Rwanda is set to become the first country in the region to test presence of heavy metals in food and water, thanks to new laboratory equipment donated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS), high technology laboratory equipment, to facilitate testing for heavy metal traces, will be handed over to the Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) at the agency office in Kicukiro today.
The equipment is said to be the first of its kind in the East Africa region, positioning Rwanda as a regional hub for testing samples of food, cosmetics and wastewater.
The testing of mercury and arsenic in water samples, which was taking approximately 60 days when sent abroad, will now be completed by RSB within seven days, according to officials.
Since its creation in 2002, RSB has been providing key services to enhance the competitiveness of Rwandan products, fair trade and consumer protection, such as quality assurance through industry inspection and testing, according to officials.
The testing equipment to be used to assess the purity of Rwanda’s key export products was funded by USAID, through TradeMark East Africa (TMEA).
In a statement, Raymond Murenzi, acting director-general of RSB, said exports are critical to reducing Rwanda’s trade deficit, yet until recently RSB had limited capacity to test products for micronutrients and heavy metal traces.
“Testing for heavy metal traces was taking approximately 60 days when sent abroad, causing significant delays in the supply chain, and increasing the costs of exports. Now, the testing will be completed by RSB within seven days,” he said.
In June 2014, Rwanda was added to the list of countries allowed to export honey to the European Union.
The equipment will facilitate regular testing of heavy metals in honey.
USAID mission director Marcia Musisi-Nkambwe said: “This event highlights USAID’s contribution to Rwanda’s efforts to increase trade by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of product testing in order to reduce testing costs and ultimately improve Rwanda’s export competitiveness.”
Trademark East Africa country director Patience Mutesi expressed optimism that the equipment will facilitate regular testing of heavy metals in honey, thus helping businesses increase their competitiveness and access to new markets.
The provision of this testing equipment is part of a larger partnership between USAID and TMEA that aims to increase trade through the reduction of trade barriers and enhance the competitiveness of Rwandan products and firms.