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Government concerns over under-utilised standards, production decline

By Mercy Simiyu October 17th, 2023 2 min read

The government has expressed concerns over the underutilization of the Kenya Bureau of Standards.

Speaking at the unveiling of 416 new emerging standards by KEBS on World Standards Day, Industry Principal Secretary Juma Mukhwana raised concerns about the current state of standards stating that out of the approximately 9,000 standards in place, only 10 percent are actively implemented, leaving nearly 3,000 entities without any established standards.

“We’re utilizing 10 percent of the standards available. This prompts the question: do we need more standards, or should we consider revising the existing ones? It’s worth noting that out of the 9,000 standards in place, only 900 are actively applied, while nearly 3,000 groups in the market lack any established standards. Are they no longer relevant, outdated, or failing to meet our specific needs?” said Dr Mukwana.

The PS, however, highlighted that another critical issue that warrants attention is the state of micro and small enterprises (MSEs), saying that many products originating from this sector lack the necessary certifications highlighting that conversations with these businesses often revolve around concerns such as cost, awareness, and capacity limitations.

“We recognize the importance of addressing the issues faced by micro and small enterprises. Many products from this sector lack certification due to various challenges, including cost constraints, awareness gaps, and limited capacity. As a government, we are committed to our robust industrialization framework, exemplified by our county-based industrial parks, which will play a vital role in empowering MSEs and ensuring they meet the necessary standards,” he said.

During his address, the Principal Secretary emphasized the importance of standards in promoting manufacturing and trade. He highlighted the need for Kenya to grow its manufacturing sector, which has faced a decline from 10 percent to 7 percent of the GDP in the last decade.

“For us to grow our manufacturing, we must work on our standards. The share of manufacturing within Kenya has decreased from 10 percent to 7 percent as a share of GDP in the last 10 years. Our target is to take the share of manufacturing to 10 percent of our GDP by 2025 and 15 percent by 2027,” said the Principal Secretary.

Furthermore, he highlighted the delays in cross-border trade within Africa due to non-uniform standards and infrastructure bottlenecks. He shared an example of how a shipment of tea from Kenya to Ghana took four months, significantly longer than other international destinations.

“When we signed the AFTA agreement, Kenya made its first sale to Ghana of tea. The tea from Kenya to India and China takes about a week, to Europe about 10 days. Our first sale to Ghana took us four months for the tea to move from Kenya to Ghana. That is what we are talking about,” the Principal Secretary pointed out.

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