The New Times (Kigali)

East Africa: EAC Firms Advised to Conform to International Standards

Products manufactured in the East African Community (EAC) must meet international standards if they are to be competitive on the global market, experts say.

Mark priestly, Trade Mark East Africa country Director for Rwanda, said that that if products manufactured from the EAC region meet minimum international standards they will be able to increase their competiveness on international market thus increasing regional exports.

"When the products are certified, their credibility increases and consumers will have trust in them," he told Business Times on phone yesterday.

Priestly says there is need to support local companies to improve on their competitiveness and meet standards if they are to export on strict markets like the ones in the European Union.

"Countries like Rwanda which are landlocked cannot compete on cost but can compete on quality and that needs meeting standards," he added

The EAC is in the process to harmonise standards.

About 5000 standards of the commonly traded goods in EAC were identified by Rwanda Bureau of Standards (RBS) for harmonisation. So far 1,500 have been harmonised.

"The trade deficit shouldn't be because goods are not meeting the international standards," DR Cyubahiro Bagabe, Director General Rwanda Bureau of Standards said.

He added that; "We expect the number of harmonised standards to increase and we are trying our best to ensure consumer safety."

Few products in the region boast international standards organisation (ISO) accreditation.

"Despite their proven benefits, the uptake of ISO standards and specifically the use of ISO 9001, 14001, 22000 and 27001 standards in the EAC is very low compared to other world regions and even African countries like South Africa," the East African Business Council (EABC) said in a statement.

ISO introduces a preventive way of managing quality, focusing more on prevention of errors rather than the more traditional method of after-the fact detection and correction, which tends to increase costs and decrease productivity without adding any real value to the products.

The EABC (EABC), in collaboration with Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) and other stakeholders, is hosting a two day regional sensitisation Workshop on ISO Standards 9001/14001/22000/27001 and private standards.

The workshop which started yesterday will inform the Private Sector in EAC of the ISO 9001, 14001, 22000 (+private standards and 27001 and the processes of attaining certification for these standards and Showcase certification bodies operating regionally and globally.

"Adopting any of the ISO standards has very many benefits - from helping companies to better organise and synchronise their operations through documenting their processes, clearing out ambiguities and clearly defining duties and responsibilities among employees and departments,"

ISO is the world's largest developer of voluntary international standards for business, government and society. With a portfolio of over 18,300 as of September 2010.

"Private Standards and retailer requirements have a growing impact on the private sector in the EAC because they act as a barrier to enter international markets," the statement read

The council will sensitise the business community in the region on the benefits of ISO 9001, 14001, 22000 (+private standards) and 27001 certification and its impacts on the company bottom-line.

The standards provide practical solutions and achieve benefits for almost every sector of economic activity and technology.

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