Mark of trust: Rwanda expands global market access for local industry

Rwanda is a country of immense potential and countless opportunities.In December 2017, the Rwanda Standards Board (RSB), received the endorsement of the Dutch Accreditation Council (RvA), creating access for Rwandan products to compete in international markets. The RVA is an internationally recognised standards accreditation body.

Rwanda Standards Board has been working with TradeMark Africa (TMA), to acquire a modern technology laboratory as well as international recognition of its mark of quality. TMA has also offered training to private sector and RSB staff on standards compliance. These efforts paid off with the certification of RSB for ISO 9001 and accreditation of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) certification schemes.

The Rwanda TMA Country Director, Patience Mutesi says: “TMA commends RSB’s commitment and effort to ensure delivery of standardisation services are internationally recognised and trusted.” This is crucial to expanding market access for locally manufactured products and opportunities for cross-border trade, growth and export promotion. “We are happy to keep supporting a good cause to promote cross-border trade in the region,” she adds. 

Earlier, on October 26th, 2017 the RvA granted the RSB accreditation to carry out certification for HACCP and FSMS or ISO 22000. This process, delivered through TMA, was supported by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), and technically managed by the British Standards Institute (BSI).

Accreditation elevates the RSB’s competence to provide certification, in this case HACCP and FSMS. It also indicates Rwanda’s maturity in the management of food safety. The country has minimised the risks associated with unhygienic handling of food throughout the value chain, from production to final consumption. New businesses that will be seeking HAACP and FSMS certification are assured of the internationally recognised competence of RSB to offer this service.

HACCP is a widely sought-after certification in the food production, processing and handling industry by establishments such as restaurants, abattoirs, fruit juice and vegetable processors and pack-houses. It is a tool used to systemically identify, address and monitor food safety risks that may occur within the food handling process. HACCP certification assures buyers and consumers that food has been processed and handled in an environment that minimises the risk of food poisoning and the spread of food-borne infections. On its part, FSMS (ISO 22000) is an internationally recognised, auditable standard applied to ensure that food is safely handled through the value chain.  It includes and goes beyond the HACCP principles.

The RSB accreditation brings significant benefits to Rwanda’s tourism industry, supports exports from Rwanda, and is a boost to the country’s efforts in improving the health of its citizens.

A Boost for Tourism

Rwanda is keen to expand her tourism portfolio and aims to become a regional hub for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events (MICE). This drive began with the 2016 opening of the Kigali Convention Centre, simultaneously sprouting new hotels and guest facilities. Prior to the HACCP and FSMS certification, five-star hotels in Rwanda procured some supplies from outside the country.

Enhancing Rwanda’s Export Capacity

Rwanda has joined a host of nations with strict requirements for food imports. This is meant to safeguard the health of citizens and environment and to minimise the spread of pests or diseases among animals and plants. Traded imported foods must be free from disease-causing organisms and excess chemicals such as pesticide residues.

These strict requirements are enforced through regular inspection of imports at the point of entry into the importing country, and by periodic audits of the regulatory systems in the exporting countries by importing country authorities. The European Union, for instance, regularly conducts health and food audits and analysis among its member countries as well as non-EU countries that export to the EU. The EU and the UK are some of Rwanda’s premium export markets for agricultural produce, especially coffee. RSB’s accreditation to carry out HACCP and FSMS certification therefore assures importing country authorities that Rwanda has put in place a reputable system to audit food exports.

The RSB’s accreditation to offer HACCP and FSMS certification, will greatly aid in the achievement of Rwanda’s Vision 2020. The   accreditation process has also produced a credible pool of private quality assurers (auditors), offering services in the food safety certification market.

Since its creation in 2002, RSB has provided quality services in standards development, quality assurance through industry inspection, market surveillance, import inspection and certification, testing, metrology services and awareness-raising.

Rwanda’s international recognition coincided with the official launch of ‘Zamukana Ubuziranenge’, a new programme to assist local industries attain the desired quality and safety standards as well as build a strong quality and safety culture among Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Zamukana Ubuziranenge, developed in conjunction with Ministry of Trade and Industry (MINICOM), works with SMEs to be conversant with global quality requirements and standards to enhance the competitiveness of Rwandan goods in regional and international markets.

Rwanda’s Minister for Trade and Industry Vincent Munyeshyaka is excited by this development. “Accreditation and adherence to global standards unlock Rwanda’s opportunities on global markets,” he added, “Zamukana Ubuziranenge programme gives us a strong foundation to sustainably build industry’s capacity in standards compliance as well as fast-tracking the trail to certification of products and services.”

Testing, certification, calibration and verification services are key to enhancing the competitiveness of Rwandan products, fair trade and consumer protection. Standards compliance also promotes quality, opens doors to broader market access and increases competitiveness leading to export opportunities.

Raymond Murenzi, the Director General of RSB says: “Raising the national standardisation level remains a critical mandate of RSB,” he adds, “Standards compliance will improve the quality of ‘Made-in-Rwanda’ products and services for competitiveness, establishing a quality and safety culture in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) for increased productivity, supporting tourism and hospitality services initiative (MICE).”

The Director General takes pride in RSB’s role in the development of agro-processing, construction, beauty industry, environment, tourism and hospitality standards. Murenzi says the standards body is committed to supporting Rwanda products to meet global standards. Between July and December 2017, RSB developed 71 new standards that cover milk and milk products namely cheese and yoghurts; meat and meat products, alcoholic beverages and plant flavoured beverages; chemical products including soaps, polishes and cosmetics; biogas, iron bars, iron sheets; environmental protection such as waste handling and management; beauty industry, tourisms and hospitality.