Columnists Features

ZABS high on quality products

ONE of our Facebook enthusiasts Berry Chikonka asked us what standards are enforced by the Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS).  
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Chikonka for his question and would like to urge members of the public that are on social media to visit our Facebook page, which is Zambia Bureau of Standards –ZABS and like the page.
Through our page, we update our followers on issues that hinge on standardisation, quality assurance and metrology (SQAM).
In this column, we will address the question that Mr Chikonka asked and we believe that most people will be enlightened by it.
By now, our readers know that ZABS is not in charge of enforcing all standards.  This is done by specific sector regulators such as Zambia Information Communication Technology Authority ((ZICTA) for ICTs, Energy Regulation Board (ERB) for energy, Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) for road transport, Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) for chemicals and Lusaka City Council for public health matters, among others.
ZABS works with sector regulators in formulating specific standards either for products or services. Standards are documents developed by consensus with interested parties that describe good practices in the industry.
Some standards are compulsory and some are voluntary. Voluntary standards cannot be enforced by regulation while non-compliance to compulsory standards is a crime under the laws of Zambia.
Under mandatory standards such as bottled water, fruit-flavoured drinks, among others, all manufacturers of such products are compelled by the law to ensure that they meet minimum requirement of the standards.
ZABS also operates a certification scheme whereby companies whose products fall under compulsory regulation are monitored for compliance to technical regulations.
Products falling under compulsory standards are deemed to have a bearing on the health and safety of the consumer as well as the environment or society and as such, they should not fall short of what is stipulated in the standards.
At the moment, there are about 2,000 Zambian standards and 51 of these are compulsory. This means that the enforcement of compliance provided under the Standards Act is limited to only 51 standards.
Nonetheless, ZABS also provides a voluntary certification scheme for any product as long as there is a Zambian standard in place. This scheme is voluntary and exhibits a commitment to safety and quality by the manufacturer or trader who applies it.
It is the wish of ZABS that all organisations would fall under this category for the reason that commitment is better than enforcement. Compliance would then flow freely.
As a matter of fact, countries where uptake of standards are high, it follows that the quality of products, whether locally manufactured or imported, is also high. Industry then becomes the driver of standardisation.
ZABS also offers Import Quality Monitoring Scheme (IQMS) which was introduced in 2003 following the liberalisation of the economy. Prior to the introduction of IQMS, importers were free to import whatever products that pleased them until government stepped in through ZABS to control and regulate imports in the country.
The rationale of the IQMS is to ensure that products that enter the Zambian market are thoroughly inspected to ensure that they meet the minimum requirement of the set standards of the country.
This helps the importer to supply products that are of certain quality and hence avoid risks that could accompany products that are not inspected by ZABS. On the other hand, IQMS helps the consumers by only allowing products that meet the standards on the market
A number of products and materials are covered under this scheme since its inception. The system has helped to improve the quality of products on the Zambian market. Imports, along with exports, form the basics of international trade.
Import of goods normally requires involvement of the customs authorities in both the country of import and the country of export and are often subject to import quotas, tariffs and trade agreements.
Through the IQMS, products are inspected at entry points.  To carry out this mandate successfully, ZABS has a presence in Nakonde, Chirundu, and Livingstone and now in Mwami and Chanida in Eastern Province.
This enables ZABS to inspect imports before they come into the country and thus promote quality products on the market.
The author is Zambia Bureau of Standards public relations officer
For more information contact;
The Director
Zambia Bureau of Standards
Lechwe House
Freedom Way – Southend
P.O Box 50259,
Lusaka, Zambia
Tel: +260-211 231385

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