Columnists Features

Standards promote economic growth

A STANDARD is defined as a document established by consensus that provides rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results. Standards make everyday life work; they also provide terms so that there is no misunderstanding among those using the standard.
For instance, it is because of standards that the film to fit our cameras can be purchased anywhere around the world and it is because of standards that a light bulb fits a socket.
In Zambia, we have 3000 standards translating into both mandatory and voluntary standards.
Currently, the Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS) regulates those products that fall under mandatory standards.
There are 50 mandatory standards in Zambia, which explains why certain products cannot be regulated by ZABS and instead are taken care of using other pieces of legislation such as the Public Health Act and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) Act.
It should also be understood dear readers that the purpose of a mandatory standard is to make particular safety or information features on products compulsory for legal supply of the product on to the market.
It is therefore an offence to supply goods that do not comply with mandatory standards.
Voluntary standards on the other hand, are those established generally by private-sector bodies and that are available for use by any person or organisation.
They cannot be enforced by regulation but may become mandatory as a result of its use, reference or adoption by a regulatory authority.
But the big question is on the economic benefits of using standards.
How does the consistent and effective use of standards promote business growth and consequently, economic growth?
This is the question that may be on the minds of many and it is the question that ZABS is mandated to translate into action through its various activities.
ZABS mandate, as you know, is to provide efficient and effective standardisation, quality assurance and metrology services to industry, regulators and consumers in order to contribute to the improvement of the quality, competitiveness and safety of products and services and to promote value addition and sustainable socio-economic development in Zambia.
Standards, therefore, play a vital and often invisible role in supporting economic growth in the following ways, to mention but a few:
• Standards promote productivity and efficiency in companies by supporting international trade and by acting as a catalyst for innovation within companies and sectors;
• Standards give businesses and consumers confidence that the goods and services they are developing or using are safe, reliable and will do the job they were intended for;
• Standards provide a platform on which to build new and exciting ideas. As our world changes, new standards are introduced to reflect the latest technologies, innovations and community needs;
• Products that comply with standards have a competitive edge over products that don’t – consumers know the difference;
• Standards ensure products manufactured in one country can be sold and used in another. Standards reduce technical barriers to international trade; increase the size of potential markets and position firms to compete in the world economy.
• Standards help make laws and regulations consistent. Standards offer an alternative to regulation, with less red tape and business costs, while still providing security for families and small business consumers.
•Standards are part of technical infrastructure that allows businesses and trade to function. Everyday commercial transactions can only take place with accurate units of measurement.
In conclusion, I would like to make an earnest appeal to all our stakeholders in standardization and quality assurance to begin to perceive standards as a catalyst to national development.
Industry should begin to look at standards as a driver for business sustainability and growth.
Contact the Director
Zambia Bureau of Standards
Lechwe House, Freedom Way
P O Box 50259, Lusaka
Tel: 260-211-231385,
The author is head-marketing and Public Relations, Hazel Mafwenko Zulu

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