Rwanda Standards Board has said that a special logo of standards approved products, dubbed ‘S-MARK’, and new technology to track fake products on the market will be available soon to promote exports and visibility in the international market.
Anicet Muriro, who heads the programme seeking to enable businesses, especially SMEs meet quality standards, said that operators in local food processing ought to implement guidelines on fulfilling standards for competitiveness and increasing exports.
“Certifying and standardising business is key for competitiveness on the market and increases exports that have the S-MARK,” he said.
Statistics show that since the launch of the Made-in-Rwanda campaign in 2015, Rwanda’s total exports have increased by 69 per cent, from $559 million in 2015 to $944 million in 2017, which led to 36 per cent decrease in the trade deficit.
For 2017/18, manufacturing activities increased by 8 per cent boosted by food processing activities which increased by 15 per cent.
The official said the growth of SMEs in agro-processing with certification for standards could boost exports.
“While we urge people, especially the youth to create jobs through agro-processing, we have to make sure that what they produce meet standards so that when they reach the market, they can be able to compete with what have been on the market before them,” he said.
He said that there are over 450 products on the market that have standards in the sectors of construction, food, textile, among others, but about 65 per cent are from agricultural value chains.
“This means lack of standards for food products could affect market access,” he said.
Muriro said there are still challenges related to lack of knowledge and information about how one can acquire S-MARK.
“Standards are assessed in the whole value chain of food processing. The standards are not assessed on the finished product but along the whole value chain such as post-harvest handling, hygiene, processing and ingredients, among others,” he said.
One of the pillars of the National Strategy for Transformation 1 is the promotion of industrial development, export, and trade-related infrastructure.
However, in the agro-processing sector in particular, access to sufficient raw materials that meet industry standards is a significant challenge that leads to sub-optimal capacity utilisation across different industries, he noted.
Muriro added that a special S-MARK for locally made products will soon be unveiled with a new technology (application) to track if there are substandard products on the market contrary to what have been certified.
“We have been giving S-MARK certification to different products but it was difficult to do inspections across the market due to analogue technology. This has pushed us to introduce a technology that will help consumers wherever they are, to track and know where the product was made, who made it and if it meets minimum standards,” he said.
New technology that will use mobile application could be launched by the end of April so as to detect substandard and counterfeit products on the market, he said.
The system will be assessing both locally made and imported products to detect if they have standards.
Once available, clients will be able use a smartphone to scan the ‘S- MARK logo to reveal who made the the product, when and where it was made, the ingredients and raw materials, proving if it’s a counterfeit or not.
Officials said the system will start by tracking processed food and beverages, food for children and elderly, maize products, among others.
Other products to start with the system include cosmetic products such as hair and body oil among others.
The sensitive products also include construction materials, such as electric cables that are installed in houses.
Under the system, locally made products will be given protected the S-MARK dubbed: “Made-in-Rwanda Protected Mark, and while imported products will be marked with “Protected Imports Inspection Mark.