The answer to Africa’s malaria epidemic and consequently other mosquito related crisis could be put to an end by a bar of soap, at least that is what two young African creatives think.
With a goal of fighting malaria, two former students Moctar Dembélé of Burkina Faso and Gérard Niyondiko of Burundi invented a life-saving solution that could save Africa from the mosquito menace.
Their invention, Faso Soap, is a malaria-fighting soap which they created using locally sourced products including lemongrass, shea butter, and other insect-repelling herbs that remain a secret. According to the entrepreneurs, they chose soap because of its effectiveness and usability. The two did not want to introduce a new behavior to the users hence a soap fit perfectly into their plan.
The team has been working on the project since 2013 when they first came into the limelight after winning $25,000 Grand Prize in the Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC). GSVC which was launched by Berkeley MBA students is a global competition, designed to help budding entrepreneurs to transform their ideas into businesses that will have a positive social impact. The project emerged on top after beating 650 other competitors from nearly 40 countries to become the first Africans as well as the first non-Americans team to win the award.
After winning, Niyondiko explained to CNN about the product and the reasons they decided on working with a soap: “In our country the majority of the population lives below the poverty line,” Niyondiko said, “so we thought of a repellent and larvicidal mosquito soap which will be accessible and affordable to the majority of the population, seeing that soap is a commodity product and especially not going to add other additional costs to the population.”
In a bid to raise enough capital to support product testing and development, through a partnership with a Stanford graduate and a social entrepreneur, they launched '100,000 Lives' a crowdfunding campaign aimed at raising $113,000. Already, the target has been partially met.
The developers hope to have the soap ready for the market by 2018, when all the clinical testing will have been done, to prove its safety and effectiveness before it can be distributed to the public. The funds will also be used for product development.
“Our goal is that our soap is widely distributed to reach the largest possible number in sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the world affected by malaria.”
How it works
The team says that after bathing, the soap leaves on the skin a scent that repels mosquitoes. Moreover, the waste water products (after using the soap) contain substances that prevent the development of mosquito larvae.
With water sanitation problems in Africa, this could be the answer to the gaping water ditches and open drainage systems that act as breeding ground for the insects.
Although Africa is making great progress in fighting Malaria, a disease that is widespread in the continent, a new development that could make the fight easier and faster is always welcome.
In April, the World Health Organization announced that at least six countries: Algeria, Botswana, Cape Verde, Comoros, South Africa, and Swaziland could be free of Malaria by 2020.
Malaria still remains a major threat in Africa with 9 out of ten deaths from Malaria in 2015 being from Sub-Saharan Africa. In May 2015, the World Health Assembly endorsed a new Global Technical Strategy for Malaria. The strategy includes ambitious goals for malaria control and elimination in the next 15-year period.
The team hopes that the soap “will fulfill the desire of the population to be clean, as well as protect them from malaria, without any additional cost to them.”
Let’s wait in hope that the soap turns out to be the solution to mosquito menace which has now brought about the Zika virus, known for causing microcephaly and other neurological disorders.
Image credit: Faso Soap