EABC undertakes Study on the Impact Assessment of the East African Harmonized Standards on the Busin

Compliance with standards and market requirements are prerequisites for successful market access and for improving the competitiveness of exporters in the EAC. In this regard, EABC study aimed to analyze the impact assessment of the EAC harmonized standards on six amongst the 20 most traded products in the EAC region in terms of cost, time and trade values. The selected assessed products were; surface active agents; alcoholic beverages; steel and steel products; edible fats and oils; sugar confectionary and fish and fish products. A combination of approaches and methodology were used to collect data and obtain the necessary information for review and analysis to meet the objectives of this study. The data and information collected were triangulated, progressively analyzed and used to prepare this study report. The extent of the impact of standards harmonization on the selected products in terms trade values, time and cost was assessed using both qualitative and quantitative data. The study was validated on 17th March 2017 at Imperial Royale Hotel, in Kampala Uganda. The validation meeting attracted several stakeholders both private and public from the EAC   region who were informed about the ongoing EAC harmonization process of standards

The study results indicated that the use of harmonized standards in the region to produce the selected sampled products improved their competitiveness and market access which has contributed to increment in the intra-EAC trade values of the sampled products from US$291.2 million in 2010 to US$ 343 million in 2014 which is an increment of 18%. The study findings further indicated that the selected sampled products manufactured based harmonized East African Standards (EAS) has also contributed to the increment in extra-EAC trade values from US$851.6 million in 2010 to US$950.8 million in 2014 which was an increment of 12%. The study findings revealed that overall there was general increase in the trade value trend of the sampled products. The total export value (intra-EAC and extra-EAC) of the selected sampled products increased to US$ 1,293.7 million in 2014 from US$ 1,142.8 million in 2010 which was 13% increment.

Study findings further revealed that 78% of the interviewed manufacturers/exporters indicated that certification of the products with the quality marks based on EAS significantly reduced the standards related delays at the borders. The study noted that the standards related clearance time at the borders for such products had on average reduced from 38 days in 2010 before standards were harmonized to 0.5 days after standards harmonization which was a 99% time reduction. As a result of the reduced delays at the borders because of trading in certified products based on EAS, the standards related cost due to the delays at the borders have also reduced to almost zero compared to an average of US$ 500 per consignment before standards were harmonized.
The study findings also indicate that there were qualitative impact caused by standard harmonization that included: improved quality and safety of the products, consumer protection; improvement in the revised versions of standards used by the NSBs; trade facilitation and reduction of standards related technical barriers to trade and improved competitiveness of the products. The study also found out that the adoption rates of the EAS by the EAC Partner States for the selected sampled products was 100% as indicated in annex 2. The adoption rates had improved for the EAS that were harmonized from 2010 onwards because there was effective participation of the key stakeholders in the standards harmonization process. The study further found that the high adoption rates of EAS in the region had contributed to increased co-operation between the NSBs in a number of areas of SQMT which consequently further contributed to coordinated import and export of products in the EAC.
The study findings further indicated that the NSBs in the EAC Partner States were recognizing as equal to their own, product certification marks awarded by national quality system institutions of other EAC Partner States in line with the SQMT Act. However, in Tanzania TFDA used a different regulatory regime by registering food and cosmetic products to address safety issues that were not within the scope of SQMT Act 2006, but carried out in accordance with the World Trade Organization Technical Barrier to Trade/ Sanitary and Phytosanitary (WTO –TBT/ SPS) Agreements. This was because food safety regulations and harmonization of food safety controls had not been done and the EAC - SPS protocol was under ratification.
The TFDA evaluates and registers pre-packaged food products after compliance with safety requirements. This is provided for under Section 28 of the Tanzania Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Act CAP 219 and Registration of Food Regulations 2011. This was being done for both local and imported food products. Once a food product was assessed and registered by TFDA, it had a validity of five years and therefore TFDA import procedures for conformity assessment of food products was done prior to importation and no further retesting is conducted at the border. Only products that were not registered were assessed at the borders.
The study identified the following as challenges of standards harmonization in the EAC: standards harmonization process was taking long; inadequate time given to the private to adjust to implement the harmonized standards; inadequate funding for standards harmonization; inadequate data to support standards development and harmonization; insufficient staffing in NSBs and at EAC standards office; inadequate participation of the private sector in the standards development and harmonization process; not appropriately numbering the adopted EAS; and low awareness on harmonised EAS.
Certification of products based on harmonized EAS was significantly contributing to trade facilitation in the EAC by reducing the standards related time and cost of doing business. In addition, standards harmonization was contributing to the competitiveness of the products that were manufactured based on the EAS at national, regional and international levels. Harmonization of food standards is an important step towards promoting regional trade. However, harmonization of product control systems among the Partner States is very important in order to provide assurance on the safety of the products moving across member states. Ratification of EAC – SPS Protocol by the EAC Partner States will go a long way in solving issues related to Food products control system applied in food safety.

From the study findings, the following recommendations were made.
• The EABC should closely collaborate with the EAC and continue with the standardization activities in the region through the existing framework of the East African Standards Platform (EASP) as this will enhance coordinated participation of the private sector in the region.

• The EAC should continue with the peer assessment of the SQMT infrastructure in each of the EAC Partner States to enhance trust and promote mutual recognition of the conformity assessment services in the region. In addition, accreditation of conformity assessment services to ISO/IEC 17020, ISO/IEC 17021, ISO/IEC 17025, ISO/IEC 17065 should be supported to promote recognition of the services in the region. In addition, to foster mutual recognition and acceptance of the product certification by all the stakeholders across the region, the EAC should consider adoption of a single certification mark for the EAC region.

• The EAC Secretariat and EAC Partner States through their NSBs should increase their staffing levels appropriately to effectively handle standardization activities.

• The EAC Secretariat through the Standards office should establish a monitoring mechanism of adopted EAS by the EAC Partner States.

• The EAC Secretariat should harmonize and review the standards for products whose trade is impeded in the region due to disparate standards in the EAC.

• The EAC regional standards office and NSBs should embrace ICT where possible to reduce the cost and the time taken to harmonize standards.

• The NSBs in collaboration with the private sector should ensure that there is adequate private sector participation in regional standardization activities.

• The East African Standards Platform (EASP) in collaboration with the NSBs should increase the level of awareness on the standardization activities and harmonized standards in the region.

• The EAC Secretariat should fast-track the ratification of EAC SPS Protocol by EAC Partner States to address issues regarding food safety regulations and harmonization of food safety controls in the EAC.

• The EAC Secretariat and/or EABC should develop EAC Standardization Strategic Plan in line with other EAC policies related to industry development and trade promotion to improve on funding for regional standardization activities.

• The NSBs should embrace single numbering of the adopted EAS to ensure traceability.

• The NSBs should provide advance notification and adequate time whenever there changes in the standards specifications to enable the private sector adjust to implement the standards.

• The lengthy process of standards harmonisation should be shortened by declaring the East African Standards by the East African Standards Committee (EASC) and the Council of Ministers notified, as proposed in the East African Community Standardisation, Accreditation and Conformity assessment (SACA) Bill, 2016.

 

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