Research Paper: Reusable Pads Industry in Africa

Africa counts around 350 million girls and women of reproductive age who live with less than $1.90 a day. For women and girls in that population, period poverty is still a significant issue, with comprehensive daily implications. They are unable to afford costly menstrual hygiene products leading to unhealthy period management practices, such as use of rags, feathers, and leaves. They also face strong cultural stigmas and biases relating to menses, which may even result in social exclusion.

Over the past decades, many stakeholders have worked to provide practical solutions to this situation, including governments, international organizations (UNFPA, Unicef, UNHCR, etc.), Non-Governmental Organizations (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Buffett Foundation, etc.), and private companies. Among the large array of privileged solutions, reusable pads appear as a remarkable innovation, representing a healthy and affordable alternative for the millions of women who cannot afford the more traditional disposable sanitary products.

The theme of reusable pads has been widely covered over the past years, through academic research papers, press articles, reports, and analyses. However, these endeavors have mostly focused on the social impact potential of the reusable pads. In contrast, Next Health Accelerator and Noru Capital have elected to approach the topic through business-oriented lenses, broadening the scope and understanding of the subject. As a result, the current research paper intends to complement the existing knowledge body with a business analysis, shedding new light to a widely discussed topic, and providing novel data to analyze, to the ecosystem of stakeholders.

This paper is subdivided into three chapters, each focusing on a specific facet of the reusable pads business in Africa. The first chapter emphases on market dynamics (for both disposable and reusable products) and covers sanitary pads market sizing in Africa, business models, and a few success stories on that industry. The second chapter explores the quality standards of reusable pads on the continent and product certification strategies. Finally, the third chapter discusses growth levers and growth strategies for reusable pads manufacturers in Africa.