By Paul Watala
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives in collaboration with the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) has started implementing the quality infrastructure and standards programme.
The five-year programme that started in 2010 is designed to promote the use of quality infrastructure and standards to improve the competitiveness of Uganda’s products, processes and service delivery systems in domestic, regional and international markets.
The state minister of trade, James Mutende, said the programme has enabled the ministry and UNBS to improve the quality and standards of infrastructure in country.
“Through this programme, we are trying to strengthen the legal and regulatory framework, capacity building and institutional collaboration in order to tackle the challenges of low competitiveness for Uganda products and menace of substandard goods on our market,” Mutende said.
He was speaking during the stakeholder’s quality and standards sensitisation meeting for Mbale region at Wash and Wills Hotel in Mbale town last week.
Mutende noted that the programme has enabled the ministry to put in place the national quality and standards policy that was launched in 2012. The development of the implementation strategy is in its final stages.
He said the ministry is planning to launch a national quality forum that will increase the engagement of stakeholders in developing a new quality culture in Uganda.
“This is to ensure that every Ugandan knows their role as far as quality and standards are concerned. We shall sensitise farmers, manufacturers, consumers, traders and policy makers so that issues of quality and standards are given priority so as to make our products competitive and protect consumers,” Mutende said.
The UNBS commissioner in charge of external trade, Cyprian Batala, said the standards body is working on a dialogue with stakeholders about the best way to drive the quality and standards agenda.
On legislation, he said the ministry is working on laws, such as the Anti-counterfeit Bill 2010 that protect, especially the producers, against inferior duplication of their products, which create unfair trading regimes and the weights and measures Bill to protect consumers and the accreditation Bill that will support exports.
He added that they have managed to harmonise standards with other partner states in the East Africa Community to reduce technical barriers to trade in the region.
“This harmonisation process is critical in actualising the common markets protocol, which provides for free movement of goods across the East African region,” Batala said.
He, however, added that the challenge of under staffing is frustrating their efforts to protect Ugandans from consuming fake products. Batala noted that UNBS is planning to equip regional centres to start carrying out tests as a way of reducing the work load at their main laboratories in Nakawa.