Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
DELEGATES at the just ended 2nd African Regional Standardisation (ARSO) conference have recommended the establishment of a Pan African quality standardisation policy to promote harmonisation of economic activity on the continent.
Participants resolved last Friday that quality standards were key to economic growth and recommended governments to subsidise small companies especially at a time when most African economies are now driven by Small and Medium Enterprises.
The Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) hosted the event dubbed 2nd president forum and Made in Africa conference, which sought to promote and raise awareness on the importance of local industries and products.
“There is a need for interaction between governments and standardisation bodies. Governments come and go and each time we as standards bodies start afresh on a lot of issues hence we need a Pan African policy on how to approach common challenges. Raising awareness is the way to go on this,” said a participant from South Africa.
ARSO secretary general Mr Hermogene Nsengimana said the standardisation quality policy would be produced this year as process of documenting it has already started.
“We won’t stop mobilising to support harmonisation activities. This process is a way to have a common quality policy and we have hired an expert to do a quality policy guide.
“We are planning to go to all five regions and mobilise decision makers and this year we will publish the quality policy document. But remember standards is not the panacea to everything but it’s part of building blocks towards harmonisation,” said Mr Nsengimana.
ZimTrade chief executive officer Ms Sithembile Pilime made a presentation on how SMEs can be assisted to be able to export.
She said while standards were key, there was a need to help companies access finance so they promote the ‘Made in Africa’ concept.
Ms Pilime bemoaned a tendency by local companies to compete among themselves when they could actually exploit foreign markets where there are endless opportunities.
“Our economy has become very much SME based and so there is a need for cheaper rates because companies are facing a lot of challenges. We tend to think we are competitive when we compete against each other locally yet the market is bigger out there. This shows that we as bodies need to do more to get assistance for small companies hence we need to try and get all players to understand this,” she said.
Ms Pilime said standards alone were not enough for business to take off. Standards are key when everything else is there because a product has to meet certain standards, she added.
“The most important thing is that we need to facilitate that small firms access affordable finance. Some lack knowledge while some buy old machinery and this affects production. Some economies subsidise industry and we also need to do this than taxing them to death,” said Ms Pilime.
Earlier SAZ director Dr Eve Gadzikwa, who is also ARSO president, reiterated the need for governments to promote “buy Africa” concept so as to feed into the world market. She said Zimbabwe was working on a number of policies towards that.
The theme for the conference, which started last Monday, was “Made in Africa as a pillar for African Economic Integration, industrialisation and transformation”.
All African regions – Southern, Central, East, West and North were represented.