The Ministers of Trade and Industry of the various economies in Africa have agreed to celebrate the year 2017 as the African Year of Quality Infrastructure. The aim is to create and improve awareness of the Quality Infrastructure within Africa. Why Quality and Quality infrastructure? The capacity of a country’s quality infrastructure institutions, e.g. the standards body, the accreditation system, and the metrology institute impacts directly on the competitiveness of its manufacturers and exporters. The system as established can:
• raise or lower economic efficiency,
• facilitate or constrain exports,
• enable or exclude the participation of small and medium enterprises, and
• block or promote competitiveness.
In addition, countries have to ensure that they obtain international recognition for the national quality infrastructure, which demonstrates the equivalence between their domestic technical infrastructure and those of other countries. Countries also contribute towards an improved quality of life for their people through use of standards, measurements, conformity assessment and accreditation. This requires the following at a national level:
• consistent government budgets,
• constant skills availability,
• good managerial practices, and
• alignment of the activities of the technical infrastructure institutions.
The investments required from government will need to provide for a vast range of metrology facilities, a sound accreditation system that can be used to support a country’s certification, testing, calibration and inspection activities, a system to facilitate standards development and harmonization and last but not least, investment in order to gain and maintain the international mutual recognition of the technical infrastructure. Investment by government into technical infrastructure should be informed by needs assessments and economic evaluations.
Africa has, over the last six years, dedicated effort to the development and operationalization of the Pan-African Quality Infrastructure (PAQI) to enable Africa to speak as one voice where standards are required or being developed, where credible conformity assessment activities are undertaken or required and where measurements that facilitate exchange of goods and services are applied, hence the establishment of African Standards Organization (ARSO), African Accreditation Cooperation (AFRAC), Inter Africa Metrology System (AFRIMETS) and African Electro-technical Standardization Commission (AFSEC). The PAQI vision is to be an efficient, effective, sustainable and internationally recognized Pan-African Quality Infrastructure contributing towards achievement of African socio-economic goals. The mission of PAQI is to strengthen the regional and global competitiveness of Africa’s goods and services and contribute towards an improved quality of life for the African people through prudent use of standards, measurements, conformity assessment and accreditation.
While we all agree that there can be many definitions of quality, within the African Context, quality can be defined as follows by various stakeholders:
• Value for money
• Safe products
• Healthy food
• Access to standards, traceable measurements and accredited conformity assessments.
• Fair trade – competition on a level playing ground with those from other regions
• Removal of duplication – test, inspect, certify once
• Job creation
• Economic development
• Safe citizens, safe environment
AFRAC Chair, Mr. Ron Josias and Dr. Elsabe Steyn both in the front row attending the 6th PAQI Meeting in Johannesburg