Harmonise standards enforcement to avoid duplication of roles

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A pharmacist arranges drugs on the shelf.. File.

Editor,

RE: “Parliament okays move to set up food, drugs authority” (The New Times, November 9).

Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are the backbone of Africa’s economy and the Made in Rwanda initiative is a good move to boost our MSMEs. So far the national procurement law has been amended to favour made in Rwanda. Private Sector Federation is organizing a “Made-in-Rwanda Expo” while the annual expo gathers a big number of local MSMEs to expose them to trade partners in the region.

The issue of standardization therefore is the next logical hurdle Rwanda needs to unlock. A number of public institutions have been approved in the last two years to do address this issue.

They are:

1. Rwanda Inspectorate, Competition, and Consumer Protection Authority (RICA), which has the responsibility to check how providers of goods and services conform to standards and handle consumers’ complaints.

2. Rwanda Standards Board has the responsibility to set standards for different kinds of goods and services.

3. Rwanda Food and Drugs Authority will be in charge of processed food and drug items and to ensure they meet minimum standards and whether the ingredients used to produce them are not harmful to health.

4. National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA) is tasked with implementing the national industrial development policy, patent inventions and traditional knowledge in relation to industrial development and promote the trade of research products.

However, there is a need to clarify boundaries on what I see for overlapping institutions’ mandates, which may duplicate efforts and waste public resources. This is especially key to our MSMEs who are the ones to be affected by all these changes.

For instance, I have a small groundnuts processing enterprise with 10 employees. I would need the Rwanda Bureau of Standards mark in order to sell the groundnuts in the local supermarket. RICA will be checking if my products conform to the standards and if anyone raises a complaint, the institution has the mandate to intervene. Rwanda Foods and Drug Authority also has the mandate to check that my groundnuts are safe for consumption while NIRDA needs to support my MSME in groundnuts research that ironically Rwanda Foods and Drugs Authority has to regulate the research.

In addition to the convoluted and confusing process, I would have to pay fees for the services above which is costly. This is a recipe for a frustrated MSME with the government goodwill to create a more conducive environment.

The institution with the key mandate of SMEs should engage the parent Ministry of Commerce, Trade to bring together the institutions, Private Sector Federation, SMEs representative and other stakeholders to address this.

MG