PUBLISHED ON May 24th, 2023

UNBS commissions third regional testing laboratory

To break into new markets, commodities testing will be a crucial part of ensuring that goods are safe and meet regulatory standards according to David Livingstone Ebiru, executive director at UNBS.

As the government continues to encourage entrepreneurs to add value to their products, the need for efficient and reliable standards laboratories across the country has become increasingly important, experts say. 

Uganda has set a revenue target of $6b (about sh21.6 trillion) in non-oil exports in the next six years, to stave off growing unemployment, restore sustained growth in key sectors and increase value addition in agriculture.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, an ambitious and far-reaching initiative that has the potential to transform several businesses will need entrepreneurs to significantly improve product standards.

To break into new markets, commodities testing will be a crucial part of ensuring that goods are safe and meet regulatory standards according to David Livingstone Ebiru, executive director at UNBS.

Ebiru said the government is also looking for market for certified Ugandan products. He said standards have also been harmonised within the East African Community partner states to facilitate the trade of products.

David Livingstone Ebiru, UNBS executive director

David Livingstone Ebiru, UNBS executive director

“We have already signed mutual standards with all the standards agencies. East Africa is now having a common standard. You have to take up these opportunities to make sure you trade in all these countries,” he said.

He was speaking during the commissioning of the third regional standards laboratory in Mbarara city to serve the western part of the country last week.

The laboratory will be testing both food and non-food products such as edible fats and oils, milk and milk products, water, fruits and vegetables, cereals and cereal products, grains and animal products, among others.

Last year, the standards prefect launched similar facilities in Gulu and Mbale city to serve the Northern and Eastern regions respectively. Investment in the three regional testing facilities cost about $4.5m or sh17.3b.

The establishment of the facilities was supported by the Danish government through TradeMark Africa, an organisation funded by several partners with the aim of promoting trade across borders in Africa.

Francis Mwebesa, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperative said the facility will boost access to the regional market.

“We intend to make sure that anybody who intends to produce anything in surplus is able to export it to the world,” he said.

Anna Nambooze, country director for Uganda and South Sudan at Trade Mark Africa said the facility will provide additional capacity for processing samples, reducing wait times for results and improving efficiency.

This, she said, would in turn benefit businesses that rely on commodities testing to ensure the quality and safety of their products.

“The establishment of regional laboratories has improved the turnaround time for analysis which has been reduced from an average of 21 to 10 days and less depending on the number of required tests,” she said.

“Over 170 samples have been tested from Gulu Regional laboratory and 20 samples from Mbale regional laboratory because the major equipment for contaminant and microbiological pathogen testing analysis have just been installed and the number of samples to be tested is expected to tremendously increase.”

Danish Ambassador to Uganda H.E Signe Winding Albjerg said following the previous UNBS Labs launch, “We have seen a reduction in turnaround time of testing products.”

Robert Masiko, founder Numa, a fast-growing Ugandan grain firm, said a robust testing infrastructure is essential for protecting public health and ensuring the safety of products that people consume.

“There was a problem that led me to start this business. Millet had a lot of sand. That is why I started by adding value to millet. I realized the importance of quality and providing high quality is our goal.

“Entrepreneurs need more advice to standardise their products. Let’s have sensitisation meetings and workshops for them to understand what UNBS needs from them. I appeal to entrepreneurs to start the process and they will be helped.”

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TradeMark Africa.