ON Wednesday November 13, 2019, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce convened a stakeholders’ meeting in Bulawayo to introduce the concept of Provincial Quality Forums.
The Provincial Quality Forums are part of the broader Government initiative in line with the vision of devolution of powers to provinces. A Provincial Quality Forum will seek to enhance the competitiveness of various economic players in a province by adhering to international standards and best practices.
The ISO certification system, which is a globally accepted quality certification system forms the very basis of Best Quality Products and Services. There will be 10 provincial quality forums in the country and each forum will be led by a Provincial Quality Forum chairperson. The 10 chairpersons of the Provincial Quality Forums will then constitute the National Quality Forum.
The Provincial Quality Forums will create a coordination platform on Standardisation, Quality Assurance, Accreditation and Metrology within the provinces (for Government ministries, regulators, standardisers and CA service providers and the appropriate stakeholders).
This will involve filling the gap that has arisen from the silo development of technical regulations and implementation of quality assurance programmes in Zimbabwe. The Provincial Quality Forum will drive the improvement of the quality of products and services that are manufactured and provided locally, consumed locally and exported.
The current approaches to quality and standards assurance and fragmented conformity assessments, which are focused mainly on physical products while services conspicuously left out will be addressed.
The Provincial Quality Forum will provide awareness and will be involved in the forum on technical requirements and implementation of quality assurance programmes within the provinces. Continual improvement of the National Quality Assurance and Standards Development Policy and Implementation Strategy would be done within the provinces.
The Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) operates a voluntary programme for local manufacturers while Bureau Veritas undertakes non-voluntary verification exercise prior to importation of regulated products.
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce through the department of Quality Assurance assesses and issues exemptions by way of letters to importers who will not have applied for Bureau Veritas to process prior to shipment of their imported products.
The current approaches to quality and standards assurance are fragmented and conformity assessments appear to be focussed mainly on physical products with services conspicuously left out. There is no service delivery charter even for the ministry let alone Government wide and country wide.
The ministry has identified the need to implement part of the provisions of the National Quality Program by developing a comprehensive National Quality Forum Strategy.
The National Quality Forum strategy seeks to address the information gap among National Quality Forum players by bringing improved and coordinated collaboration among Quality Assurance Players. This is expected to result in increased knowledge of standardisation among players and between both imported and locally manufactured products.
The Provincial Quality Forums will be tasked with the maintenance of a desired level of quality in services or products by paying particular attention to every stage of the process of production and delivery while preventing mistakes and defects in manufactured products and avoiding problems when delivering products or services to customers.
The Provincial Quality Forums will also focus on the challenges of the importation of substandard products harmful to consumers, animals and the environment.
The Forum will also look at issues to do with competition with substandard products on the local market and the dumping of substandard products on the local market. Issues of local exports not meeting standards and technical requirements in export markets will also be dealt with.
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce is pursuing the enactment of a national quality policy that will entail the adoption of standards by the business community.
The policy also seeks to develop a national and regional quality strategies through the setting up of the Provincial and National Quality forums in the country. The need to come up with a National Quality Policy has been necessitated by the need to address the following gaps:
– Lack of legislation on standards
– Lack of legislation covering compulsory specifications on goods and services
– Lack of legislation covering national measurement units and measurement standards governing traceability for the country
– Lack of legislation on accreditation
– Lack of legal metrology legislation except for an outdated Trade measures Act (1998)
– Lack of legislation covering Technical regulations
– Absence of legislation on consumer protection although this piece of legislation is in its final stages of enactment
The major objectives of the National Quality Policy are to establish a framework of enhanced coordination and collaboration among National Quality Infrastructure and Technical Regulation Institutions in the country.
The policy further seeks to ensure that goods and services produced in Zimbabwe and supplied in local, regional and international markets comply with stated and intended quality requirements.
The policy also seeks to ensure that quality consciousness is raised among both suppliers and the consumers/publics to inculcate and sustain a national quality culture and the development of human resources necessary to support the various standardisation, quality and technical regulation programmes.
Finally, the National Quality Policy seeks to contribute to health and safety in homes, public places, the work place and protect the environment. The National Quality Policy calls for a comprehensive restructuring of the current quality infrastructure and where necessary the creation of new structures or combining of current structures.
The full review and consolidation of existing relevant legislation in order to align them with current international obligations and regional requirements is also one of the key focus areas of the policy as well as the establishment of laboratories and certification bodies in the public domain to promote quality awareness campaigns with a view to raise knowledge and awareness in the society. The creation of Provincial Quality Forums is one of the mechanisms or institutions that will contribute to awareness and knowledge dissemination regarding quality to all segments of the society.
There are international best practices when it comes to standards and consumers demand quality while retailers buy from companies that meet standards. As Zimbabwe seeks to develop its economy to an upper-middle income economy by 2030, it is important that local producers of goods and services adopt internationally recognised standards in order to be competitive in the global economy.
At the Bulawayo meeting, I was nominated to be the inaugural chairperson of the Bulawayo Metropolitan Province Provincial Quality Forum. I am looking forward to the development of quality products and services from Bulawayo and I am convinced that Bulawayo has what it takes to compete at the highest level.