Ethiopia: Preventing Sub-Standard Products, Services

Sub-standard products and products that bring health hazards to consumers are hard to identify singlehandedly--it demands the coordination of many actors.

To be blunt, this task is left to the conformity assessment firms. But the complexity of the job makes is tough to be executed that way.

Conformity assessment is a broad task of making sure that a product, service or management is up to the required standards, as experts in the areas state.

It also comprises of checking standard, making periodic inspections and surveillance on the management as well as certification and declaration of conformity.

Over the past years, the culture of conformity assessment has developed and products and services are made to pass through such process.

This culture has supported the effort of feeding the market with standard products and services apart from becoming additional force to win the fight against contraband trade--one of the critical channels sub-standard products enter the market.

Ethiopian Conformity Assessment Enterprise Deputy Director and Tasting Laboratories Directorate Director, Gashaw Tesfaye, told this reporter that coordination of consumers, government bodies, Conformity Assessment Enterprise and Industrial sectors themselves have born fruits.

"More than 27,000 products were tasted and 331 production certifi cations were awarded. The inspection is seriously conducted on basic products such as fertilizer, food and pharmaceutical products and medical equipment."

Even the enterprise provides certification, inspection and testing services for exporters, producers, service providers, regulatory bodies, consumers and importers as well as the public, he added.

One of the critical bottlenecks in the conformity assessment task is human capital shortage, according to him. And to bridge the problem the Enterprise has established University-industry linkage. The effort is sure to create well organized and qualified human power.

The linkage also materializes the Enterprise's aspiration of incubating technology which eases the tasks.

"Adama, Hawassa, Dire Dawa, Dessie, Bahir Dar, Mekele, and Humera universities as well as University of Gonder are our partners in this regard."

In addition to this, branch offices have been opened in these places.

But to further expand the services, the use of technology is inevitable. But the cost of most equipment that is crucial to the service is sky high.

Nuredin Adem, a resident in Addis, tells this reporter that sub-standard products result in unnecessary expenses. He went on to say that such products are also increasing the health burden among the community.

The importance of assessing quality products and services enable to increase customers' satisfaction, maximize revenue, profitability, market share and export opportunities while creating motivated employees in the manufacturing industries, he noted.

The food industry may also face challenges of contamination and disproportionate nutrients of food products, he underscored, adding that pertinent bodies have to work hand-in-glove with consumers to get to the bottom of the problem.

For his part, Baye Yaregal, a fruitseller, stressed the fact that conformity assessment enterprise should work like no other institution to enhance community health.

Of course any testing on products and services can minimize fraud on the market and it has great role on the consumer health and economy. Food safety management, medical care assessment, market controlling from fraud, among others, are the mechanisms to minimize the risk of substandard products.

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