my soap dish says happy new year!

my soap dish says happy new year!

AS the old year ended a focus point to aid one of my personal actions in 2019 – what some people refer to as a ‘New Year’s Resolution’ – showed up in my soap dish.

I won’t go into the reasons why I make use of a lot of soap, but believe me when I say it is a crucial item for me wherever I go and I tend to develop near-personal relationships with these inanimate objects.

I have learnt how to stick to a brand for years on end.

A long time ago I made a decision to drop the brand of soap I had gotten stuck to and opted for any Ugandan soap. I went from brand to brand and just couldn’t find the right one for my ablutions.

One day I even found myself placing an order for a regular supply of some green cakes from Katosi Primary School, where the pupils had been taught how to manufacture it using avocado and herbs. Their offerings were so smooth and aromatic that I bought up way too many pieces and two months later was regretfully throwing them out as they had disintegrated into an indescribable mush.

That’s one thing about making this life-changing (for others, not oneself) decision to steadfastly support Ugandan-made products – I have learnt to insist on high quality products that can replace the imported ones that take the money we spend to other countries.

So imagine my pleasure, some months ago, at discovering the ‘Body Milk’ product by Movit! The very next day I was back at the supermarket stocking up on this soap and I have never looked back – even when the cost went up from Ushs2,200 to Ushs2,500.

Image from http://www.movit.co.ug (which I am sure they will NOT complain about!)

It got to the point that I always bought an extra cake during any supermarket visit even if I’d walked in to buy a pack of breath mints, just to ensure that I had a reliable domestic supply should a sudden shortage occur.

Which brings me to the soap dish that startled me into what one could call a ‘Resolution’.

At one point late last year I stopped finding Movit Body Milk on the shelves of the supermarkets I visited. After many trips I started noticing a foreign brand of soap – bigger in size than my favourite Movit Body Milk – was suddenly available at a discounted price of Ushs6,500 for a pack of three.

I succumbed and bought up a pack, then got so taken by it that whenever I went searching for Movit Body MIlk I emerged with this new brand of soap. This went on for a couple of weeks till I checked my values and rebuked myself.

I went further and further until, in a district very far removed from my normal operating zone, I found the right soap and picked up enough to last most of this month.

The allure and shine of the intruder brand is still with me, as is its scent since it sits wet next to my Movit Body Milk, but my resolve is stronger.

It might have been a coincidence that my Made-In-Uganda Movit went scarce just as this foreign soap made it’s promotional appearance, but suppose there was a sinister plan afoot here? Wouldn’t that be plain economic sabotage on a national scale? I think so.

How many Movit employees’ jobs would be at risk if we all stopped buying their products? How much would the government lose in PAYE and other Taxes? What would our future look like if all these employees’ pension fund savings suddenly stopped?

If we let the likes of Movit disappear from the supermarket shelves, and our soap dishes, how will our children ever know that Ugandans can make good quality products? If we don’t create, develop, support and buy more and more Ugandan products than the imported ones, how will we motivate our children and grandchildren to invent and innovate?

Hence my 2019 action plan entry this year – to further promote Ugandan products and Uganda at every turn and corner, with a specific objective of giving at least fifty (50) products some good visibility within these borders and abroad.

If we all do this and also put our money where our mouths are, I honestly believe we will have a bigger, more promising economy to hand down to the next generation, and much more reason to declare things like: Happy New Year!

get me a soap manufacturer closer to home, please?!


Image

 

This bottle (pictured above) is related to one of my life-changing decisions this year.

When I was buying it last year it seemed to make sense to me because: a) it was blue in colour b) it carried the words “For Men”.

But even as I picked it off the shelf of City Joy supermarket in Mbuya, I was ruing the absence of a home-made brand that I could use, and felt bad that the Ushs6,000+ I was spending was mostly going to Turkey rather than to a soap manufacturer right here in Kampala, or perhaps in Hoima or Kotido, who might end up spending some of it to send SMS messages using SMS Media or something close to me.

Which is why I am stepping back a little bit to assess more of what the marketing people have gotten us to do with our money, and find ways of changing that for our benefit.

The only things about my bottle of soap, for instance, that claims to be “For Men” are: a) it is blue in colour b) it carries the words “For Men”.

Reading the rest of the text on the back of the bottle and employing the venerable services of Google Search and its cousins Wikipedia et al gave me no indication whatsoever that it would be risky or unsuitable for women, girls or boys to use this product.

“Xtraa Care Body Wash is a combination of effective active ingredients with extracts of Seaweed revives your skin as you shower. It helps to maintain and restore the skin’s natural moisture balance.” reads the top of the paper on the back.

First of all, the damn product’s name is mis-spelt – which irritates me. Then, to my alarm, the grammar is suspect – like you find on those boxes of those shrill sounding toys made in the Far East and sold in supermarkets in Uganda.

“It helps to maintain and restore the skin’s natural moisture balance. A gentle formula to leave you feeling clean and relaxed.”

I haven’t tried bathing with Omo or Nomi or Jireh but I suspect that if I did they would leave me feeling clean and relaxed, as I have noticed over the last thirty-something years tends to happen after I bathe – even when I used to bathe using what we used to call ‘washing soap’.

If the manufacturers of ‘Kisumuluzo’ soap (is it still there?) could write anywhere that it was “a gentle formula to leave you feeling clean and relaxed”, would that be untrue?

Skipping the section of that paper that contained ‘Directions’, because I felt I would have been insulting myself by reading instructions for how to use soap, I went straight to the ingredients:

“Aqua” – this is either actual water or a colour-addition to make the soap light greenish blue in colour, and many sites explain that manufacturers of liquid soap actually mean ‘water’ when they write ‘Aqua’ on the bottle. #ThatIsAll

Sodium Laureth Sulfate” – according to Wikipedia, “an anionic detergent and surfactant found in many personal care products (soaps, shampoos, toothpaste etc.). SLES is an inexpensive and very effective foaming agent… (it is a) surfactant used in many cosmetic products for (its) cleansing and emulsifying properties. (It) behaves similarly to soap.” Basically, it makes the soap foam or bubble up when you mix it with water.

Cocamide DEA” – again, Wikipedia tells us, “It is a viscous liquid and is used as a foaming agent in bath products like shampoos and hand soaps…” It makes the soap foam up or create bubbles when mixed up with water.

Cocamidopropyl Betaine” – same as immediately above. Seriously, it is “used as a foam booster in shampoos” and “to a significant degree has replaced cocamide DEA”, Wikipedia says.

There are thirteen (13) more ingredients and not enough time to google them all for the purpose that brought us here. There is also no indication of the amounts of each and the mixture made.

But let’s note that one of them is “Parfum” which is simply “perfume”. I have even less time left now for this.

Because of the quantities of all the ingredients involved, it is likely that the most expensive thing about this bottle of liquid soap is the combination of the bottle packaging, the label and the glue used to stick the labels on.

If one of these people making soap in garages in Kampala could get their packaging right, they could make us spend Ushs6,000 on 500ml of soap that is “Active” and “For Men”.

Or “For Women”. Or “For Children”. Or “For Married Couples”.

Of course, the same company probably makes other soaps “For Women”, and enough varieties of those that it is not afraid of restricting this particular bottle to only “Men”.

Technically speaking, they are not lying or misleading us when they label the bottle “For Men”, because they haven’t said it’s “Not For Women” or given us any caveats on other genders washing with this soap. 

But does this soap even contain all these ingredients? We have to believe that it does – see, it’s “Mfd by Sera Cosmetics Inc, Turkey. Made in Turkey For RAA Ltd. P.O. BOX No 3355-00506, Nairobi, Kenya.”

A quick internet search of RAA Ltd. wasn’t very useful, as their Facebook Page is only a suggestion page (I think created automatically by Facebook using some web search method) with 9 Likes, and whereas the online Yellow Pages of Kenya lists them it isn’t very revealing.

Does it contain a stamp from the Uganda National Bureau of Standards? No – even though we DO have a standards on toilet soap called “US EAS 186: 2011, Toilet soap – Specification.

So we don’t really know whether it is even genuine soap or not, or whether the mixture of the above chemicals (ingredients) is safe for our use or not? No – we don’t.

Again, therefore, if one of these people making soap in garages in Kampala could get their packaging right, they could make us spend Ushs6,000 on 500ml of soap that is “Active” and “For Men”.

So, stressing my position now: I am looking for a Ugandan soap manufacturer. Any suggestions? Just get me one who has worked out packaging, a good brand name, and the right spellings and grammar on their labelling and marketing materials.

In fact, I can help with the spellings and grammar, and may even overlook it more than I did this Turkish bottle.

Mind you, I bathe A LOT and most of us need to bathe even more than we already do, so the opportunities available here are MASSIVE and we should be serious about this!