Tanzanian products could be locked out of market

Saturday July 26 2014

The EAC has set harmonised quality standards for its products that are supposed to be in place by November. Photo/FILE

The EAC has set harmonised quality standards for its products that are supposed to be in place by November. Photo/FILE 

By CHRISTOPHER KIDANKA, The EastAfrican

Tanzania risks having its products locked out of the rest of East Africa from November, as it lags behind in adopting harmonised regional standards.

The harmonised standards were set by the Sectoral Council on Trade, Industry, Investment and Finance in May, giving each country six months to adopt them.

The Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) said last week that the country is facing several challenges in meeting the agreed standards as its market is flooded with substandard products because of “importers and manufacturers who are not faithful, and find ways of allowing substandard products into the market.”

Speaking at an East African Business Council breakfast meeting, TBS director for quality management Tumaini Mtitu cited inadequate personnel as one of impediments to conducting periodic surveillance.

On May 30, the EAC Sectoral Council approved and declared 41 standards for EAC members. In addition, 96 normatively referenced international standards were endorsed by the council for adoption by the partner states; four were withdrawn.

Challenges

Ms Mtitu said TBS is working on the challenges that are hindering adoption of the standards, especially the technological gap. She said the institution lacks laboratory capability in both human and financial resources.

To address these challenges, Ms Mtitu said TBS will increase its number of staff, and upgrade its laboratories and performance efficiency.

Quality control systems ensure the maintenance of proper standards in manufactured goods, especially by periodic random inspection of the product.

The Tanzania Bureau of Standards was established in 1975 by the government to strengthen the supporting institutional infrastructure for the industry and commerce sectors of the economy.

It was mandated to undertake measures for quality control of products of all descriptions and to promote standardisation in industry and commerce.

Tanzania is enforcing its national standards, most of them adopted from ISO, and a conformity assessment. The assessment is meant to help reduce trade barriers resulting from varying assessment criteria in different countries that have been used in the absence of harmonised regional standards.

The conformity assessment system also helps to reduce delays and lower the expense of multiple testing and approval. This allows industries to reduce their costs and enter markets faster with their products.

The resolution directed EAC partner states to withdraw any existing national standards with a similar scope and purpose as the harmonised East African standards as prescribed by the Standardisation, Quality Assurance, Metrology and Testing Act.

EABC trade economist Adrian Njau told The EastAfrican that non-conformity to the harmonised standards will result in difficulty in taking goods from Tanzania to other EAC countries after the November deadline.

In addition to resolving harmonisation of standards, the East African business community last year resolved to harmonise the duty on paper products.

According to EABC chairman Felix Mosha, a study conducted by the EAC Secretariat revealed that in this financial year, member states have reduced import duty on paper from 25 per cent to 10 per cent.

The EAC administrative mechanism on duty remission for manufactured exports was also developed and approved by the Sectoral Council in May.

The council also resolved to share information on tariff changes; the EABC has already circulated to its members the EAC Gazette of the 2014/15 financial year reflecting the amendments, stay application and duty remission.