EAC private sector touts for harmonisation of regional standard

EAST African private sector has urged governments to fast-track harmonisation of East African standards that will significantly contribute to the growth of intra-regional trade, competitiveness, protection of consumers and environment and overall trade facilitation.

The East Africa Business Council, Chief Executive Officer, Mr John Bosco Kalisa made the call during the EABC-Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA) regional public-private engagement on standards held in Dar es Salaam, recently.

He urged EAC Partner States to fast-track adoption of the standardisation, accreditation and conformity assessment (SACA) Bill, facilitating frequent peer reviews, creating awareness of East African Standards and involving the private sector in the development of the standards.

Unharmonized standards and other trade documentation and duplicative inspections and testing have been hampering trade, causing overall delays and increasing the cost of doing business.

Standards are central to the future wealth of the EAC and vital to regional integration, safeguarding the health and safety of the consumers and the environment as a whole. Standards when harmonized would cut the cost and time of doing business by huge amounts.

It is against this background that TMEA supported the EAC Partner States in the areas of standards harmonization and strengthening of the quality infrastructure to improve the conformity assessment services to provide benefits for manufacturers, consumers, government regulators, and the general public. Evidence shows harmonization of standards has increased intra-trade by 10 per cent, reduced inspection and clearance costs at the border from 500 US dollars to 400 US dollars and clearance days from 10 days to 0.5 days.

To date, a total of 624 indigenous standards have been adopted by EAC partner states and a total of 1880 standards have been earmarked for harmonisation at the EAC level. Other notable reforms include the establishment of the Regional Standards Plan (RSP) and an online catalogue of harmonised standards that have been developed since 2021.

The National Standards Bureaus in the EAC Partner States are at different levels of harmonisation of standards ranging from 65 per cent to 90 per cent.

More specifically Burundi and South Sudan have significant administrative and capacity challenges and hence have noted the adoption of harmonised East African Standards. Manufacturers have further called for a demand-driven and low-cost approach toward standards development in EAC.

The Public Private Dialogue also explored a global perspective on the use of artificial sweeteners/ nutritive and non-Nutritive sugar in the manufacture of carbonated soft drinks, juices, confectioners and dairy products (yoghurt) and their inter-linkages to competitiveness and innovation.

The Regional Public Private Engagement on Standards is organized under the EABC-TMEA Public Private Dialogue Project for Increased Trade and Investments in the EAC, funded by The Netherlands.

Other Key issues raised included the reduction of the multiple inspections at the border, high standardization and compliance cost, especially for MSMEs and revival of the East African Business Council Standards Platform to build common positions, identify constraints, and priorities and enhance capacity on standards among private sector stakeholders.

The EABC-TMEA Regional Public Private Engagement on Standards convened Officials from the EAC Secretariat, National Bureau of Standards, Manufacturers Associations, Association of Burundi Industries (AIB), Tanzania Women Chamber of Commerce (TWCC), Eastern African Sub-Regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI), Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), South Sudan Chambers of Commerce Industries and Agriculture, Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), CocaCola, and Watercom (T) Limited.

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