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Kenya’s standards agency now targets informal sector

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Kenya Bureau of Standards has renewed its campaign to have traders and manufacturers from the informal sector get its standardisation mark.

Kebs said the move would open up more trade opportunities for them within East Africa.

“By getting the Kebs standardisation mark, our traders will be able to freely move their goods across East Africa without the products being tested again in neighbouring countries,” Kebs managing director Bernard Njiraini said in an interview.

In addion, Mr Njiraini said the standardisation mark was crucial to Kenya’s economic development.

“For the country to benefit, we need jua kali (informal) and others in the sector to aggressively get their products certified to access those markets. If this is not done, the rest will bring their goods to Kenya and we will have a trade imbalance in their favour,” added Mr Njiraini.

According to Mr Njiraini, standardisation mark had been successfully used to open up markets in various regions and countries such as China.


“All we need is to be competitive through good policies, better infrastructure and human resource,” he advised.

The renewed efforts to boost cross-border trade come after the East African Community (EAC) partner states signed the Common Market Protocol 10 years ago.

The Common Market Protocol, which came into force on July 1, 2010, seeks to transform EAC into a single market that allows free movement of goods, services, people, labour and capital. It calls for mutual recognition of standards to ease cross-border trade.

EAC countries are currently developing standards jointly before adopting them.

However, despite such efforts to boost trade in the region, political wrangling continues to hamper much needed progress.

By March, trade among EAC states had declined 31.4 per cent, according to a report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

An Analysis of the East African Community’s Trade Performance report, showed that Tanzania, which accounts for 30 per cent of the EAC economy, had witnessed the biggest decline in intra regional exports, from $1.1 billion in 2013 to $318 million in 2017.

Kenya, which accounts for almost half of the region’s gross domestic product, saw its intra EAC exports slide from $1.6 billion to $1.1 billion in the same period.

However, EAC is one of the continent’s fastest-growing regional blocs, registering an economic growth of 5.7 per cent in 2018. The slow growth of intra EAC trade has been attributed to non tariff barriers, tension between member countries, work permit restrictions and production of similar goods.

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