BY GODFREY NTAGUNGIRA
Rwanda Bureau of Standards (RBS) is the sole standards agency with a mandate of ensuring consumer safety and welfare as well as competitiveness of the local industry in the region.
In the pursuit of the economy’s long term national competitiveness, industries and services will have to shift towards higher value added activities and undertake productivity driven growth initiatives.
The manufacturing sector is expected to adopt and apply new forms of technologies within their processes. This has to be in line with the economy’s short term economic framework as outlined within the EDPRS document.
The manufacturing and services sectors will over the implementation period be integrated into regional and where possible, global production networks and supply chains.
Rwanda is committed in the harmonization of standards as an essential requirement towards greater economic integration in the East African Community.
A such harmonization of standards and technical regulations include:
• Elimination Technical Barriers to trade (TBTs) and encourage a freer flow of goods and services within the Community.
• Boosting trade among Partner States within the EAC.
• Protecting the health and safety of the consumers and the environment.
About the RBS
The RBS has an autonomous administrative and management status and is supervised on policy matters by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
It is governed by a board of directors composed of representatives from government , institutions of higher learning , the private sector and consumer protection associations.
The RBS services to the public are both regulatory and supportive in nature. Regulatory activities works to ensure fairness in trade and protection of the consumers against substandard, shoddy, and hazardous products.
Supportive functions include boosting trade through the development and implementation of standards for the various sectors of the economy and carrying out conformity assessments of products to set standards.
These activities ensure that manufacturers produce quality products that are competitive both locally and internationally.
It is generally recognized that the export markets can only be obtained and sustained when our locally produced products are internationally competitive not only in pricing structures but also in quality standards.
RBS regulatory function
Carrying out market surveillance to rid the market of dangerous, shoddy and substandard and counterfeit products entails the following:
i. Providing information and technical advisory services to industries to enable them meet quality and standards requirements.
ii. Providing technical assistance to industries so as to improve on the quality and safety of their products and services.
iii. Carrying out quality audits and inspection with the aim of quality marking or certifying products that conform to local standardization benchmarks or other related specifications.
Other related support services will be further developed in due course and promoted to meet the increasing requirements of the industry.
These will cover areas such as laboratory services for chemical testing, microbiology testing, testing of compounds, nutritional labelling and traceability testing.
The Bureau is mandated with the task of promoting standardization , quality assurance , Metrology and Testing (SQMT) - a pre-requisite for ensuring consumer safety and welfare as well as competitiveness of the local industrial base.
Rwanda bureau of standards is mandated to boost our export markets through revamping locally produced products to meet internationally competitive benchmarks in terms of pricing and in quality.
Rwanda is establishing a strong national standards infrastructure capable of :
i. Spearheading development and implementation of standards for the various sectors of the economy.
ii. Carrying out conformity assessment of products and services based on quality and standards requirements.
iii. Protecting the consumers against substandard, shoddy and hazardous products.
iv. Ensuring delivery of quality services to the people and facilitating the growth of strong private sector competitiveness on a sustainable basis.
At the regional level, RBS is actively involved in the development and elaboration of regional standards at the East African Community (EAC) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) market.
The harmonised standards and codes of practice are geared at facilitating trade within the region.
A number of activities were carried out particularly in the areas of standards development , Quality Assurance, Testing, Metrology, Agriculture and Livestock certification activities.
The mission of RBS is to improve the safety and health of Rwandan people through the effective application of Standardization, Quality Assurance, Metrology, and Testing (SQMT).
To attain competitiveness companies will need to regularly enhance their management skills, resources and systems to improve organisational effectiveness through various initiatives on productivity and quality improvement, such as quality assurance, standardisation, and total quality management, benchmarking and sharing of best practices.
While progress has been achieved, a lot of improvements are required to enable local industries to catch up with advancements by competitors in the region and sustain a competitive edge in the long run.
Standards Related Constraints
In the EDPRS period RBS intends to promote competitiveness of Rwandan goods and services so as to be recognized at both regional and international level.
Efforts by Rwanda to expand and diversify its exports into, for example food products and horticulture/floriculture, requires building the country’s food safety and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) management capacities.
It also entails addressing the weaknesses that undermine product quality. Buyers’ concerns with quality, reliability of supply, credence characteristics, traceability and conformance with complex regulatory requirements are some of the identified challenges to be tackled.
As a new entrant in different industrial sectors Rwanda is looking for windows of opportunity in foreign markets.
Initially the economy will explore less demanding markets and encourage foreign direct investment or partnerships with experienced exporters in order to facilitate compliance with growing agricultural and food safety requirements.
Other strategies will include the following:
i. Gaining inroads into regional and global supply chains through joint ventures with major international producers to manufacture and distribute products;
ii. Enhancing the acceptability of Rwandan products by encouraging greater compliance to international standards through improving the access to product testing and certification;
iii. Encouraging foreign buyers to source from Rwanda;
iv. Organising and participating in international trade fairs and exhibitions in Rwanda, the region and overseas to enhance the image of the country’s products and services; and
v. Undertaking intensive promotion campaigns in selected markets to promote the image of Rwandan products and services in the targeted areas.
Enhancing Exports through Compliance to International Standards
For Rwanda’s companies to grow their market share at the regional and international levels, the industrial base needs to comply with international standards. Measures to assist companies in complying with such standards include:
i. Developing a coordinated approach towards the setting and enforcement of standards to ensure the competitiveness of Rwandan products. Trade aspects will be taken into consideration in the setting of the standards by respective agencies, in consultation with the industries;
ii. Development and intensification of collaborations with certification bodies in relevant overseas markets for the purpose of recognition of certification in Rwanda;
iii. Providing support in encouraging SMEs to comply with international standards; and
iv. Strengthening the capacity of existing institutional machinery for standard development, administration and enforcement.
1. Raising awareness among the business community on the importance of standardization and quality management is being enhanced.
2. The involvement of the private sector in the future in any activity of standard-setting and dissemination of standard information is essential, as only the private sector can give a correct signal of where the priorities should be.
3. There is great potential in using the information centre of the Rwanda Bureau of Standards as a focal point for interacting with business people, who want a fuller understanding of how particular issues of standards may influence their existing and future trading relations with foreign customers.
4. Achieving International accreditation for Rwanda’s testing laboratories.
5. Establishing a databank on global production quality requirements.
A number of firms which produces the respective products have already received the required certification for their production processes.
Such products are tested and certified by RBS as it is mandated to create confidence to the consumers along the distribution chain of industries producing such goods.
RBS provides technical assistance to industries so as to improve on the quality and safety of their products and services and also carries out quality audits and inspection with the aim of quality marking or certifying products that conform to set standards or other specifications.
Hence the standard bureau marks on products guarantee a high product quality. This is a guarantee that consumers can use such products in confidence.