SADC SQAM Awareness Workshop

On December 10-11 2013, 21 representatives of SADC business associations and chambers of commerce from 10 SADC Member States attended a workshop on Standards, Quality assurance, Accreditation and Metrology (SQAM) organised by the Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment (TIFI) Directorate in Gaborone. This was in accordance with the main aims of the Regional Economic Integration Support (REIS) programme, one of which is is to create awareness among regional stakeholders on the importance of standards and quality for business and trade success.

The objectives of the workshop were to:

  • introduce the elements and interlinkages of a quality infrastructure;
  • provide an appreciation of the role of SQAM in the facilitation of trade;
  • highlight the difference between voluntary standards and technical regulations;
  • demonstrate the difference between product and system certification;
  • make a case for the implementation of standards and quality principles in production, and
  • inform participants about the SADC Annual Quality Award Competition.

The workshop discussed technical papers presented by SADC SQAM experts from the Secretariat covering topics that included elements of quality infrastructure, quality in the market place, understanding standards and technical regulations, product & systems certification and some case presentations from companies that were actually implementing quality management systems. Although SQAM is sometimes considered a rather technical subject, delegates enthusiastically contributed during discussions and freely shared shared their own experiences.

It was evident from the contributions by participants that local industry is generally of the view that implementing quality standards is a costly and difficult exercise. The SADC SQAM experts, with support from some of the participants who have had positive experiences of using standards, demonstrated that this was not necessarily the case. They also showed that what appeared to be high costs at the beginning of the effort to implement standards was actually an investment with long term benefits from a competitiveness point of view. The other areas where some delegates had difficulty grasping the concepts were in certification and the difference between voluntary standards and technical regulations. SADC Secretariat officers identified these as potential areas for focus specific in future workshops.

Participants adjudged the awareness workshop to have been a success and the vast majority indicated that they were going to apply what they had learnt in their organisations back in their respective countries. SADC SQAM Experts implored delegates, being representatives of national business associations and chambers of commerce, to also spread the message on standards and quality to their members. Suggestions on what to do in the future included requests to repeat such workshops to greater audiences especially in the Small and Medium Scale (SME) sectors, to strengthen dialogue between the business sector and regional SQAM institutions. This will, in turn, facilitate greater involvement of the SADC private sector in standards development and harmonisation activities and to find ways of strengthening enforcement of technical regulations in the region.

It was noted from a “level of knowledge” assessment test administered at the start and at the end of the workshop that, the level of SQAM understanding among delegates substantially improved following the workshop with an average performance of 57% before, and 91% after. The true impact of this REIS programme intervention will however only be evidenced by an increase in the number of SADC organizations that actually begin to use standards in their operations, and increases in good quality products available on the regional market.

The REIS Programme is financed by the European Union by way of a Contribution Agreement with the SADC Secretariat over a 4 year period (2013-2017) to the value of Euro 19.82 million. The programme is being implemented by the Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment (TIFI) Directorate of the SADC Secretariat.

Published On: December 10, 2013|