KAMPALA, UGANDA – The East African Community (EAC) Secretariat has been requested to set up a special agency to certify imports and limit substandard goods flooding the region.
According to a report compiled by the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Committee on Legal, Rules and Privileges, this situation is however made worse by a lack of public awareness about two existing Acts that are related to standards regulation in the EAC.
So far, national regulators are finding it difficult to stem the tide. The report released recently in Kigali, Rwanda revealed that the two laws that include the Standard Quality Management and Testing (SQMT) standards and the Competition Act both were enacted in 2006.
However there is little awareness of the two EAC laws around the region. This in turn has a negative effect on the implementation and enforcement of the two laws.
‘It is apparent from the Committee discussions that the majority of the stakeholders in all Partner States lack or don’t have enough knowledge on the existence of the EAC SQMT Act, 2006 and EAC Competition Act, 2006,’ the report states.
The EAC Competition Act, 2006 has never been implemented in any of the EAC Partner States. The report revealed that EAC Partner States are suffering enormously from the adverse effects of the flooding of counterfeit and substandard products in their domestic market.
The impact of counterfeit and substandard goods has all along been felt by government departments, manufacturers and traders in the business community and private sector; and more so by the general public, particularly the end users and/or consumers.
The committee noted that EAC Partner States aspire to create a strong, diversified, resilient and competitive economy.
In this regard, such an economy should be able to effectively cope with the challenges of development, including confidently adapting to the challenging market and technological conditions in the global economy.
In all partner states, it was observed that some measures to ensure the protection of health and safety of society as well as protection of the environment as per the EAC SQMT Act, 2006 have been taken.
The committee noted that despite the existence and operationalization of the SQMT Act, 2006 in the EAC partner states, many challenges still existed including poor awareness of product quality marks and the EAC SQMT Act in general, standards related to non-tariff barriers (NTBs) still exist in trade.
In some cases there is none compliance with standards and measurements by certified products with quality marks- this affects cross border movement of goods (e.g. petroleum and Konyagi via and or to Rwanda and to Kenya respectively from Tanzania).
Multi regulatory agencies controlling standards affect clearance of goods thus hurting traders. They reported that control of importation of substandard goods across the region is incoherent especially goods from Asia, Pre Shipment Import Verification of Conformity (PIVCO).
These are not uniformly applied in partner states due to multiple membership to regional economic communities by the EAC partner states that include SADC, COMESA while some partner states develop standards not known by others thus creating confusion. For example, Tanzania was reported to follow SADC member states’ standards as opposed to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi who apply COMESA standards.
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