- Over the past five years, Kenyans have spent 39.5 billion shillings on imports, according to the 2021 Economic Survey.
- The increase in imports is due to easier access to foreign markets through e-commerce, a growing segment of the middle-income population that favors quality products.
- Although Africa represents only 2.2% of production and 2.8% of world trade, the international trade in furniture exceeds 140 billion dollars.
The furniture industry is changing day by day. Furniture companies that realize today’s consumers are savvier and more educated than ever are booming.
Furniture companies that choose quality brands that won’t cause financial loss or pose a health risk to the consumer are bound to succeed in a fierce industry where competition is king.
Take for example this complaint from a furniture user who was disappointed to realize that what she had purchased from a so-called established company was substandard: “We bought a sofa. The sofa legs were made of third grade plastic. It cracked after six months. We barely sat on the couch. When we called the furniture company they told us to have it fixed by the local carpenter. How will the local carpenter get parts to repair his sofas? complained the stunned customer.
This is why the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) is keen to get rid of substandard furniture from the market.
Over the past five years, Kenyans have spent 39.5 billion shillings on imports, according to the 2021 Economic Survey.
The increase in imports is due to easier access to foreign markets through e-commerce, a growing segment of the middle-income population that favors quality products.
The evolution that real estate is experiencing due to urbanization supported by the growing number of the middle class and an influx of foreign investors in real estate with innovative interior designers has acted as a catalyst for the rise imported furniture.
Although Africa represents only 2.2% of production and 2.8% of world trade, the international trade in furniture exceeds 140 billion dollars.
The preference for imported furniture over locally made furniture by Kenyans is due to better workmanship, diversity of designs and cost of purchase.
Locally produced furniture is mostly made of wood. The other materials used are composites, which reduces the cost of production.
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a sudden surge in demand for hospital beds. The informal sectors have positioned themselves to alleviate the shortage.
At the same time, when the Ministry of Education identified intervention measures to relieve congestion in schools, it launched a project to purchase and distribute desks, creating an unprecedented demand for furniture.
To ensure standardization and maintenance of quality, the Kenya Bureau of Standards has developed many standards for furniture.
The Kebs advised importers to obtain test reports from manufacturing companies to weed out imports of poor quality furniture.
Through regular review of substandard imports at risk, the Kebs upgraded furniture as one of the high risk products for non-compliance with compliance standards.
Kenya’s Industrial Transformation Program has identified furniture as a low hanging fruit that could create a vibrant industry to boost the big four agenda in manufacturing.
To guard against unfair trade practices, the Kebs will step up monitoring to ensure that only quality furniture is imported.
The Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) moved quickly to ensure that a young man’s innovative bed was certified.
During the certification process, KEBS officers provided advice on areas for improvement, including improving the stability of the bed, making strong guardrails to prevent patients from falling, and changing the material base from wood to steel.
According to the applicable standard, the hospital bed should not be constructed of wood as it is an easier receptor of germs and pathogens and therefore steel is recommended. The bed certification confirms the role of SMEs in the furniture industry.
The standards specify general dimensions, strength, stability and durability. In particular, KEBS has developed hospital bed standards which include; KS 2462-1: 2015 for ordinary bed, KS 2462-2 for pediatric beds (baby) and KS 2462-3: 2017, Obstetric bed.
To guarantee the quality of the beds, a standard test method has been developed; KS ISO19833:2018, Methods of test for furniture beds for the determination of stability, strength and durability.
Other standards for furniture include; KS ISO 24496:2017 Office furniture – Methods of determining dimensions used by designers to develop measurements for ergonomic purposes; KS ISO 821:2005 One-piece plastic chairs – Specification of a standard for plastic chairs and; KS 2817:2018 Furniture-Wooden office table-Specification.
In addition to these standards, KEBS has also embraced the use of new materials used in furniture manufacturing by including bamboo as a construction material through the development of KS 2930:2021 Bamboo Furniture – General Technical Requirements.
The new standard offers alternative materials for making furniture for both local manufacturers and imports.
While consumers retain their right to purchase imported furniture due to its modern design features, they also suffer huge losses as some of such furniture is not durable and is weaker in strength compared to furniture. locally made.
In 2013, the government made a statement prohibiting the purchase of imported furniture for government offices. The absence of an appropriate framework for standardization and certification of the application of quality by SMEs has largely contributed to the failure of the implementation of the policy.
In order to improve the quality of furniture, MSEs should be equipped with common user machines such as CNC routers, CNC plasma cutting machines and other furniture machines for improved production of quality furniture comparable to imports but superior in strength and durability.