In previous months, Athanase Harelimana the coordinator of UNICOOPAGI (Union De Cooperatives Agricoles Intégrées) based in Nyamagabe District, Southern Province, would make several trips to Kigali when seeking certification or other services from the Rwanda Standards Bureau.
The cooperative is often seeking services such as certification documentation, sample testing among others.
However, recently when he was purchasing standards (a set of minimum mandatory standards that RSB expects producers to comply with for certification), he did not have to make the trip and received the service in hours as opposed to days as was previously the case.
To access the service, he used the agency's e-Portal, made his selection, made payments virtually and was able to download the documents.
Previously, the process would have involved making a trip to the RSB office in Kicukiro, placing an order, visiting the bank to make payment and receive a proof of payment, submitting it at the agency and waiting a few days for preparation of the document.
The development follows the launch of a Single Window Information for Trade (SWIFT) project last week which was made possible by input and investment from partners such as TradeMark East Africa and USAID.
TradeMark East Africa is a regional organisation established in 2010, which works with governments and the East African Community to grow prosperity through increased trade.
The Single Window Information for Trade (SWIFT) also reduces time and cost for local producers seeking services such as test results and certification as they only need to drop their samples at the agency and results are delivered electronically in about a week's time as opposed to about a month previously.
Prior to the development, an entity seeking a test report or certificate would physically drop the samples at the Agency's office in Kicukiro, Pay at the bank and submit proof of payment , then wait for a about 28 days with regular trips and calls to follow up on the stage of their certification before making a trip to collect it.
The new platform also eases access to services such as application and processing of Made in Rwanda Logo; application for calibration of instruments, application and processing of sample testing, application for license and Lab designation.
Why it's a game changer
For local producers like Harelimana, review and simplification of the process improves chances of going through the process, which consequently leads to certification improving competitiveness in local and regional markets.
"Given how convenient it is, we have no reason not to go through the process which will see our products get certified for trade," he said.
Rwanda Standards Board Director-General Raymond Murenzi said that the going forward the digitalization of the process will promote trade and access to regional export markets as more local products can meet eligibility terms for trade.
Murenzi said that standards and conformity serve as 'passports' for eligibility to access local and regional markets.
The improved efficiency, he said, will serve to close trade gaps and boost chances of penetrating regional markets.
He added that the new system is more ideal for data collection and analysis on samples and local producers which will improve policy making, decisions and planning on their part.
Amy Beeler, the Head of Economic Growth Unit at USAID Rwanda said that such digitization and innovation ensures services to its clients are delivered uninterrupted.
Patience Mutesi, the Rwanda Country Director, TradeMark East Africa to increase trade, ideal interventions include removing barriers to trade and improving competitiveness of the private sector.
The new system she noted addresses the barriers to trade and improves competitiveness and is expected to serve ambitions of reduced time and cost for business process facilitation, increased exports as well as increased investment and jobs.