In a region that is still struggling to meet the required market standards in the quality of its export products, Rwanda has emerged as the regional hub for food testing thanks to new laboratory equipment donated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Speaking at the handover ceremony Thursday, Acting Director General of Rwanda Standards Board (RSB), Raymond Murenzi, said the equipment will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of product testing while reducing testing costs and boosting export competitiveness across the region, according to the New Times.
“This high tech and powerful piece of equipment will not only allow Rwanda to test and certify its own export products, but will also position Rwanda as a regional hub for testing samples in a number of areas, including food, cosmetics, and waste water,” Murenzi said.
The donated equipment, which includes an Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS), is the result of a partnership between Rwanda and the United States formed two years ago with the hope of supporting Rwanda’s efforts to improve intra-regional and international trade.
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“Through this partnership, USAID invested $5.7 million to improve market access and reduce cost of trade and transport, enhance the trade environment, and improve the competitiveness of Rwandan products and firms,” Marcia Musisi-Nkambwe, the USAID mission director said.
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With the new equipment, Rwanda will be able to test the purity of its export products and ensure all goods meet quality standards required by advancing markets in America, Europe, and Asia,
Rwanda’s Director of Trade and Markets East Africa, Patience Mutesi, says the food testing equipment is the first of its kind in East Africa, a testament to the fact that Rwanda is quickly becoming a leading innovation center in the region.
The country hopes that the spectrometer will play a crucial role in reducing testing time for mercury and arsenic by 88 percent, from 60 days to one week. The cost of testing is also expected to come down by 50 percent.
“With this investment, Rwandan SMEs will be able to access both regional and international markets and it will contribute towards the [Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy] EDPRS II target to increase Rwanda’s exports by 28 percent annually,” Mutesi said.
Rwanda’s main export products include coffee, tea, tin, coltan, wolfram, and cassiterite, with market statistics showing an impressive increase in the country’s export revenue, which stood at $56.55 million in July, according to Trading Economics.