Africa-Press – Kenya. The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) has in the past one and half years made changes in its operations aimed at enhancing and facilitating trade.
It has for instance developed over 10,000 standards over the years through standards Technical Committees.
In a bid to ease the process of standards development and to make it more participatory in the spirit and the letter of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 and international best practices, Kebs has opened up technical committee membership to the public, industries, research organizations, consumer interest groups and any other interested party.
There’s now no limit to membership in Technical Committees. The standards are now more responsive to the needs of diverse stakeholders.
Simplifying import procedures for small traders; the import cargo consolidation business in Kenya has evolved over time thus creating regulatory gaps in the existing procedures. Consolidated cargo is characterized by a huge diversity of items in small quantities and belonging to multiple owners within a single shipment.
This complexity made it difficult to subject the goods to the standard conformity assessment and tax evaluation procedures. As a result, the consolidation process has in the past been abused to propagate illicit trade. The concerns hinge on tax evasion, counterfeiting and importation of substandard goods.
To address these challenges and streamlining of the sector, the Finance Act (2019) Sections 2 and 14 of the Standards Act were amended which inter alia gave Kebs in consultation with Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) the mandate to vet and register consolidators for the purposes of handling consolidated cargo.
The two organizations have developed regulations intended to govern the framework under which the consolidators shall be registered and regulated.
To further facilitate of clearance of cargo for small traders, KEBS has opened the BOMA inspection center for faster clearance of the consolidated goods.
Increase in the number of PVOC partners; manufacturing sector is one of the pillars under the Big Four Agenda expected to stimulate industrial growth. One of the challenges that were identified is an influx of substandard, counterfeits, and contraband hampering the growth of the manufacturing sector.
In order to ensure imported goods meets the standards, Kebs engages third-party partners for Pre-Export verification of conformity to standards (PVOC) spread across the globe.
Although the PVOC programme has helped create efficiency in Conformity Assessment as well as in reducing substandard products, the PVOC partners had not been fully effective as was witnessed when substandard goods worth more than four billion were seized in the market.
To eliminate substandard goods coming into the country all imports were subjected to 100per cent inspection under Legal notice 127. Although the level of conformity drastically improved, the process created delays in the issuance of Certificate of Conformity (CoC) which then caused an increase in the cost of doing business thereby affecting trade volumes with most merchandise hardware businesses closing down.
KEBS addressed this challenge by increasing the number of PVOC agents for both goods and motor vehicles and removing the previous zoning.
To further simplify and enhance the importation of quality goods into the country, Kebs has started and is implementing a program for Products Registration for low-risk goods.
Under this program, importers are required to register their products with Kebs before importation and provide all the information required with respect to those products. The registered goods are then expressly cleared at the port of entry. Importers are encouraged to embrace and use this new process.
Further, it has opened up inspection centers at Syokimau to facilitate the rapid clearance of goods that come without a Certificate of Conformity (CoC); importers can choose to have their goods inspected at the country of origin or locally for the permitted goods for destination inspection under Legal Notice 78 of April 2020.
The permitted goods that arrive without a CoC are subjected to destination inspection at the Peripheral inspection centers and issued with a local CoC if they meet the requirements of the relevant Kenya Standards. The inspection centers are fully operational and importers are also encouraged to make use of these new measures.
Kebs has been certifying locally manufactured goods and imported products. The locally manufactured goods are issued with a Standardization mark on meeting the requirements of the relevant Kenya Standard or approved specification. The process of product certification takes approximately fifty-six days and the permit validity period was one year.
It has reviewed the validity of the Standardization Mark permit from one year to two years, in addition to strict quality assurance measures at the manufacturer’s premises.
The review of the validity period gives the manufacturers an opportunity to invest in quality control processes, procedures, and equipment, and ensure that they monitor each and every production batch before supplying goods to the consumers.
KEBS on the other hand through the Quality Assurance and Market Surveillance arms ensures that the strict quality control processes are adhered to and that the quality of products in the market is strictly monitored.
In order to reduce the amount of time it takes to certify products and in line with international best practices and to spur growth in the products testing sector in the country, Kebs now accepts quality control results from accredited laboratories.
The standards body accepts results from only the laboratories accredited to ISO 17025 by Kenya Accreditation Services (KENAS), a government body mandated with the regulation of accreditation services in the country.
It has invested heavily in automation; among the processes automated include; Product certification; testing services, calibration, human resources, finance, procurement, standards development.
Automation of the above processes has enhanced efficiency and effectiveness in service provision to KEBS stakeholders.
The agency reviewed the standards development process for products aiding in the fight against the spread of the pandemic. The standards were developed within the shortest time possible. To further assist the manufacturers, traders, importers, medics, and the public, KEBS made the standards publicly available for free.
It is fully committed to facilitating trade and safeguarding the health and safety of the consumers and the environment through Standardization, Metrology, and Conformity assessment services.
The writer is the managing director of, Kenya Bureau of Standards.