Why do We Need Standards?
What could be happening if we didn’t have standards? Now imagine you are an electronics expert and you need a spare part for an electronic device you are repairing. The most interesting part is that the faulty part was the only one manufactured with that specifications. What would you do?
What if your understanding of the Kilo is absolutely different from that that exists in Uganda, Tanzania, and all other countries? Like what we decipher as kilo of sugar was a quarter of what is termed a Kilo in Malawi. How could we facilitate cross border trade? These standards according to regional and global classification become very important tools for trade.
In this age of globalization and deregulation hence increased international trade, countries are becoming keener on the standards of goods and services that are traded therein. These products are tested to ascertain that they meet the set standards of those country. The best part is that some of those standards are regional and continental.
For the regional or even continental standards, this means one thing for the commerce in that region. That if you have followed the right Standard Operating Procedures and then you products meets the specifications set within that region or continent, your products can be traded freely in any location within countries that make up that region or continent.
In fact standards form the crucial part of the technical regulations often imposed by countries which are mandatory for almost all sectors. The other part of import quotas and tariffs are not sometimes very mandatory and are more flexible since they are mostly non-technical. And the opening up of our borders to trade is courtesy of reducing these tariffs and lifting up the import quotas.
With such move, we expect for instance trade amongst the EAC or within the continent for example to be easy. But then it is not the case. This is often attributed to the increased non-tariff barriers which form the technical regulations part and these has got to do with standards.
The increased technical regulations have one objective to achieve; that of protecting their citizens from dangerous and low quality products that are very harmful. In this case standards are the bridge between healthy nations visa vis the sick ones.
To understand this aspect, think of this way. Kenya imports a huge junk of her pharmaceutical consumables. Now suppose that there were no standards, that you could import any amount and nature of drugs and trade them freely irrespective of their composition, how dangerous could that be. That even if the drugs were expired or poisonous for health, they could be traded just like that.
It thus calls that standards bodies be swifter in ensuring that their consumers are properly protected all the time by ensuring that the standards set are not only met but also maintained throughout the life time of a product.
In terms of attracting quality investments from the global spectrum, developing countries ought to have a very strong standards policy. One of the reasons for this is the aspect of decentralizing productions according to favorability of the utility costs and other factors of production.
So an investor is willing to set up a manufacturing facility in Kenya to serve the East and Central Africa regions and not necessarily set up a facility in each of those countries simply because each of them have their own standards which are so different hence lots of trade barriers.
The most important aspect today than ever is the aspect of harmonizing Regional, Continental and Global standards to ensure that trade barriers are reduced to their bare minimum so that countries can enjoy cross border commerce and get new markets for their products.
And the issue of inclusivity comes to play here. In the process of harmonizing these standards, it is important that all key stake holder come to the policy table to discuss openly. This will ensure that even the micro, small and medium enterprises are well taken care of so that at the end of the day the scenario of big enterprises suppressing the mSMEs does not come into play.
In fact the greatest benefit of standards perhaps is the aspect of levelling the ground for the small players so that they too can enjoy opportunities of accessing greater markets and hence have an opportunity of growth like their big corporations.
For that matter we should all, large or small, support the need to develop standards and also train ourselves to meet those standards so that we can enjoy even greater markets beyond this continent.
As a matter of fact, opportunities have opened in which part of our agricultural produce could access markets in the European and American markets but due to the fact that some or a huge part of the produce fails to meet the AU or US market standards, it simply goes to waste in our very hands.
We should lift up our efforts to ensure we meet the set standards for our products and enjoy greater markets at the same time reducing the third of our produce that goes to waste due to quality issues and lack of markets. This will ensure a healthier, well fed and economically viable nation.
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