modern skincare routines. 

“We’re all about embracing ‘African modernism’ – marrying the time-tested wisdom of Africa’s beauty traditions with contemporary innovation,”

Arami Essentials reflects Ore’s personal views on wellness and beauty, emphasising transparency and holistic practices. “Arami is a direct reflection of my evolving perspective on wellness and beauty,” she notes. The brand encourages daily self-care and mindful routines, offering products that align with a conscious lifestyle. By focusing on the quality of ingredients and the overall customer experience, Arami Essentials aims to promote a balanced and healthy approach to beauty.

Changing perceptions by celebrating natural African beauty

Ore Lawani is on a mission to transform how Nigerians perceive natural beauty. “We take these time-tested ingredients and formulate them into high-quality, opulently designed products,” she says. By showcasing the efficacy of traditional African ingredients, Arami Essentials empowers women to embrace their heritage and appreciate the power of natural beauty solutions. “There’s definitely a growing appreciation for natural beauty products in Nigeria,” Ore observes.

“A core value at Arami Essentials is empowering women to embrace their heritage and find simple solutions that work for them in the busyness of life.” 

Community engagement is at the heart of Arami Essentials. Ore has built a vibrant online community through social media platforms and exclusive programs like the Inner Circle and Wander Club. “We actively listen to our community on Instagram through comments, polls, and Q&A sessions,” Ore explains. These initiatives foster a sense of belonging and allow customers to co-create products and share their experiences. Additionally, Arami hosts events focused on self-care and wellness, providing valuable insights and fostering deeper connections.


Overcoming challenges and celebrating milestones with sustainable practices

Educating consumers about traditional African ingredients and their benefits has been a key challenge for Arami Essentials. “There’s still a need to educate consumers about the efficacy and luxury of traditional African ingredients,” Ore admits. Sourcing ethically and sustainably while overcoming packaging challenges has also been a significant hurdle. Despite these obstacles, Arami Essentials has achieved notable milestones, including participation in Visa’s SME campaign and celebrating its 5th anniversary by opening a factory and store. “Building Arami Essentials has been an incredible journey,” Ore reflects.

“We prioritise local ingredients from African farmers and cooperatives, reducing our carbon footprint and empowering local communities,” 

The brand incorporates post-consumer recycled plastic and glass into its packaging and offers innovative refill programs. These efforts not only minimise environmental impact but also promote a circular economy.



Expanding Arami Essentials globally

Ore’s vision for the future of Arami Essentials is ambitious and far-reaching. The brand plans to optimise its website for a global audience, translate it into multiple languages, and partner with established global marketplaces like Amazon. “We believe in creating deeper connections with our customers through pop-ups in key cities around the world,” Ore shares. By exploring strategic partnerships with physical retailers and expanding its e-commerce presence, Arami Essentials aims to bring the power of African beauty to a worldwide audience.

Ore Lawani is elevating beauty and wellness in Nigeria and beyond through her dedication and innovative approach. Arami Essentials stands as a testament to the potential of African beauty brands to compete on the global stage, blending tradition with modernity to create genuinely transformative skincare experiences.

The future of wellness in Nigeria

One of the most compelling aspects of Nigeria’s evolving wellness industry is the integration of traditional and modern practices. This unique Nigerian wellness paradigm blends the rich heritage of African wellness traditions with cutting-edge techniques. “We are looking to the west as the standard less and less, which is refreshing,” Karina observes. By honouring traditional practices while adapting to contemporary needs, wellness pioneers in Nigeria are creating a model that resonates deeply with the local population.

Recent research underscores the importance of this integration. Studies highlight that incorporating traditional practices into modern wellness regimes can enhance their effectiveness and cultural relevance. This approach not only makes wellness practices more accessible but also fosters a sense of cultural pride and continuity.

“I see wellness practices being more tailored for and more accessible to us as Nigerians, especially Nigerian women, in realistic and sustainable ways,” – Karina.

The collective efforts of Karina, Amanda, and Ore are not just transforming the present wellness landscape; they are also inspiring a new generation to prioritise health and wellness. This focus on accessibility and cultural relevance ensures that wellness becomes an integral part of daily life for a broader segment of the population.

Empowerment through health and wellness has broader cultural and societal impacts. By promoting mental health awareness, holistic health practices, and sustainable beauty, these pioneers are fostering a culture of well-being that extends beyond individual health. This cultural shift is evident in the increasing number of wellness centres, mental health clinics, and natural beauty brands emerging across Nigeria.

The broader societal impact of these efforts cannot be overstated. As more Nigerians embrace wellness practices, there is a ripple effect that promotes overall societal well-being. This holistic approach to health improves individual lives and strengthens communities, creating a more resilient and supportive society.


Wellness is all about collective growth

The future of wellness in Nigeria is being profoundly shaped by visionary leaders like Karina Karunwi, Amanda Iheme, and Ore Lawani. Their unwavering dedication to holistic health, mental wellness, and sustainable beauty transforms individual lives and fosters a culture of well-being that resonates throughout Nigerian society.

Karina’s Ere Wellness integrates traditional African practices with modern wellness techniques, providing a comprehensive approach to health. Amanda’s NDIDI is breaking down mental health stigmas and making quality mental health care accessible and culturally relevant. Ore’s Arami Essentials showcases the power of African beauty ingredients while championing sustainability and community engagement.

Together, these pioneers are crafting a unique Nigerian wellness paradigm that blends the wisdom of the past with the innovations of the present. Their efforts inspire a new generation to prioritise health and wellness, creating a ripple effect that strengthens communities and promotes overall societal well-being.

As these leaders continue to innovate and inspire, the wellness industry in Nigeria is poised for unprecedented growth. Their work ensures that wellness practices become accessible, relevant, and integral to the daily lives of all Nigerians. The future of wellness in Nigeria looks brighter than ever, promising a healthier, more vibrant nation where holistic well-being is a shared value and a collective goal.

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