A woman shows pots of cream supposed to enhance bottoms in a market in Ivory Coast's Abidjan
Abidjan (AFP) - Some like creams, others pop pills or splash out on padded panties. In Ivory Coast where "big is beautiful" bottom enhancers come in all shapes and sorts, and at any cost.
Emaciated catwalk queens are no role model in this West African nation which a few years ago wiggled its collective derriere to the tune of a smash hit titled Bobaraba -- meaning "big bottom" in a local language.
"You need to have good hips to be dubbed a beauty in Ivory Coast," said a saleswoman named Sarah. "Men like women with a bit of bottom best."
Round is beautiful because it symbolises wealth and health, said political scientist Jean Alabro. It also heralds "happy pregnancies" due to "the crucial role played by buttocks" in deliveries, he said.
At Abidjan's biggest market, Treichville, a shop-owner who gave her name only as Evelyne does a busy trade in "grossifesse" (butt booster) or "botcho" cream. In Ivorian slang, or "nouchi", "botcho" means "vast rear end".
The cream, which pot labels variously say is made of cod-liver oil, honey or shea butter, sells like hotcakes, and a couple of boxes stacked high with the cream lie on the floor waiting to be dispatched to neighbouring Ghana.
"It's my best-seller", said Evelyne, and does far better than her pots of "nice breast" cream or tubes of "bazooka" to "firm up and enhance men's members."
Dozens fly off the shelves a day, she said, despite the fact that at 15,000 to 25,000 CFA francs (23 to 38 euros, $26 - 43) a shot, it remains expensive in a country where annual income was around 100 euros a month in 2014.
- 'Guaranteed results' -
"Not a single customer's come back to complain," she added, saying "you can guarantee a result after 30 days' use."
"It's not like those pills where you puff up and then deflate."
Other "enhancers" sold in more sophisticated packaging are also available at Treichville, mostly imported from English-speaking African nations, notably Nigeria.
Often made from corticoids, they can cause diabetes, high blood pressure or infections that potentially can lead to coma, said Fatima Ly, a dermatologist and venereologist in the Senegalese capital, Dakar.
In that city the miracle pills -- nore often than not counterfeit drugs -- are causing a huge public health problem involving thousands of people every year, she said.
Padded panties and butt boosters on the other hand are less of a liability, and far cheaper at 9,000 CFA francs (13.7 euros) a piece at Kader Camara's store.
"They're relatively new on the market," he said. "In the old days, women used to sew several loin cloths together when they went dancing."
- Spices -
He also has thigh enhancers for women with skinny legs that are known as "pistols" because they slip on and off, he said, mimicking the way a cowboy moves his gun in and out of a holster.
Another technique involves Maggi instant broth cubes, that staple of African cuisine, but as a suppository rather than as food.
In Democratic Republic of Congo, where the practice is thought to have begun, a song has been written about the wonders of instant broth and bottoms.
"Women think it will add volume because it's greasy," said a young woman called Francine, a notion panned by Peggy Diby, a Nestle/Maggi spokeswoman in West Africa.
"The broth is only for cooking," she said of a technique likely used by women on low budgets.
Women with financial means have the option of booty-boosting surgery abroad, and Parisian plastic surgeon Robin Mookherjee, who flies to nearby Dakar every month, claims to have treated "hundreds of women patients" from west Africa, notably from Ivory Coast, for 3,000 to 4,000 euros an operation.
He says that even in 2012, after the Malian city of Timbuktu had come under Islamist attack, he performed surgery on women from the fabled town, more concerned about the legendary butts of Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian or Nicki Minaj, than the jihadist threat.