Established under the Standards Act of Parliament in 1974, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) is the sole body in charge of setting the standards of products in regards to measurements, materials and processes in Kenya. Its mandate includes creating awareness of these standards, certification of companies in compliance with the standards, in addition to helping industry players achieve the correct production quality. For businesses to legally sell products in Kenya, they have to get the KEBS marks of quality, some of which are mandatory while others are optional. Here they are:
KEBS Marks of Quality
This certification is mandatory and provided for all products locally manufactured in Kenya; from tissue paper to liquid hand soap with records of all certified products searchable on the KEBS website. You can apply for the standardization mark by filling this application form and paying a fee which varies depending on the type of product you will be selling.
Diamond Mark of Quality
This mark is not mandatory and can be awarded to manufacturers- both local and those based abroad, so long as the applicant has demonstrated excellence in manufacturing and quality. The mark will be valid for three years but conditional on adhering to contractual quality standards. Though optional, you can get the quality mark as a differentiation strategy to build your company’s image, using it in marketing campaigns to associate your business with quality.
Import Standardization Mark
The mark is a prerequisite for all importers of goods, planning to sell them in the local market; with an exemption of goods from the East African Community. In order to be considered for the standardization mark, importers have to submit copies of the Import Declaration Form (talks are ongoing to eliminate Import Declaration Fee), Certificate of Conformity and Customs Entry Certificate. KEBS charges Ksh.0.49 per sticker issued for the mark.
Food Fortification Logo
It is mandatory under Kenyan law that wheat flour and dry maize milled products are fortified with zinc and iron; vegetable fats and oils fortified with vitamin A, while salt is fortified with iodine. Thus, the food Fortification Logo-a collaboration of KEBS and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation is placed on all products falling within these categories. The mark is acquired at Ksh.10, 000 per product within a brand, for instance, a brand selling both maize and wheat flour will have to pay the fee for each product line.
How Consumers Benefit From KEBS Standards
Adherence to standards gives consumers’ confidence that products certified aren’t harmful and that in case of any violation there is a higher power to correct the matter. Without the mark, consumers would grapple with uncertainty. For instance, an unwritten law among lovers of the Kenyan delicacy ‘mutura’ (mostly sold informally) is, ‘always buy mutura from the same vendor ’- a protection against epic stomach aches. However, when a mutura lover moves to a new town, they will worriedly experiment with a random vendor and if their intestines survive unscathed, that vendor gets a life customer. Imagine a similar situation within our supermarkets if KEBS seized to exist.
Additionally, KEBS certifications like the Diamond Mark of Quality or the bureau’s regular quality tests on food in the market; motivates companies to maintain quality and consistency in production in order to remain certified.
Nonetheless, there are challenges that KEBS faces in enforcing standards and they include; limitations on quality parameters, long legal processes, lack of equipment, and unscrupulous manufacturers. Consumers should thus take precaution and check the authenticity of products through the SMS number 20023 before buying. For a product, send a text to 20023 with the product’s serial number for example, ISM#Serialnumber. To check a car’s mileage before purchase, send a text with the cars chassis number e.g. CH#Chassisnumber to 20023, for food products text the permit number e.g FM#Permitnumber to 20023.