NUL com­mer­cialises prod­ucts test­ing

Lesotho Times - - News - Bereng Mpaki

THE Na­tional Univer­sity of Le­sotho (NUL) has com­mer­cialised its food and cos­met­ics test­ing ser­vices as the in­sti­tu­tion of higher learn­ing steps up its sup­port for lo­cal in­dus­tries.

The ini­tia­tive is spear­headed by Mahlo­mola Hlon­goane and Theletsa Mpholle who re­cently com­pleted their Chem­i­cal Tech­nol­ogy de­grees at the univer­sity.

Held at the in­sti­tute’s De­part­ment of Chemistry and Chem­i­cal Tech­nol­ogy, the test­ing pro­cesses also in­clude other prod­ucts apart from food and cos­met­ics.

Mr Hlon­goane (24) told the Le­sotho Times in an in­ter­view this week that, over the years, the de­part­ment had tested var­i­ous prod­ucts be­fore they were launched for the mar­ket.

While in times past they were pro­vid­ing the ser­vices for free, he said the univer­sity de­cided to charge a fee to en­sure speed and ef­fi­ciency.

“Given the ac­cu­mu­lated ex­pe­ri­ence of years test­ing var­i­ous prod­ucts and the un­sus­tain­abil­ity of be­ing a per­pet­ual Good Samaritan, we de­cided to pro­vide the ser­vices for a fee,” Mr Hlon­goane said.

“It is chal­leng­ing and time con­sum­ing for NUL staff to jug­gle lec­tur­ing and test­ing prod­ucts for peo­ple who are not stu­dents at the univer­sity.”

Ex­plain­ing how they em­barked on the project, Mr Hlon­gaone said they ac­quired the know-how of the de­part­ment’s op­er­a­tions dur­ing their time as stu­dents and de­cided to ap­proach the univer­sity to run the fa­cil­ity com­mer­cially af­ter fin­ish­ing their stud­ies.

In pitch­ing their pro­posal, the duo stated that NUL staff al­ready had their hands full with lec­tur­ing du­ties.

“Since the univer­sity had the test­ing equip­ment that we could not af­ford, we thought it would be a good idea to ap­proach them and see how we could work to­gether,” he said.

“We also needed to put our skills to use by cater­ing to the need for test­ing ser­vices in the coun­try.”

Chip­ping in, Mr Mpholle said the com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of NUL’S test­ing ser­vices saved many pro­duc­ers trans­port costs since they no longer had to go to South Africa for the ser­vices.

He said the test­ing was meant to en­sure the safety of the prod­ucts for con­sumers based on in­ter­na­tion­ally-recog­nised stan­dards.

Some of the as­pects they test on food prod­ucts are nu­tri­tional con­tents that in­form the de­ci­sions of con­sumers who are health con­scious.

The nu­tri­tional in­for­ma­tion in­cludes the amount of car­bo­hy­drates, fats, pro­tein, di­etary fi­bre, and to­tal en­ergy in food­stuffs.

In the case of cos­met­ics, they test for sta­bil­ity, ph (po­ten­tial of hy­dro­gen), chlo­ride, chlo­ro­form and hy­dro­quinone among oth­ers.

“Ad­di­tion­ally, we also of­fer rec­om­men­da­tions on how pro­duc­ers can op­ti­mise the nu­tri­tional com­po­si­tion of their prod­ucts by chang­ing quan­ti­ties in their in­gre­di­ents. This can en­able us to be more com­pet­i­tive in the mar­ket,” Mr Hlon­goane said.

Test­ing a product, he said, also in­creased its chances of be­ing sold be­yond Le­sotho’s borders be­cause of the guar­an­tee that it is safe to con­sume.

“This process can open up op­por­tu­ni­ties for lo­cal prod­ucts in in­ter­na­tional mar­kets that would oth­er­wise be lim­ited to within Le­sotho’s borders.”

Mr Hlon­goane said one of the ma­jor chal­lenges they en­coun­tered was the dearth of lo­calised stan­dards that suited Le­sotho’s unique needs.

“We of­ten base our op­er­a­tions on stan­dards set by a va­ri­ety of in­ter­na­tional bod­ies be­cause we don’t as yet have lo­cal stan­dards; at least that we are aware of.”

Mr Mpholle in­di­cated that their long-term plan was to es­tab­lish an in­de­pen­dent test­ing fa­cil­ity that would be fully ded­i­cated to the needs of the pri­vate sec­tor.

“In or­der for that dream to be re­alised, we are go­ing to need in­vestors will­ing to part­ner with us, be­cause all we have right now are the skills and ex­pe­ri­ence,” he added.

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