By Joseph Ngwawi in Windhoek, Namibia
Establishment of strong national standardisation and quality assurance infrastructure is a crucial cog in efforts by southern Africa to attain rapid industrial development and feed into the envisaged “Factory SADC”.
This was said by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Executive Secretariat, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax during the SADC Quality Awards ceremony held in Windhoek, Namibia on 13 March.
Dr Tax called on SADC member states to strengthen their national Standardisation, Quality Assurance and Metrology (SQAM) infrastructure.
“To ensure the advancement of Standardisation, Quality Assurance, Accreditation and Metrology, and to therefore, enable the region to competitively trade in goods and services, member states are encouraged to provide the legal and institutional framework for SQAM such as the National Quality Policy,” Dr Tax said.
She said it was important that SADC member states strengthen their national standards bodies, technical regulations authority, testing and calibration centres.
SQAM issues have lately emerged as some of the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBTs) affecting the ability of countries in the region to do business and hampering prospects for industrial development.
Lack of international coordination and mutual recognition of technical infrastructure, together with non-uniform technical regulations, create TBTs, which are recognized as impediments for mostly developing countries in accessing global markets.
For example, differences in standards across markets have tended to limit scales of production by firms operating in different countries.
Dr Tax said the SQAM infrastructure in the SADC region and individual member states should be brought up to international standards and regionally harmonised in order to reduce, the possibility and frequency of TBTs.
She said cooperation on reduction of TBTs would go a long way in supporting efforts to establish the proposed “Factory SADC”.
“Factory SADC” is one of the ideals envisaged under the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap.
One of the targets of the Costed Action Plan of the industrialisation strategy, the "Factory SADC" initiative envisages increased production and use of SADC raw materials as feedstock for downstream processing in agro-industries and other manufacturing industries.
The target is to have a SADC Raw Material Strategy developed and implemented by 2020, according to the action plan.
The SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap covers the period 2015-2063 and aims to provide the framework for major economic and technological transformations at the national and regional levels within the context of deepening regional integration.
SADC recognises that maintaining standards of quality is important to businesses and consumers in the region and beyond.
As a result, it has established a formal framework – the SQAM Programme – to oversee standardisation of policies and procedures for ensuring quality and safety of trade in the region.
The programme was developed on the basis of the SADC SQAM Memorandum of Understanding signed by SADC Ministers of Trade and Industry in 2000 but has since been replaced by the Technical Barriers to Trade Annex to the SADC Protocol on Trade adopted by the Committee of Ministers of Trade in July 2008.
The TBT Annex is the regional response to the World Trade Organisation TBT Agreement and represents a strategy by SADC to balance the need to protect humans, animals and environment from harmful or unsafe products versus the need to facilitate trade.
The main objective of the Annex is to establish a common technical regulation framework supported by appropriate regional TBT cooperation structures.
The Annex to the Protocol on Trade establishes seven regional TBT cooperation structures that cover standardization, accreditation, legal and industrial/scientific metrology, technical regulations.
One of the structures is the SADC Technical Regulations Liaison Committee whose function is to provide a forum for the identification of common technical regulations to be implemented in the region through the development of appropriate guidelines and other tools for the national implementation of the SADC Technical Regulation Framework in the member states.
Another structure, the SADC Technical Barriers to Trade Stakeholders Committee, aims to facilitate SADC stakeholder participation in SADC TBT matters.
The SADC Cooperation in Accreditation (SADCA) facilitates the creation of a pool of internationally accepted accredited laboratories and certification bodies in the SADC region, and to provide member states with accreditation as a tool for the removal of TBTs in the regulatory area.
One of the achievements of SADCA has been the formation of the SADC Accreditation Service (SADCAS), a SADC subsidiary organization based in Botswana.
SADCAS is a non-profit, multi-economy accreditation body whose mission is to provide internationally recognized, cost-effective regional accreditation services for SADC member states that do not have their own accreditation services.
Another TBT cooperation structure is the SADC Cooperation in Legal Metrology, which facilitates the harmonization of the national legal metrology regulation of member states and between SADC and other regional and international trading blocs.
The SADC Cooperation in Measurement Traceability is a structure that was established to coordinate metrology activities and services in the region in order to provide regional calibration and testing services, with readily available traceability to the SI Units of measurement, through legally defined and regionally and internationally recognized national measurement standards.
The SADC Cooperation in Standardization structure promotes the coordination of standardization activities and services in the region, with the objective of achieving harmonization of standards and technical regulations in support of the objectives of the SADC Trade Protocol.
The final TBT cooperation structure is the SADC SQAM Expert Group, an umbrella body that coordinates regional technical barriers to trade activities of SQAM in terms of the TBT Annex to the SADC Protocol on Trade.
The SADC Quality Awards ceremony saw a number of companies from the region being recognised for their efforts to ensure the quality of their products.
Schweppes of Zimbabwe won the Company of the Year (Large Enterprises) while ZimTrade, the national trade development and promotion organization of Zimbabwe, was voted the Company of the Year (Small and Medium Enterprises) award and Community Markets for Conservation (Comaco) of Zambia received the Product of the Year (SME) award.
Eswatini Railway won the Service of the Year (Large Enterprise) award while Fairy Bottling of Zambia received the Exporter of the Year (Large Enterprise). - sardc.net.