Spreading the IECEE gospel in Africa

In February 2022, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) became a recognizing National Certification Body (NCB) of the IEC System of Conformity Assessment Schemes for Electrotechnical Equipment and Components (IECEE). As a recognizing NCB, KEBS operates a national certification approval scheme which recognizes IECEE test reports and certificates for electrical and electronic components, equipment and products.

Benson Bundi and Irene Njine from KEBS

In a recent conversation with e-tech, Irene Njine, Assistant Manager for the Quality Assurance Department, and Benson Bundi, Principal Inspection Technician for the Quality Inspection Department in KEBS, provided further details about their involvement in IECEE and strengthening their relationship with the IEC.

Deepening ties with IECEE

KEBS’s involvement within the IEC community as an associate member dates back to February 2005. It joined as an IECEE Member Body in 2008 and has hosted the IEC National Committee of Kenya since 2005. As KEBS learned more about the IECEE Certification Body (CB) Schemes, many of which include products that are imported into Kenya, they decided to become an IECEE NCB.

As Ms Njine explains, “As the Secretariat for the IEC, we host meetings every quarter to discuss our activities with the IEC. Over time, as we came to understand the benefits of the IECEE, we decided to become an IECEE National Certification Body.”

KEBS certification marks

KEBS issues three standardization marks, one of which, Import Standardization Mark of Quality, focuses on imported products. Among the criteria for certification and entering the Kenyan market, products must be tested for conformity to specific safety and performance requirements.

According to Mr Bundi, “Distributors apply to KEBS to be able to have their products sold in Kenya. We then issue certificates for those products registered by KEBS. One of the criteria for registration is the submission of a certificate of conformity as per the IECEE CB Scheme. Once we can confirm through the IECEE database that the certificate is valid, we register the product and allow it to enter our market without further testing.”

Since its participation as an IECEE NCB in February 2022, KEBS has declared 211 IEC Standards as within their recognizing scope and issued 32 product certificates. “We have declared standards across the 23 IECEE product categories, including batteries, low voltage and high-power switching equipment, installation accessories and connection devices,” notes Ms Njine.

Benefits of IECEE participation

In detailing the benefits of participating in IECEE, Mr Bundi provided a brief history of conformity assessment for imported products which began in 1995 in Kenya. “In 2005, we started a programme to verify conformity prior to import and signed agreements with international inspection bodies including SGS and Intertek, to undertake the inspection on our behalf. Once they confirmed that a product complies with our standards, the product could enter our market.”

However, as Mr Bundi explains, the country expanded its national capacity for testing and certification within KEBS. “By building our capacity, we are able to help our distributors by reducing their business costs while also ensuring that compliance to standards is maximized.”

By participating in IECEE as a recognizing NCB, KEBS has been able to eliminate duplicate testing. According to Ms Njine, “We recognize that when products have already been tested by IECEE, there is no need for KEBS to do further testing. That is one of the main benefits.”

By recognizing IECEE certificates, KEBS is able to expand testing capabilities. “In some cases, our labs lack the capacity to perform the testing for some products. With the IECEE CB Scheme, we can benefit from the testing and issue our certification for products. It also allows us to save time in terms of testing and the clearance of products at their port of entry,” remarks Ms Njine.

Another benefit relates to market surveillance. Products in the Kenyan market are randomly and independently tested to ensure conformity to country requirements. According to Mr Bundi, the market surveillance team has been very satisfied. “So far, we have received positive feedback on the products sampled that had been certified through the IECEE CB Scheme.”

Satisfying market needs

Market reaction to the recognition of the IECEE CB Scheme has been very positive. Mr Bundi remarks, “We have received a lot of positive comments from industry who have benefited from reduced costs in certification and quicker market access. They are able to efficiently and effectively do their business owing to us embracing this certification scheme.”

Positive market reaction is also evidenced by the increased demand in product registration applications. “We are receiving many applications right now which underscores the importance of the IECEE CB Scheme and the value that distributors place on it. The IECEE CB Scheme is a market tool for KEBS and is now understood to be the easiest way to import high quality goods into the Kenyan market,” explains Mr Bundi.

A leader in Africa

In Africa, only three countries participate in IECEE as member bodies – Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya and South Africa. This can provide KEBS with an opportunity to help neighbouring countries better understand and become involved in conformity assessment activities.

“Conformity assessment is a recurrent agenda item for the committee meetings I attend on the African continent. We want to help other countries understand the benefits of conformity assessment by preaching this gospel. I tell them that the Kenya Bureau of Standards has been able to go through this process and take the time to help them. We hope to be able to convert them to IECEE,” highlights Ms Njine.

Next step

As a next step, KEBS plans to further strengthen its involvement with IECEE. “At this time, we are only recognizing standards within our scope. We currently have recognized 211 IEC Standards and plan to increase this number as well as expand the product certificates issued. The process has been working very well for us so far,” concludes Ms Njine.