Joselyn B. Mwine sits down with the UNBS Executive Director as he takes office to chat about his vision for the Bureau as well as life outside the office.
Congratulations on your appointment as the Executive Director of UNBS. How are you feeling about taking on this mantle?
Mr. Ebiru: Thank you very much. Of course it is exciting but also challenging at the same time. It is exciting because it is a personal career achievement to be in the top most office but challenging because it comes with a lot of responsibility and not just internally for the growth of the institution but also meeting the expectations of our key stakeholders particularly government. Government has a lot of policies and expectations to ensure that the Bureau supports and contributes to the entire development agenda, specifically NDPIII and the manifesto whose focus is on industrialisation, agro processing, Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU), import substitution, export promotion, access to the regional and continental market. All this can be achieved with the input of UNBS to ensure that all Ugandan products are certified and conformity assessment has been duly undertaken to ensure that they are favourable for these markets. We also have a general responsibility of protecting consumers which is a huge and critical mandate of the bureau.
In reference to government expectations, it is a well-known fact that policy makers do not entirely understand or appreciate the work we do. How will you ensure that the UNBS portfolio and mandate are fully appreciated by government and the general public?
Mr. Ebiru: Our focus is to demonstrate the value of quality standards in the development of a country but also the competitiveness of local products because the competitiveness of an economy is measured by what a country can offer or sell to other countries. The competition is on trade and we need government and policy makers to appreciate that the issue of quality and standards is very critical in the economic development of a country and that if you cannot sell a good product then you have a weak economy. The favourable balance of trade is that you should be able to export more of your products than you import because it involves movement of money; meaning that the economy retains more money than it spends outside. It is therefore critical that the quality infrastructure is critical to economic growth. A favourable balance of trade means that we create more jobs, we are able to collect more taxes as well as improving services for the people. As UNBS, we have to demonstrate our capacity to support market access and local investment in those value addition sectors like agro processing and manufacturing. As a country we are heavily dependent on agriculture and as the bureau we are supporting that sector and creating awareness so that the products from these sectors meet the requirements. We have heavily invested in this by having internationally accredited laboratories that have the capacity to test all aspects of agricultural products but also beyond agriculture we have built capacity in sectors such as engineering and construction is an emerging sector, chemicals, management and services such as tourism, leisure and these are all sectors we are able to support to become competitive. We have over 4000 adequate standards which are internationally harmonised and those that are taking care of the national interest of BUBU and we believe we are in position of supporting the development agenda.
Speaking of demonstrating potential, we recently celebrated the World Metrology Day and what was clear is that UNBS has a lot of potential to support various sectors such as health. However, we are limited by the regulation that only covers trade and related aspects. How are (you or we) going to be able to manage that?
Mr. Ebiru: Despite the regulation, we need to emphasise collaboration with other government agencies. If UNBS has the capacity to offer a service but does not have an enabling regulation the best is to make sure that we support the sector that directly responsible for regulating that area. When you talk of the health sector, we are already working closely with the Ministry of Health and National Drug Authority in the different ways to make sure that we support them to implement. We are creating synergies across government to ensure that we supplement the gaps to provide the required capacity regardless of whether the mandate falls with us or not but for good of the country. We are doing a lot of work on behalf of other MDAs, for example, Ministry of Agriculture of Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), we have taken up the issue of quality assurance for maize for export because of the issue of aflatoxins. You may hear people say that this is a mandate of MAAIF but we are saying that UNBS has the capacity to do this and why we should wait and duplicate resources instead of complementing. The resources of the Bureau can be used to support other agencies and those of others be used to support UNBS. So we are consolidating partnerships across so that we work as one government and focus on what is good for the country.
If you were a technical committee member, what committee would you like to sit on and why?
Technical Committees are constituted by experts who bring on their experience in the area of the standard being developed as well as knowledge and theory both academic and professional. As somebody with a very strong background in academia and also training largely in Finance and accounting and generally management services field I would be more relevant in those committees dealing with financial services, management services. This is because apart from practice, I have a strong background in academia and I would be useful in those committees as well as risk and governance because those are the things I do daily but I also have quite a strong professional background in them.
With a position like yours it is quite difficult to imagine how you are able to maintain a healthy work-life balance. How do you do that given the demands of the office?
Mr. Ebiru: The work life balance is critical and as a leader I must encourage all staff to strive for that. We must understand that we come to these offices for a time and the rest of the time is spent outside of these offices and therefore we must ensure that we draw a clear line between the two. It may not be as easy as it sounds but we must also invest the same time and energy into nurturing relationships outside of work. You often hear people say “I will take the work and complete it from home” and that is not right because when you get home your family knows you as Dad, husband, uncle, brother etc. and they require undivided attention. Sometimes you close the computer at work but it remains open in your head and your body is physically at home but your mind is at work. We must plan our days effectively to avoid such scenarios. We must also remember that when our time of service is over we have to return to the social life and family and therefore we must invest adequate time in shaping those relationships.
Speaking of social life, what do you enjoy doing outside of work in terms of sports, and other extra-curricular activities?
Mr. Ebiru: I am a Rotarian and Rotary is about meeting with friends, and being able to make a contribution to the needy communities. I like socialising with peers because out of that we talk about personal development, projects, seek advice and be able to fundraise and help communities. My hobby is to see my community, family and extended family comfortable and I like to share what I have. I like being in the company of progressive people and I choose my friends carefully because I know that some friendships can be exploitative. The saying Birds of the same feather flock together is true.
I also enjoying traveling with family outside of the country to build our exposure. While at home, I enjoy watching TV but especially news; local, regional and international news. I like to be updated on everything that is happening around the world. I used to watch football a lot but now I left that to the children. I have lost track with music because there are so many genres so I listen to all types of music.
What can’t you leave home without?
Mr. Ebiru: That would definitely be my phone and wallet. Those are key must-haves because those ones I cannot improvise.
What is your preferred drink of choice? Tea or coffee?
Mr. Ebiru: I am generally not a tea or coffee drinker but I take non-alcoholic drinks although Bell Lager has been a favourite for as long as I can remember and I enjoy some red wine sometimes.
Now if you asked me what my favourite food is that is definitely Millet flour….locally known as kalo.
Thank you so much for your time Mr. Ebiru and we wish you well in the new office.