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Quality as Key to Export Markets

The requirements in the international markets are as varied as the markets themselves. It is therefore important that the situation be determined for each product and for each market – what does the market require in terms of quality, price, design, etc. Once this information is known then a strategy can be formulated and implemented to ensure that the product will gain the attention of potential purchasers in the target market. Some general observations can however be made.


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System certification

The growth of system certification, especially the success story of ISO 9000 (more than 700 000 certificates world-wide in 2005), has made it difficult to penetrate new markets, or maintain current markets if the supplier is not certified in some form. And it has not stopped with ISO 9000. A number of similar management standards for areas other than quality have been developed by ISO and by a wide variety of industry sector based organizations. Some of these (by no means a complete list) are
• ISO 14000 – environmental management
• ISO 13485 – medical devises
• ISO 22000 – food safety
• HACCP – food safety
• BRC – food safety
• EUREPGAP – food safety
• OHSAS 18000 – occupational health and safety
• SA 8000 – social accountability
• ISO/TS 16949 – automotive products

The supplier therefore has to be very careful in choosing the “correct” system certification for the product and the market. Otherwise it can become a very expensive but fruitless exercise. Fortunately, once the supplier is certified by an appropriately accredited certification organization, then this certification is generally accepted world-wide. Information regarding the standards and certification can be obtained from the National Standards Bodies. This type of certification is usually required by large purchasing organizations, retailers and sometimes the state, less so by the typical consumer.

Product certification


Product certification results in a visible identification on the product (i.e. a specific mark) that the product complies with a given standard. Unlike system certification however, product certification does not travel well beyond national borders. It is only a few marks that emanate from developed economies that have gained market acceptance beyond their country of origin (e.g. UL, ASME, TÜV, GS, etc.).

In a number of developing economies and economies in transition, also in the EAC Member States, the National Standards Bodies have national product certification marks. This is important for the local market, but they mean little in export markets. For a supplier it is an extremely expensive business to obtain product certification from a certification organization resident in a foreign country in order to gain market acceptance for the product. The decision therefore has to be carefully made, considering testing and certification costs, market acceptance, and many others. In some cases cooperation agreements do exist between local certification bodies and such foreign ones.

The ubiquitous CE-Mark is not a product certification mark, but a regulatory mark required by the authorities in the European Union. The CE-Mark is affixed on products by the supplier once all the requirements of the EU Directive for that product have been fulfilled, thereby accepting responsibility for the integrity of the product in the European markets. Whether the CE-mark is protected in law in other markets, or is used indiscriminately without fear of retribution because many consumers chose to recognize it as a mark of quality, is another debate.


see also
Check also from the consumers protection chapter;
Economic Development

East African Business Council