Time for a Made in Africa brand?

The development of a system of voluntary certification and of a “Made in Africa” collective trademark is a solution that can allow African manufacturers to guarantee the reliability of their companies and products, helping such goods to enter more easily foreign markets, where they must match strict quality and safety requirements to which customers are becoming increasingly sensitive.

One of the countries that has recently developed a “Made in” brand is Russia. Here, a program of voluntary certification was launched in 2017, implemented by the Russian Export Center (a Federal public export promotion agency). 

The Made in Russia program is based on the criteria set out in the Order No. 719 of 17 July 2015, lastly amended on 17-05-2021, that allows to use the “Made in Russia” brand only with respect to a series products listed in the Appendix to the Decree (further details are here).

The process is articulated in a two-step phase. During the first stage, a group of independent experts from the Russian Export Center assesses the experience, competence and business reputation of the company, as well as the safety of its products and their compliance with Russian legislation. As a result, the company obtains the registration in a public Register of bona fide exporters and a «Russian Exporter» certificate that can be mentioned on all the company’s printed materials, advertising materials, and on its corporate web-site. The second stage is aimed at obtaining a certification of reliability of the company’s products destined to export which confirms that they meet high international standards. This phase culminates in the obtention of a certificate giving the right to use the «Made in Russia» conformity mark on such goods, their packing unit and accompanying documentation. 

Criteria for obtaining the Made in Russia conformity mark include the execution of specific processing operations in the territory of the Russian Federation and the respect of a maximum percentage of foreign components used in product manufacture, that  from January 1, 2020 cannot be more than 30%.

At national level, different African nations have embraced this kind of initiatives. An example is Kenya, that is implementing a “Made in Kenya” initiative to help Kenyan companies to identify, authenticate and increase visibility of locally-manufactured products on the internal and the global markets. 

However, due to the micro size of most of African companies, more than isolated initiatives at national level, what Africa really needs is a collective approach in promoting sales of African products abroad, through a process able to certify these products as high-standard and authentic, increasing their “appeal” on international markets.

Moreover, this solution would allow a better distinctiveness of true African products from other “African inspired” products realised by European, U.S., Chinese or Indian companies for sale in international markets or that are sometimes shipped to Africa for sale in local markets, where they enjoy a price competitive advantage due to lower labour costs and higher use of automatisation of production in these territories. The traditional African fabrics and ethnic African products are an example, as described in this post on our blog.

A “Made in Africa” collective trademark should be inspired to a similar system. The emergence of a continental framework encapsulating trade operations in the continent – the African Continental Free Trade Area – now concretely offers this possibility, even though a specific regulation needs to be developed for such voluntary certification system.

This certification would help products manufactured in the African continent that meet a series of requirements in terms of quality and reliability, product safety, environmental friendliness, to penetrate more easily in foreign markets. Moreover, it would contribute to give abroad a modern image of African products as reliable and safe, increasing their recognisability in foreign markets, enhancing the level of trust by customers abroad and, last but not least, increasing awareness of their benefits. An example are the so called “functional foods and beverages”, i.e. food and beverages products with health benefits, whose demand is continually rising on global markets and of which Africa is rich.

Consumption of camel milk and its by-products (e.g. yoghurt, butter, etc.), for instance (a product largely produced especially in the Horn of Africa), has significantly grown during the Covid crisis of around 20% because of its health properties, which include the ability to boost the immune system in humans.

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