Nivea has become embroiled in a racism row after unveiling a controversial advert in several African countries for a cream that claims to "visibly lighten" women's skin colour.

The German beauty brand is advertising its new Natural Fairness moisturiser to women living in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Senegal. Billboards show former Miss Nigeria Omowunmi Akinnifesi using the moisturiser to lighten her skin.

The brand, which is owned by German skin care company Beiersdorf Global AG, has also produced a TV advert for the product that shows a black model's skin becoming lighter after she applies the cream.

The skin lightening cream has sparked outrage on social media, with people calling on Nivea to remove the billboards immediately.

One woman wrote on Twitter: "This is not how to market in Africa. We didn't want 'FAIRER SKIN' thank you."

Another commented: "This Billboard message is nonsense. Who told Nivea black women asked for fairer skin?"

Fuse ODG, a British hip hop artist of Ghanaian descent, criticised the campaign and said the billboards should be taken down.

"Kindly take down these billboards you have placed all over our beloved countries in Africa," he said. "I saw this one with my own eyes today in Ghana and we love our complexion the way it is. And if you don't take these down. We will. Every African everywhere should stop buying any Nivea product. Tag the Nivea branch from your country so they understand how foolish this is!"

Nivea's advert appeared just a week after beauty brand Dove apologised for an advert that was widely condemned as being racist. The controversial advert showed a black model taking off her t-shirt and turning into a white woman. After Dove was accused of "tone deafness" and "racism", the company apologised.

"An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of colour thoughtfully," a company statement said. "We deeply regret the offence it caused."