By Billy Rwothungeyo
Uganda’s economy has steadily been growing over the last two decades.
One of the reasons for this brisk growth is the emergence of a growing middle-class. The middle-class has also given rise to urban-based services such as supermarkets that have become increasingly popular among Ugandans as more people want to do their shopping in one place.
The demand for supermarkets has seen players from South Africa and Kenya making inroads into Uganda’s retail business; smaller local players too are competing with the big firms.
However, the growth in supermarket business has also come at a cost. Many players have thrown business ethics out of the window to maximise profits. As a result, many unsuspecting customers buy substandard products.
Need for guidelines
To check the influx of substandard goods in supermarkets, the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) is developing guidelines for the business. Patricia Ejalu, the UNBS deputy executive director, said the new guidelines should be out in about six months.
“Supermarkets are unique in that they deal in a variety of products, so what we need is to come up with ways to guide them on what they have to do,” Ejalu said.
She said it is important to quickly formulate the guidelines because many supermarkets are going beyond just being retailers. “As you can see with a lot of supermarkets now, they are not just selling somebody else’s product.
They have begun to make their own. They have bakeries, meat processors and vegetables. They must meet the same requirements as the others,” Ejalu noted.
She added that the standards bureau is working with stakeholders, including proprietors of supermarkets, in the formulation of the guidelines.
“These are going to be guidelines, which can eventually become a Uganda standard for supermarket operations,” she said. UNBS is working with supermarkets on their surveillance programme to get expired goods off the shelves.
As the technical committees work out the new guidelines, Ejalu advises supermarkets to observe best practices to ensure the safety and health of their customers