The University of East Asia (President: Koji Kushida), in cooperation with the Association of African Economic and Development Japan (AFRECO) (President: Tetsuro Yano), announced on August 22, in cooperation with the University of Monastir in Tunisia and with the aim of developing human resources and creating a new industry in Tunisia, that they have developed locally manufacturable toiletry products, using materials native to Tunisia, that will improve the sanitary environment. A press conference was held on August 26th in Tunisia to announce the products in conjunction with the Eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 8), which was also held in Tunisia.
The two universities signed an inter-university academic exchange agreement in June 2021, which was triggered by joint online classes with the University of Monastir that were led by Associate Professor Ryuen Hiramatsu of the University of East Asia. Associate Professor Hiramatsu, Professor Mohamed Hachana, and students from both universities, through joint online classes that are held in English, have been working on the development of products related to hand washing and hand disinfection in Africa.
Through the development and manufacturing of these products, they are trying to improve the situation of physical inaccessibility to healthcare services in Tunisia, improving social habits such as handwashing for disease prevention, and taking on the challenge of achieving universal health coverage (UHC). Entrepreneurship education is also being provided to the students at both universities, who are aiming to start a business related to the manufacture and sale of the products by students.
To prepare for general sales, within the fiscal year they will select a factory to commission the production of the soap and other products that they developed.
Associate Professor Hiramatsu said, "Until now we have been conducting the joint classes online, partly because of the difficulty of traveling abroad due to COVID-19. It depends on the situation with COVID-19 in the future, but we hope to further promote this project by utilizing the framework of an exchange program, etc., so that the students can travel back and forth between the universities."
The prototype that was presented at the press conference is a single use-type, unlike the products that have been developed so far, and is intended for maintaining hygiene. The main ingredient in the soap is olive oil (Tunisia is one of the world's leading producers of olive oil), which is then blended with precious natural essential oils and other materials. In anticipation of the soap being used by children, it is designed to be less irritating to the skin, to be safe even if it is ingested, and to quickly decompose even if it flows out from sewers into rivers or the sea. With an eye on international palm oil problems, they are also considering methods for how to extract and blend date oil produced in Tunisia.
Going forward, the products that were developed will be sold not only in Japan but also in Tunisia through entrepreneurship via the students and others, which will lead to the creation of a new local industry. Amidst a trend of rising prices for toiletry products due to the soaring international prices for raw materials, they are aiming to realize a fair-trade system with Tunisia, which produces the primary raw materials for the products. The profits from sales will be used to distribute the products free of charge at refugee camps in Africa.
This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd.(https://sci-news.co.jp/). Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.