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  • Enhancing Zimbabwe’s National Quality Infrastructure Through Appropriate Policy Framework

    The Government of Zimbabwe has accessed Euro 1.4 million from the SADC TRF, funded under the EU’s 10th European Development Fund (EDF), to address the challenge of fragmentation of the national infrastructure landscape.

    One of the projects implemented by Zimbabwe is the development and implementation of a national quality policy.  A consultant was engaged to facilitate the development of a National Quality Policy over a four-month period, employing an inclusive stakeholder consultative process.  The process involved all the relevant role players and agencies in the SQAM sector and concluded with public stakeholder validation exercises. The outcome policy document, therefore, represents the first step towards development of a robust and modernised national quality infrastructure for Zimbabwe.

    With the support under the SADC TRF, financed by the EU, Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Industry and Commerce has now completed the drafting of the National Quality Policy. This is the basic Government instrument that sets out the objectives of the quality infrastructure system in relation to Standardisation, Quality Assurance, Accreditation and Metrology (SQAM). Over the years, fragmentation and duplication have characterised the National Quality Infrastructure in Zimbabwe.

    The National Quality Policy aims to strengthen institutions to implement a harmonised institutional and regulatory framework for SQAM that meets international standards. The ultimate aim is to produce quality products and services, enabling Zimbabwe to exploit commercial opportunities available on the domestic, regional and global markets. Export markets are particularly important for the country to generate the much-needed foreign currency as well as participate in international value chains. The policy will benefit SQAM institutions and industry players through harmonisation and coordination of quality standards and related activities; consumers in terms of protection, food safety and environmental protection; and the economy in terms of industrial development and competitiveness.

    The quality infrastructure in Zimbabwe, and especially the regulatory framework, has developed in an ad-hoc, non-coordinated and fragmented manner in the absence of a clear Government policy framework. The result was the emergence of a national SQAM framework with entrenched restrictions aligned to institutional mandates that hinder rather than support trade, such as overbearing and costly licences and documentation. The absence of a national policy, which is harmonised to international standards, also created challenges for the country to fit into the broader SADC SQAM agenda and compliance with international quality standards and trade rules. The effective participation of key institutions, including the  Ministries of Lands, Agriculture, Rural Resettlement and Climate Change and Industry and Commerce, Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Health and Child Care; the Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services, Department of Research and Specialist Services, Government Analyst Laboratory; Plant Quarantine and Inspection Services, National Biotechnology Authority, Department of Environmental Health; National Metrology Institute; and  Standards Association of Zimbabwe, was key in the drafting process.

    The immediate benefit of the intervention is the production of an acceptable policy document that sets in motion a coordinated development of the national quality infrastructure. An inclusive consultative engagement with relevant stakeholders has contributed to increased awareness of the pivotal role of quality in building the foundation for effective trade and to serve Zimbabwe’s socio-economic development. The development process was also aimed at breaking entrenched positions around protectionism and ‘business as usual’ mentality towards a culture of competitiveness and commitment to change.  In the long term, the benefit would accrue to consumers through consumption of quality goods through local production as well as imports generated through cross border and international trade.

    Significance to the SADC regional economic integration agenda

    The National Quality Policy has been developed within the context of the SADC integration agenda, specifically establishing an environment conducive to meeting Zimbabwe’s commitments under the SADC Annexes on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) measures. This re-engineered quality policy framework will facilitate the fulfilment of the country’s regional and international commitments in the areas of SQAM. It will also facilitate the country’s implementation of the regional trade and industrialisation strategy, placing it on par with neighbours and key trading partners.

    The major lessons learnt in the drafting of the National Quality Policy was that the participation of stakeholders, including the private sector and non-governmental stakeholders, is crucial in order to develop an acceptable policy document and have to work in a coordinated manner to achieve an efficient quality system for the country. Linking national quality policy with regional and international frameworksis key to the promotion of regional and international trade and enhancement of compliance with associated commitments.  The draft National Quality Policy is undergoing the internal Government processes for it to be officially launched. After formal adoption, the policy implementation process will be taken to its logical conclusion by elaborating an implementation action plan and activities. In addition, it is important to give legitimacy to the quality policy framework through appropriate legislation, which will entail the review of all current legislation, amending or developing new ones, and then promulgation. Continued support will be an important enabler for this process going forward.

    Contact information:

    Name: Masveure Aleck

    Title: TRF Project Coordinator

    Organisation: Ministry of Industry and Commerce

    Phone:+263 (242) 702735

    E-mail: amasveure90@gmail.com