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Smart Standardizing of the Eritrean Standards Institution

A standard is a document with a set of experts-approved principles that encourage organizations to deliver goods and services in an appropriate manner. Organizations have a moral obligation to conform to certain standards so that people can remain healthy, enjoy life and feel safe. The Eritrean Standards Institute (ESI) makes sure standards are met by organizations and business people by promoting standardization, quality assurance and metrology (calibration services of various types of measurements).

The ESI, an autonomous statutory standardization body in Eritrea that has a separate juridical personality, was established in 1995. Its head office is in Asmara and has branch offices in the ports of Massawa and Assab. It is led by 12 members of the Board of Directors and a manager, the ESI has four departments: Standardization, Quality Assurance, Metrology as well as Testing. The board is composed of members from ministries and institutions and the General Manager acts as the Chief Executive Officer responsible for the daily administration of the institution within the broad guidelines formulated by the board.

So far, the ESI has published 446 National Standards. These national standards are categorized for Food and Agricultural products (solid and liquid), as well as for building materials such as chemicals, textiles and others. ESI is working upon the weights, measures and quality of products such as cement, clay bricks, reinforcement bars, galvanized corrugated steel sheets, wires and wails, hollow concrete blocks, aggregates, paper, safety matches, glass bottles, cereals, pulses, oil Seeds, edible and industrial salt, beer, ethanol, edible vegetable oil, fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, milk and milk products, tea, cotton fibers and yarns.

The first objective of the ESI, is to give standards to goods imported or manufactured in the country. Standards are developed of by consensus among specialists and are later approved by the board. ESI’s role is to be a custodian of the board approved set of standards. According to the institution’s data, there are 400 unpublished standards but are technically inspected by technical committees and approved by the board. These additional standards are expected to be published and implemented as the institution increases its capacity.

ESI conducts seasonal random standard inspections in various parts of the country, according to the General Manager, Mr. Beyene Misghna. The manager said that with people’s life style changing, the use of packaged food is increasing immensely, which in return can be a reason for many side effects. Mr. Beyene noted that the quality of products in a nation goes in parallel with the living standard of the people; so acquiring standardized products would yield a healthy community, and good living standard. Moreover, having products of organizations conform to standards encourages competition in industries.

Awareness of quality in the Eritrean society is relatively fine and, according to the General Manager, people have the basic know-how of quality of products, it is only a matter of affordability as to whether people select the best products.

The Quality Assurance department within the ESI tests the technical aspects of products by taking samples. It can do these tests only for those productions that enter the country through legal means. Quality assurance officers, according to standards, check whether the product conforms to the outlined criteria and approve the quality of the product. This department assists the laboratory section in the ESI. The quality assurance and certification operation of ESI is governed by the “Standards Mark and Fees Regulations Legal Notice No. 34/1997”, the general rules for ESI certification system and specific rules of certification scheme. Under this system, manufacturers or suppliers of products, make products or give service by conforming to relevant Eritrean Standards (ES). The mark or certificate is an assurance to the consumer that a product or the process complies with the requirements of the relevant ES. ESI has been actively conducting quality assurance activities (testing and certification) on various imported, exported and locally manufactured products such as oil seeds, pulses, salt, beer, ethanol, safety match, nails and wires, steel sheets, bricks, glass bottles, etc.

The quality assurance department implements standards through laboratory testing to protect the interests’ of consumers, manufacturers as well as suppliers. It also secures wider markets for Eritrean products and strives to achieve and sustain global competitiveness. In order for the quality assurance activities to be carried on effectively, testing facilities are imminent. Therefore, ESI testing laboratories conduct tests activities according to validated test methods and accepted international norms. ESI strives to introduce Quality Management System (QMS) of ISO/IEC 17025 for its testing and calibration laboratories. ESI has three testing laboratories: The Engineering laboratory for testing building materials, the Chemical laboratory for determining chemical contents of products and the Micro-biological laboratory for determining microbiological quality of food.

Moreover, the quality assurance department provides training and consultations related to testing, quality, quality control, quality assurance and QMS to local manufacturers, importers, exporters, consumers and assist some organizations in introducing QMS that match with the international standards (ISO 9000). Further, the institution provides training on chemical and physical laboratory tests to various laboratory technicians from different manufacturers. As ESI is a member of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), it periodically sends its employees overseas for short term courses on standard. The institution has around 50 employees who are involved in various activities.

ESI follows a separate documented QMS to conduct its activities smoothly. Drafting and following a QMS allows any organization to offer products of no defect. The long term plan of the institution is to advance its activities from product standard certification into system certification of organizations.

To protect the interest of the consumer, ESI conducts Product Certification to check whether products comply with ES or not. Manufacturers and importers whose products meet the Eritrean Standards are granted permit to use the Eritrean Standards Mark shown in the picture.

The objective of this scheme is to convey to the consumer that the goods have been tested and certified by the institution within a reasonable assurance of quality.

The legal metrology of the ESI provides annual calibration services to the balances, weights, fuel dispensers and tankers which are being used in commercial transactions throughout the country. The calibration department manages measurements of any transactions made between businesses or a business and to consumers. This department makes sure all the scales used for measurements are optimally calibrated according to what they are labeled. The tools (e.g. dispensers) are annually measured and calibrated to the numbers adjusted in the frames. The institution may seize and detain any measuring instrument which does not meet the standard of the Weights and Measures Regulations.

As long as making standards is a unified activity, the ESI makes sure all sectors in the country are cooperative. Hence, the stakeholders of ESI are the consumers, traders, suppliers, manufacturers as well as government and non-government parties.

Standards benefit both consumers and producers. The ESI always works to protect the consumer, the environment and the overall economy which can directly be reflected in the living standard of the people. Mr. Beyene said that if organizations make standards their ultimate foundation, they will open door for competition which will be useful for their survival and the prosperity of the economy and, with possible publicity of their products regionally and internationally.

‘Standards Make Cities Smarter’, was the theme of this year’s World Standards Day. It is all linked with safety, security and sustainability of products, services and systems. In the meantime, ESI makes sure quality is measured and certified by all means.

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