Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)

24 February 2013

Ethiopian-Swiss Partnership to Improve Economy, Trade Competitiveness

Through evaluation of various products, Ethiopian Conformity Assessment Enterprise hopes to improve consumer confidence

The Ethiopian Conformity Assessment Enterprise (ECAE) and the Swiss Social & General Services (SGS) wrapped up a year-long negotiation for the evaluation of the quality and security of products, as maintained by national and international standards.

The deal will have the SGS inspecting the conformity of products imported into Ethiopia at the country of origin, whilst the ECAE will do the same for exports leaving Ethiopia.

Negotiations began in May 2011, after the Enterprise was established, following the division of the Quality & Standards Authority of Ethiopia (QSAE) into four entities.

The agreement is expected to build the recognition of the ECAE among international clients, according to Albert Stokell, managing director of the SGS. The Swiss company, which employees 75,000 people in 1,500 offices and laboratories across 140 countries, has a wide reach.

The agreement will help to improve the country's economy, international trade and competitiveness, by promoting products that comply with established standards and through building the confidence of consumers, according to Mahamuda Ahmed Gaaz, state minister of Science & Technology.

The agreement will extend the ECAE's limited business scope and resources, echoed Gashaw Tesfaye, deputy director of the ECAE.

Currently, the ECAE provides independent third-party inspection services for around 10 categories, including; metal, cement, plastics, textiles, leather and agricultural products. With 220 people at its headquarters and eight regional branches outside Addis Abeba, the ECAE will be the local face and contact point for SGS in Ethiopia.

The management team at ECAE have already visited SGS activities in Kenya, Korea and Germany. They have plans to continue their visits, in Vietnam and Thailand, as well as Hong Kong and Shenzhen in China.

This will not be SGS's first endeavor into Ethiopia. It had an agreement seven years ago with the Federal Inland Revenues Authority, now the Ethiopian Customs & Revenues Authority (ERCA), to conduct price evaluations on imports. The company was founded in 1879 to provide inspection, verification, testing and certification services anywhere in the world, according to its official website.

"It is a win-win situation for all parties involved," said Stokell, when discussing the importance of the agreement. "The ECAE will have access to specialised services and experts to help it gain recognition in Ethiopia's target markets", he added.

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