Made-in-Rwanda products will now find it easier to enter and compete in the international market following the accreditation of Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) food safety certification schemes by Dutch Accreditation Council (RVA), an internationally recognised standards accreditation body. The New Times’ had a one-on-one with Murenzi Raymond the Director General of RSB on the acquired accreditation, its importance and impact on manufacturers and consumers in Rwanda. According Murenzi, RSB received the accreditation to attest the competence in carrying out certification for Hazard Analysis and Crititcal Control Points (HACCP) and Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS or ISO 22000) last year, on October 26th, 2017. This achievement was a result of a process, delivered through support by Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA), and project technically managed by the British Standards Institution (BSI). Rwanda Standards Board is now accredited to carry out certification HACCP and FSMS, or ISO 22000. “Despite the fact that we were certifying companies in Rwanda, it was important that we get that accreditation from a very recognized international body. This is an opportunity for Rwanda to move faster towards economic prosperity because with this accreditation, it has made it easier for Rwandan products to enter and compete in the international market” says Murenzi. According to Murenzi, the two; Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS, or ISO 22000) are very important if Made in Rwanda products are to be trusted locally and also if they are to gain access and compete favorably on to foreign markets. “With the certification, food products from Rwanda with the RSB mark can now with a lot of trust gain entry into the European and global markets thus growing and expanding trade for the country” says Murenzi. HACCP is a widely sought-after certification in the food production, processing and handling industry, including establishments such as restaurants, hotels, catering,abattoirs, fruit juice and vegetable processors and pack-houses. “When goods are certified under HACCP,the certification assures buyers and consumers that food has been processed and handled in an environment that minimises the risk of food poisoning and the spread of food-borne infection” explains Murenzi. Murenzi explained that the certifying process is a continuous process not a one off and that as RSB, they continue monitoring those companies in the food processing to systemically identify, address and monitor food safety risks that may occur within the food handling process. He however says that on its part, FSMS (ISO 22000) is an internationally recognized, auditable standard applied to ensure that food is safely handled through the value chain. It includes and goes beyond the HACCP principles. Murenzi says that previously, local companies were facing a lot of difficulty in getting certification from internationally recognized bodies because it was expensive to transport the team of experts, accommodate and to pay for the certificate plus the time it took to acquire it. “Having acquired these two, local companies are going to find it cheaper to get certification of the Made in Rwanda products which will also encourage other uncertified companies to also come to us for certification now that we too are internationally recognized” says Murenzi. New businesses that will be seeking HAACP and FSMS certification are assured of the internationally recognised competence of RSB to offer this service. “The RSB accreditation will help boost the tourism industry, supports exports from Rwanda, local industry growth and is helping the country’s efforts in improving the health of its citizensthrough minimizing of unsafe food” Murenzi said. Murenzi also says that many local companies that had sought to be certified by foreign bodies have shifted back to RSB after it got the accreditation last year. “Many companies have turned to us for certification after we got accredited and we believe many others are going to follow suite. So basically what RSB is doing, is to help the local industry attain desired quality and safety performance to be able to build a strong quality and safety culture through a program called ZamukanaUbuziranenge” he said Rwanda has so far gained international recognition. To sustainably build industry capacity, RSB in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade and Industry launched Zamukana Ubuziranenge programme that is assisting the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) through creation of awarenessto be conversant with quality requirements contained in standards, thus easing standards implementation. RSB has, since its creation in 2002, provided: Quality services in standards development, quality assurance through industry inspection, market surveillance, import inspection and certification, testing, metrology services and awareness-raising. Testing, certification, calibration and verification services are key to enhancing the competitiveness of Rwandan products, fair trade and consumer protection. Standards compliance also promotes quality, opens doors to broader market access and increases competitiveness leading to export opportunities. This will eventually promote Rwanda’s trade and socio-economic growth. What Companies say According to Claudine S. Ngutete the Quality Manager at Inyange Industries, getting to know that Rwanda Standards Board food safety certification schemes have been internationally accredited was good news to them: “We had been certified by an external Certification Body, but after getting that information, we have now already applied to be re-certified by RSB as it is time for our re-certification. Acquiring the service from RSB, which is a domestic Certification Body, has many advantages to us. The service cost will be undoubtedly lower because we were required to pay for the service cost, pay accommodation fees for experts to conduct certification audits and other related expenses” explained Ngutete. Also the General Manager Kinazi Cassava Plant Emile Nsanzabaganwa says that accreditation of Rwanda Standards Board Food safety certification schemes is very important in a country with fast-growing industry sector like Rwanda. “It is a mark of confidence to our customers and hence a powerful marketing tool for our products. Customer confidence is one of the priorities to boost any business. It adds value to our product (Kinazi Cassava Flour) wherever we export it as we trade in all 52 states in the United States of America, in Canada, Italy, Australia, United Kingdom and Belgium” says Nsanzabaganwa. In Africa we export to Democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco and we are exploring other markets on the continent.