EAC quality mark to boost regional trade

Nakumatt’s move to only stock goods that bear East African (EAC) Standardisation mark has been welcomed by Rwanda Investment and Export Promotions Agency (Riepa).

Nakumatt’s move to only stock goods that bear East African (EAC) Standardisation mark has been welcomed by Rwanda Investment and Export Promotions Agency (Riepa).

The agency hopes the development will spur rapid economic development in the region and ensure quality products are manufactured.

Claire Akamanzi, Deputy Director General Riepa said this will also protect manufacturers from competing against inferior goods.

“It’s a very good idea. It promotes trade in this region,” Akamanzi said in an interview with The New Times in her office on Thursday last week.

Her comments come at a time Nakumatt, the biggest regional retailer, issued a notice to consumers of its intention to remove all locally manufactured goods that do not bear the East African Community (EAC) Standardisation Quality Mark.

By the end of this month, the retailer will be operating in Kigali. “Nakumatt is opening on July 27th,” Akamanzi said.

In recent years, the EAC agreed on the new mark of quality three years ago and set July 1, 2007 as the date of its coming to force.

Media reports say Uganda and Tanzania beat this deadline and brought into force the new standards last year leaving Kenya alone in non-compliance. Burundi and Rwanda are yet to enforce the standards.

Compliance to trade
The new standardisation scheme, which has been adopted by the national bureaus of standards across the region, requires that every product manufactured in or imported into East Africa must bear the mark of quality to trade in the market.

EAC member states say, it should act as a mark that assures consumers of value and safety of products they are buying from the market.

Trade experts say its enforcement is however expected to have far reaching ramifications in the market, including the disappearance of key consumer goods from the retail shelves. 

Business Daily Africa reported that Tanzania, Kenya’s main competitor in the consumer goods market, has registered over 1,500 products under the new scheme.

Rwanda has just started the process of certifying and so far Miitzing and Nil Water have passed the test.

Eugenia Niwenkunda, a Rwanda Bureau of Standards (RBS) official said the bureau is undergoing peer review process by a team from East African Community Secretariat before it fully starts issuing EAC certification.

Media reports say Kenya manufacturers attribute the low level of compliance to the high cost of certification.
Business Daily Africa says that it costs Ksh20,000 to register one product for the regional standardisation quality mark.

Akamazi therefore encouraged manufactures to apply for the standardisation mark saying with EAC certification it is easier to penetrate international markets.

It is expected that removal of locally-produced goods that do not bear the new mark of quality exposes the affected manufacturers to losses of up to 90 per cent sales.

Many goods are likely to disappear from the shelves some of which include food stuffs, beauty and home care products, furniture and equipment.

Manufactures argue that companies with the more superior Diamond mark of quality and valid permits showing compliance with various standards do not need to apply the basic standardisation mark scheme.

It is also demanding that goods with the Diamond mark be left on the retail shelves indefinitely as long as the Diamond mark exists.

New products
Some industrialists in the region have recommended that with effect from October 1 all the new products manufactured or released into trade bear the regional standardisation mark.

To put Kenya and its neighbours on the same regulatory platform, Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) wants all imported products to be accompanied by a Certificate of Conformity (CoC).

Some manufacturers said they had not registered with the new scheme because they did not know which among the many quality standards put out by Kebs should be applied.

It emerged recently that Tanzania had instructed its border control inspectors not to allow Kenyan goods that do not bear the quality mark.

Kebs is therefore very clear that all goods should have the regional mark of Quality.