Kenya - Country Commercial Guide
Standards for Trade

Describes standards, identifies the national standards, accreditation bodies, and lists the national testing organization(s) and conformity assessment bodies.

Last published date: 2021-09-13

Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) is the government regulatory body, under Kenya’s Ministry of Trade and Industrialization, mandated to prepare standards relating to products, measurements, materials, processes, etc., and promoting them at national, regional, and international levels. The National Environment Management Authority, under the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Public Health, and the Ministry of Health are all government organizations that develop environmental and public health standards in partnership with KEBS. KEBS conducts product testing for individual product categories and undertakes certification. KEBS has a semi-annual standards development plan and is now reviewing all standards with particular attention to those that are ten or more years old. A bulk of the standards have been already reviewed and harmonized within the Eastern Africa region.

KEBS operates on a more flexible market-driven approach whereby they offer the public as well as the market drivers (companies, manufacturers, associations) an opportunity to take part in the standards formulation process through technical committees and publication of standards for public review.

The Technical Committees are usually responsible for preparing and maintaining standards covering standardization in a defined scope. The principal responsibilities of the technical committee representative are: (i) Providing professional support to technical committees on matters of quality, safety, risk management and assessment; (ii) Collection and analysis of technical information for the drafting of the relevant standard; (iii) Attending and actively participating in committee meetings;(iv) Commenting on public review drafts and balloting on draft Kenya standards; (v) Keeping their respective organizations/institutions well informed about current standards development projects and expressing their organization’s views; (vi) Participating in regional and international standardization work by attending meetings, commenting and voting on regional and international draft standards.

KEBS also works together with different standards organizations. The government through its different entities/parastatals regulates everything and makes all standards mandatory. KEBS also prepares a National Standardization Plan which should be understood as a call for action to all stakeholders to participate and contribute towards addressing the current and future standardization needs and priorities. This plan is developed to respond to the changing situation and new demands arising out of liberalization of world economies and new developments.

Standards

A Kenyan standard is a document established by consensus and approved by KEBS that provides for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines, or characteristics for products and services, as well as related processes or production methods, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context.

Kenya applies a comparative ‘standard’ to all products or services. Kenya standards are classified into six categories:  glossaries or definitions of terminology; dimensional standards; performance standards; standard methods of test; codes of practice; and measurement standards. These standards are developed by technical committees whose membership includes representatives of various interest groups such as producers, consumers, technologists, research organizations, and testing organizations, in both the private and public sectors.

Some of the departments include the Food and Agriculture Department which is responsible for the development of standards covering food technologies, food safety, fertilizers, agricultural produce, livestock products, poultry products, etc.

The Chemical Department is responsible for the development of standards covering soaps, detergents, paints, pesticides, stationery, and related equipment and all products based on chemical formulations. Others include the services standards department, and the engineering department.

Service Standards Department is responsible for the development of standards in the service industry such as tourism, hotels, transport, education, social activities, etc. These standards are aimed at addressing the evolving needs in the service sector and represent a growth area.

Engineering Department is responsible for the development of standards in covering civil engineering, electro-technology, information technology, renewable energy, textile engineering and mechanical engineering. Standards Information and Resource Section is responsible for the maintenance and availability of standards information, library, WTO NEP, and sales of standards.

Publishing Section: This section is responsible for the editing and publishing of all Kenya Standards and related documents.

The Standards Information and Resource Section are responsible for the maintenance and availability of standards information, library, World Trade Organization, National Enquiry Point (NEP), and sales of standards while the Publishing Section is responsible for the editing and publishing of all Kenya Standards and related documents. 

KEBS does consult standards developed by global domiciled standards developing organizations like ISO, EAC SQMT, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food facility registration, ASTM International-standards international, The British Standards Institute, CODEX, The African Organization standardization (ARSO), etc.

Testing, Inspection and Certification

Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are required under the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement) to notify to the WTO proposed technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures that could affect trade.  Notify U.S. (www.nist.gov/notifyus) is a free, web-based e-mail registration service that captures and makes available for review and comment key information on draft regulations and conformity assessment procedures. Users receive customized e-mail alerts when new notifications are added by selected country or countries and industry sector(s) of interest and can also request full texts of regulations. This service and its associated web site are managed and operated by the USA WTO TBT Inquiry Point housed within the National Institute of Standards and Technology, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Conformity Assessment: All consignments of regulated products must now obtain a Certificate of Conformity (CoC) issued by authorized Pre-Export Verification of Conformity PVoC country offices (programs managed by partners such as Intertek Services) and an import standard mark (ISM) prior to shipment.

The CoC and ISM are mandatory customs clearance documents in Kenya; consignments of products arriving at points of entry without these documents are subject to delays and possibly denial of admission into the country.

The ISM is consignment specific. The mark must be applied to all products which have impact on health and safety, environment such as food and foodstuffs, electrical fittings, electrical appliances and accessories, and infant ware and toys. Informal arrangements with customs officials are widely believed to be responsible for the large volume of fake and counterfeit products present in the market, despite these regulatory requirements.

For consignments shipped without inspection, importers may apply for a destination inspection subject to KEBS acceptance and pay a penalty of 5%. On April 28, 2020, a new legal notice for goods L. N. NO. 78 THE STANDARDS ACT (Cap. 496), was published with the cost of destination inspection reduced to 5% of the approved custom value. The reduced fee might open doors to entry of sub substandard goods that would have been detected through country-of-origin inspection. Also see https://www.kebs.org/images/PvOC/LEGAL-NOTICE-No-183-reveiwed-draft-2020.pdf  for more information.

It is the seller’s responsibility to ensure that shipments to Kenya happen only after issuance of a CoC and ISM. In November 2007, KEBS removed a significant non-tariff trade barrier by agreeing to waive the CoC requirement on bulk agricultural commodities inspected and certified by U.S. government inspection agencies, (i.e., the U.S. Department of Agriculture Federal Grain Inspection Service and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service).

In addition to KEBS, other national testing bodies include:

  • The Government Chemist (forensic testing for law enforcement agencies);
  • The National Quality Control Laboratories (medical and pharmaceutical testing);
  • The National Public Health Laboratories (testing of microbiological reagents);
  • The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) (certification of all imported plant materials as well as implementing sanitary & phytosanitary requirements);
  • Materials Testing Department, Ministry of Roads & Public Works (testing of materials used in the building and construction industries).

Private conformity assessment bodies in Kenya include SGS KenyaBureau Veritas, and InterTek Services all of which provide private consumer product-testing services. Except for Intertek Services, these organizations also undertake systems and services certification. 

Product Certification: Certification can improve reputation, open new markets, or simply enable the company to operate. It also enables companies to manage risk and drive performance, by tracking several key variables over a period of time.

The certification process typically includes on-site audits and standardized testing and inspections. Once a certificate has been delivered, it is maintained through regular audits.

Product certification is voluntary, but essential for marketing purposes. There are no mandatory requirements for product certification, but companies are encouraged to have their export products certified. National organizations such as the Radiation Protection Board, NEMA, the Dairy Board of Kenya, and the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) have specific product and system requirements that must be met prior to issuance of licenses or permits.

The importation of any form of plant material (such as seeds, cuttings, bud wood plantlets, fresh fruit, flowers, and timber etc.) into Kenya is subject to strict conditions as outlined in the import permit issued by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) prior to shipment of such plants from the origin regardless of whether they are duty free, gifts or for commercial or experimental purposes. Seed certification is mandatory before seeds can be sold locally; the process can take up to three years. Kenya has been a member of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) since 1999. Note: seeds are the number one good counterfeited in Kenya.

The Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) registers all agricultural chemicals imported or distributed in Kenya following local testing by an appointed research agency. It also inspects and licenses all premises involved in the production, distribution, and sale of the chemicals. The board has the right to test chemicals sold locally to assure their compliance with originally certified specifications. No agricultural chemicals can be imported into Kenya without prior PCPB authorization, and chemicals can only be sold for the specific use granted by the board. For the most part, major horticulture producers and exporters also adhere to strict European Union and U.S. standards in the application and use of agricultural chemicals.

All organizations involved in the manufacture, distribution, and sale of agricultural chemicals in Kenya are members of the Agro Chemical Association of Kenya (ACAK). Members must sign a “Code of Conduct” based on the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization Code. This document requires rigid controls in the manufacturing, packaging, labeling, and distribution of agrochemicals. It also mandates an ethics code.

Kenya’s Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) and the Ministry of Health are responsible for the certification and registration of all pharmaceutical drugs manufactured or imported into the country.

To indicate conformity with mandatory product requirements, manufacturers can voluntarily place a KEBS mark of quality on the certified product. KEBS has the legal authority to stop the sale of substandard products and to prosecute offending parties. KEBS may inspect the product to ensure it conforms to KEBS or any other KEBS-approved standards; products that do not meet the standards are to be withdrawn from the market and the importer/manufacturer may be prosecuted. 

Accreditation: Accreditation bodies in Kenya include KEBS, SGS, and Bureau Veritas; however, no mandatory accreditation for laboratories is required for any sector. Kenya Accreditation Services (KENAS) is a quasi-government body with both public and private sector membership tasked with developing a national accreditation system. KENAS is recognized by the GOK as the sole national accreditation body that provides format recognition for Certification Bodies (CBs), Inspection Bodies (IBs) and Laboratories throughout the country. This ensures that testing and calibration, proficiency testing scheme providers are competent to carry out specific conformity assessment tasks.

KENAS also registers assessors, auditors, and inspectors, and regulates training providers of management systems. KENAS is responsible for the Accreditation of Certification Bodies to ISO/IEC Guide 62 66 (replaced by ISO/IEC 17021:2006 in September 2007) and 65 (including adherence to the IAF interpretation of the same and laboratory certification to ISO/IEC 17025). All inspection bodies are accredited to ISO/IEC17020 standards. 

Publication of Technical Regulations

Proposed technical regulations under the Standards Act do not normally require notification via the official government publication, the Kenya Gazette; however, final regulations are published in the Kenya Gazette as legal notices. By enrolling in a corporate membership with Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), U.S. companies can upon a written request to the Managing Director of KEBS, receive proposed technical regulations that affect their industry. They can also submit their comments on the proposed regulations for consideration by the relevant technical committee.

To obtain the list of proposed KEBS standards, U.S. exporters can contact:

Kenya Bureau of Standards,
Off Mombasa Road, Nairobi South C,
P.O. Box 54974 -00200, Nairobi, Kenya;
Tel:  +254 (20) 6948201/401; Fax:  +254 (20) 60403;
Contact: LT. Col (Rtd) Bernard N. Njiraini , Managing Director,
Email: info@kebs.org 

For more information on Customs, Regulations & Standards, contact:

Judy Magondu

U.S. Commercial Service – Kenya

Standards Specialist

+254 (20) 363-6400; Judy.Magondu@trade.gov