Liquid soap. Like many young Ugandans, he picked up the skill to produce it at school, selling soap between terms. He attended a business university and was preparing for a future that entailed running his own company. His dream was to build a big brand.
But when COVID entered Uganda and the country went into lockdown, it meant no university and no business. He could not travel without authorised papers.
No income meant no food.
“It was a real worry for me. We didn’t have the documents to allow us to supply soap to people so easily. So, it really was a difficult time.”
But regulations on handwashing presented him with an opportunity: he could help his community to prevent the spread of COVID.
He would continue to make soap and restrict sales to his village only.
His family worried about him being exposed. His parents struggled with him still being out there supplying soap. He carried on, keeping the bigger picture in mind.
When support organisations arrived to help with water and hygiene, they needed businesses like his that made products for washing and cleaning. He was overjoyed.
With expert help in marketing, production and supply chains, his business thrived. His product was helping prevent COVID from taking lives. It was used in hospitals, shops, schools and homes.
A two-way benefit. For him and his community.
“Whenever I pass through communities and find my soap being used, I feel so grateful.”
His message to those from the outside looking in would be to spread the word. Let everyone in the world know about COVID. Take responsibility. Look for opportunities to do good, like he did with his liquid soap.
lives in Bundibugyo District in western Uganda. He started making liquid soap in secondary school and has not looked back since. COVID presented a massive opportunity to further develop his skills and expand his ‘Cleanup’ soap brand. As an ambitious young entrepreneur, he has every confidence in the future.
Soap is a booming business in Uganda and making it is a skill taught to many youths to encourage entrepreneurship. Soap is exported to nine countries including Canada, Switzerland and surrounding African nations. Exports totalled $12.3 million in 2020.
Bundibugyo District, where Robert lives, is the largest producer of cocoa in Uganda, accounting for unprocessed beans worth UGX150 billion annually. Four of these cocoa producers are his clients and receive 100 litres of soap between them every month.
Before the experts came to help Robert, he produced 100 litres of soap a month. Now that his product has been advertised and stocked in stores, the figure has increased to 600 litres per month.