Skin-lightening products are being removed from shop shelves in Rwanda following a government ban.
The creams and soaps, whose sales in Africa are worth billions every year, were banned on November 2018. Since the ban came into effect, thousands of bottles have been seized from shop shelves in a government-led crackdown.
Responding to concerns raised by a Rwandese national on twitter regarding the state of bleaching in Rwanda, President Paul Kagame urged the nation’s ministry of health to take action immediately.
“I think @rwandastandards and @RwandaHealth should start a campaign against skin bleaching, a BIG one because this is getting out of hand!” wrote the user, to which President Kagame responded by stating “quite unhealthy among other things. Includes use of prohibited chemicals. MoH and RNP need to reign this in very quickly…”
African countries like Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa also have prohibitive laws, but like Rwanda, they struggle to come between willing buyers and smugglers operating in a global industry worth billions of dollars.
“We are now putting much effort, like educating people, going around and seizing those illegal products, so we are also joining those countries who are also in this fight of the use of those illegal sick lightening cosmetics,“said Director of Cancer unit Ministry of Health, Francois Uwinkindi.
The World Health Organization estimates that at least four in every 10 African women bleach their skin.