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07 Apr, 2020

The Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) proved its maturity this month by producing liquid soaps and sanitizers which will not only reduce the annual P522million soap imports but will also help in the containment of COVID-19 virus.

BIUST Spokesperson, Keoagile Rafifing confirmed that the soap is ready for the market. He said the approached their strategic partner, LEA to provide them with much-needed production equipment so that they produce enough for the market. 

The production is expected to save the country over P520million in soap production. BIUST will engage BOBS to certify the products.

Rafifing said they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Morupule Coal Mine last year, BIUST helped the mine by training their surveyors. And this time BIUST approached mine management about the serious shortage of sanitizers since the outbreak of COVID-19 virus and expressed its readiness and capacity to produce sanitizers.

The Colliery management agreed to go into partner with BIUST, “We then agreed to produce the sanitizers and use the opportunity to give back to the community surrounding our institutions, which means that upon producing the sanitizers we shall avail them for free of charge to villages around Palapye up to Serowe. Our aim is to place such sanitizers in places such as Kgotla and all other important places”.

The sanitizers are produced according to World Health Organisation specifications and standards and samples have since been sent to BOBS for certification, Rafifing confirmed.

The soap chemical analysis was subcontracted by BOBS to Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). According to chemical analysis BIUST bar soap is safe for use for general bathing purpose. The patenting of the soap will ultimately be secured in line with international compliance standards. Once the soap is in use in Botswana will realise dream of transformation from a resource based to a knowledge economy through beneficiation of locally sourced raw materials.

The production is the initiative of the Department of Chemical, Materials and Metallurgical Engineering.The department trained the first group of Chemical Engineering students on soap manufacturing and five students successfully designed a 146 kilo tons per year Saponification/soap producing plant,

The department’s position is that over the years Botswana has been heavily reliant on imports to supply its household and industrial soaps needs. The high import bill of P522million in 2014 for soap and related products can easily attest to this.

The BIUST SOAP idea was conceptualised as far back as 2017 before COVID-19 could strike causing dire shortage of soap and sanitizers in its wake.
In most cases, tallow and waste cooking oil (WCO) products used in the production of soap are disposed carelessly in the environment. WCO can cause blockage of sewerage pipes and destruction of aquatic life by acceleration of eutrophication, says the department. Using tallow and waste cooking oil for soap production would address the dual purpose of the waste management and economic beneficiation.

The “BIUST SOAP” unique as it uses local waste materials and indigenous plants for fragrances and other healthy benefits.

All the BIUST products are under the supervision of Deputy Vice Chancellor – Research, Development and Innovation, Professor Joseph Chuma.