A new project that seeks to promote the quality and standards of locally-made products has been unveiled by the Rwanda Standards Board (RSB). The three-year ‘Zamukana Ubuziranenge’ project is targeting small-and-medium industries.
Under the initiative, small industries will be trained in standardisation and quality assurance to help improve the quality and standards of local products to make them more competitive on the local and regional markets, Raymond Murenzi, the RSB director general, said.
Murenzi added: “The project will focus on empowering small industries, especially those run by women, youth and people with disabilities, because most of them are struggling to meet standards.”
The RSB chief said government will inject Rwf2 billion for a feasibility study of the project that will benchmark capacity needs of the targeted industry to ensure they enhance their production processes and standards.
He said Rwf300 million has been allocated to the project this fiscal year.
Murenzi explained that the project will initially focus on small agro-processors of milk products, meat, vegetables and fruits, as well as honey processing industries, providing supervision and mentorship.
“We are confident that through mentorship and education, the beneficiaries will be able to improve the quality and standards of their products and become more competitive and sustainable,” he said.
Murenzi said many business operators do not know the guidelines for set standards so that they can have their products examined.
“That is why we are planning to send a team of experts that will evaluate the level of standards of products made by the selected industries before the mentorship and training programme starts. This will ensure the products are of quality and meet standards,” he added.
During the exercise, the team will meet with small processors to evaluate the current status of the industry in terms of standards to ensure they meet guidelines.
The operators will then be supported to address any standards-related challenges through capacity building and mentorship so that they can achieve the set benchmarks for the regional market.
“We will discuss with owners of the industries on how they will work with the monitoring and mentorship team during the process to help them solve standards-related issues in their factories,” Murenzi said.
Support firms to acquire quality mark
Meanwhile, small processors are not having their products certified with the ‘S’ mark of quality because they are reluctant to pay the fees required for the process, according to the standards watchdog.
The products of certified firms have the ‘S’ mark to prove that they meet RSB standards. The service costs Rwf230,000 and is renewable after a period of two years. But a lot of small industries are not willing to pay this amount.
“However, they suffer market entry challenges as a result because their products cannot reach or be allowed in bigger markets, which limit their competitiveness and business growth,” he added.
To ease the payment, RSB accepts installments to enable as many firms as possible to acquire the certification mark of quality.
Annicet Muriro, the RSB director of food and agriculture standards unit and the project coordinator, said they will start this month.
“We are optimistic that the project will help remove barriers facing local investors, including quality issues to enable them to expand their market reach.
“We are confident that by the end of the project, the beneficiary firms will have their products certified, helping them to gain consumers trust and also become competitive in local, regional and international market,” he said.
Muriro noted that of the 138 registered small milk processing firms, 71 per cent do not meet standards nor are they certified with an ‘S’ mark of quality. The standards body targets to certify 50 milk processing firms this fiscal year. Presently, only 40 milk processing firms are certified.
RSB also seeks to certify at least 15 out of the 27 registered meat processing industries.
None of the small meat processors is certified, according to the standards watchdog, while 60.6 per cent of the 193 registered vegetable and passion fruit processing firms do not have the ‘S’ mark of quality.
Muriro said only 76 firms meet standards, and RSB plans to help 30 others to qualify for standardization this financial year, 2017/18.
According to RSB, the government subsidises the cost of certification by 70 per cent to support more local entrepreneurs to certify their products and improve their competitiveness in the local, regional and international markets.