The global trade in food products has tripled in the last decade with enormous impact on both the health of populations and the economies of nations. In these long, complex supply chains, it is vital that food is of good quality and is kept safe for consumption when it reaches the consumer. Food safety standards and regulations are essential to ensure food is safe at all points along the supply chains in both international trade and within the East African region.

The East African Community (EAC) recognises that an efficient, effective, balanced and responsive standards harmonisation process is a critical component for trade development across East Africa. A study carried out by EAC-GIZ in the EAC in 2019 observed very low stakeholder capacity for effective participation in the harmonisation of standards. This was attributed to limited awareness of the importance and processes for setting and harmonisation of standards, insufficient expertise amongst institutions, associations and private sector bodies participating in the EAC standards setting and poor communication and linkages between standards setting bodies and the private sector.

Addressing this knowledge gap, the EU-EAC MARKUP programme via GIZ conducted a series of trainings organised for 19 future trainers from national standard bodies (Burundi 4 trainers trained, Kenya 3, Rwanda 3, South Sudan 3, Tanzania 3 and Uganda 3) and 142 stakeholders across sectors including academia, the private sector and government institutions from all EAC Partner States in 2020/2021. The trainers will pass on the knowledge acquired to other technical committee members at their national level. 

For this, MARKUP in partnership with the EAC had developed a training manual on the development and harmonisation of standards with eight modules which covered The Concept and Institutional Framework of Standardisation, The Principles, Practices and Procedures for Development and Harmonisation of Standards and Stakeholders Engagement among others. The main training reached 142 national stakeholders – 23 in Burundi, 25 in Kenya, 17 in Rwanda, 27 in South Sudan, 25 in Tanzania and 25 in Uganda – and used a variety of methods including face-to-face lectures, discussions, in-session exercises and workshops, simulations, experience sharing and demonstrations to emphasise the importance of standards harmonisation and ensure participants gained the knowledge to set in motion action for standards harmonisation.

Testimonies from participants, feedback from evaluations questionnaires and communication exchanges between trainers, trainees and representatives from EAC and MARKUP indicated much success. "I have already developed a concept to enable us in the university to work with students to generate some data on the effectiveness of standards and for use in standards development," stressed Dr Paul Mugabi, Kyambogo University, Kampala.

"Thank you for the initiative, this is something that had not happened before. Engagement with the private sector is very critical and EABC is happy to work with MARKUP to disseminate information on standards down to the lowest level," highlighted Lameck Wesonga from East African Business Council (EABC).

David Ebuku, lead regional trainer, expressed the need for a comprehensive training of trainers to ensure that trainers have competence and confidence to continue training at national level. "This will enhance a common understanding among the trainers which can be transmitted to stakeholders at national level. The current level of competence appears to vary amongst Partner States," he added during the training report validation workshop held on 25th May 2021.

Harmonisation of standards at the EAC is guided by “Principles and procedures for the development of East African Standards” formulated in accordance with the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (WTO TBT Agreement). The principles and procedures to be adhered to, establish a preferred style for the development of the standards thereby allowing for consistency of the documents, as well as elaborating on the methodologies for publication of standards.

Find out more about MARKUP on the MARKUP website.

Read more about the development and harmonisation of standards in the EAC in the MARKUP Policy Briefs no. 1 - 4.

Photo: ©EAC-GIZ_Roshni Lodhia