Manufacturers applaud govt crackdown on fake cosmetics

Manufacturers and dealers in cosmetics have lauded government’s move to tighten the law regarding the production, distribution and trade of cosmetics in the country.
A shop attendant in a cosmetics store. Beware of the type of cosmetics you use as they could be counterfeit. (Net photo)
A shop attendant in a cosmetics store. Beware of the type of cosmetics you use as they could be counterfeit. (Net photo)

Manufacturers and dealers in cosmetics have lauded government’s move to tighten the law regarding the production, distribution and trade of cosmetics in the country.

The producers and traders say the intervention supports fair trade and genuine entrepreneurs. It will also promote the local cosmetics businesses, which are said to be struggling to make profits “because the market is flooded with cheap imported cosmetics.”

There are 20 companies involved in the manufacture of cosmetics in the country, including Sulfo Rwanda Industries, one of the main producers of these products. 

Last week, the government announced a Ministerial Order outlawing the manufacture, importation; distribution and sale of hundreds of fake cosmetic products that were flooding the Rwandan market.  

The Ministerial Order provides tough action against dealers in fake and substandard cosmetics in the country. The move could affect over 1,342 products on the market.    

Under the Ministerial Order, a number of products including colorants, preservatives, carcinogenic and mutagenic substances, reproductive toxicants, skin moisturisers, perfumes, lipsticks, fingernail polishes, eye and facial makeup, shampoos, permanent waves, hair colours, toothpastes and deodorants, are being targeted.

Article 16 of the new law says, “no person shall manufacture, import, store, exhibit, sale or dispense cosmetics unless they meet requirements under this law.”

Under Article 15, section No.47/2012 of 2013 relating to the regulation and inspection of food and pharmaceuticals, cosmetics mean “any substances applied on the human body in order to enhance, change and impart a pleasant smell on the human body.”

Reacting to the ban, Atima Parakash, the Sulfo Rwanda Marketing manager, said tightening laws governing the sector promotes public health and supports genuine entrepreneurs.

“It is important because it will help boost quality along value chain and make the sector more attractive to investors. However, the law should also target counterfeited products,” he said.

Prosper Ngarambe, a dealer in cosmetics, said the crackdown on counterfeits will help promote fair trade and competiveness of local industries.

There has been a lot of public interest in herbal products in recent years with many manufacturers moving to tap the opportunities this market segment presents. However, investors struggle to breakeven because of counterfeits that have flooded the local market,” Ngarambe said.

Evode Nizeyimana, another trader in cosmetics, said streamlining the cosmetics industry could help boost the country’s potential to export to regional and global markets.

While announcing the list of the prohibited products, the Ministry of Health said the move is to protect public health and promote fair trade.

“Cosmetics must be free of toxic substances and should meet quality standards applicable in the country. Makers of cosmetics and dealers must therefore comply with guidelines to protect the public,” Dr Agnes Binagwaho, the Health Minister, told Business Times.

She added that the ministry is already working with law enforcement agencies to implement the law.

“For purposes of public health interest, any cosmetic ingredient that does not meet quality requirements is prohibited,” Dr Binagwaho warned.


The cosmetic products according to Joseph Kabatende, the co-ordinator of pharmaceutical services at the Ministry of Health, include those that are intended for use as a component of a product applied to the body. “However, products intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of certain diseases will not be affected by the law,” he added.

“Therefore, no person shall manufacture, import, store, exhibit, sale or dispense cosmetics unless they meet requirements under the law,” he added.

They may contain or consist of substances likely to adversely affect health when used. He added that the   manufacture, preparation, preservation or storage of these products under unsanitary conditions will not be allowed, he explained.

Some cosmetics that use ingredients that have been found to be harmful include Peau Claire and Fair and White, which contain 1.9 hydroquinone, Lait de beaute 72 heures containing  polyethylene glycol, and Penetration enhancer used in many products, and often contaminated with 1.4-dioxane and ethylene oxide, both known carcinogens.

Standards watchdog to step up surveillance

Philip Nzaire, the director quality assurance and inspection at Rwanda Standards Board (RSB), said, the board will use the new law to destroy all the fake cosmetics products. However, he noted that sensitisation and public awareness campaigns about the dangers of consuming fake products are the ultimate remedy.

“We have to come with a mechanism of disposing off such dangerous products. However, whoever will be found with prohibited products will be compelled to pay disposal costs,” Nzaire warned.

Mandatory standards

Mandatory standards have been developed to provide specifications on cosmetics products, especially to guide industries in the manufacture of cosmetics with similar, comparable and acceptable quality, efficiency and safety.

They also provide a benchmark for certifiable cosmetic products and assurance to the consumer of the quality and safety of the cosmetics.

However, according to Nzaire implementation of these legal instruments will require a multi-sectoral approach for effective implementation.

“We are also working closely with the consumer protection unit in ensuring regular market inspections to be able to deter such harmful products from being consumed by the public.”

Investing in research

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry through National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA), said it’s working with all stakeholders to boost research in cosmetics.

As the ban takes effect, it remains to be seen how the concerned authorities will implement it, especially considering the fact that the standards agency faces both capacity and technical challenges (modern equipment) to deter entry of such products into the country.

Some traders say the unscrupulous dealers could now go underground, making it hard to weed them out of the market, particularly when customers like cheap products.

What they said about fake cosmetics

Last week, the government outlawed the manufacture, importation or distribution of hundreds of cosmetics that were deemed a health risk. Though the banned cosmetics contained harmful and toxic substances that are not allowed for use in Rwanda, they somehow found their way into the country. Business Times asked some people whether they pay attention to cosmetics ingredients before they buy them to check their suitability for human use.

Fidele Kayigamba
Farida Uwera

Fidele Kayigamba, motorcyclist

I check the cosmetics before I pay to see whether it is not expired. I do not read the ingredients used to make the product. If it is still not yet expired, I pay and take it.

Farida Uwera, businesswoman

I take care when buying cosmetics and anything that I apply on my body. I buy cosmetics from trusted franchise shops with renowned brands.

Shanice Umutoni
Jacques Iriho

Shanice Umutoni, university student

I rarely buy cosmetics as I use what my parents buy. However, whenever I am buying anything I make sure it is a brand certified by the standards body. My mother warned me against buying products I am not sure of.


Jacques Iriho, businessman

Befeore I buy cosmetics, I look at the expiry date and the ingredients. If I am not comfortable with any ingredient, I don’t buy the product.

Jeanne Nyinawumuntu, banker

I once bought fake cosmetics from shops in downtown Kigali. From that time, I only buy cosmetics from someone I trust and I mostly prefer internationally recognised brands. I also buy local products if the producers are credible.


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