Cement is a mineral binder, a substance that sets and hardens and can bind other materials together. The word “cement” traces to the Romans, who used the term opus caementicium to describe a building material resembling modern concrete that was made from crushed rock, pozzolana and burnt lime as binder. The safety, durability, and sustainability of concrete structures depend highly upon the reliable performance of the specified cement. Furthermore, cements that do not meet the standards can be harmful to humans and the environment. Hence, it is of utmost importance to ensure a steadily good quality of cement. Since cement production undergoes scatter due to the supply chains of the raw materials and the production process, it is of highest importance that the testing of cement is conducted by qualified and trained expert laboratories. The PACE-PTS proficiency testing scheme aims at enhancing the testing skills in this important technical field all over Africa and building up a laboratory network among key laboratories within the continent with links to international experts.
Transparency, reliability, and safety of cement-based materials can only be achieved with an established quality infrastructure. This means a reasonable interaction between standards, accreditation, certification, metrology, and testing exists. Products’ and materials’ performances and qualities are major concerns in many countries in Africa. This is particularly valid for cementitious materials, since cement is scarce in most countries, extremely expensive in relation to the economic imbalance, and has to be transported over large distances within the regions. Furthermore, often clinker and cement is imported from overseas, which means the range of performance scattering is large. At the same time the uprising societies and respective economies need reliable quality control tools rises permanently.
The Pan-African cement proficiency testing scheme (PACE-PTS), was initiated by the German Metrology Institute (PTB) and coordinated by BAM Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing in Germany involving cooperation with laboratories across Africa. The first proficiency testing scheme was initiated through the institutional networks of the PTB with laboratories related to ARSO (African Organisation for Standardisation), AFRIMETS (Intra-Africa Metrology System), and AFRAC (African Accreditation Cooperation) and the academic networks of BAM within the SPIN network (Spearhead Network for Clean and Safe Cement and Concrete Technologies in Africa). The first Africa wide cement testing scheme was undertaken in 2012 and involved 27 laboratories from 20 countries, 18 originating in Africa. The second Africa wide proficiency testing was carried out in 2014/2015 and involved 30 laboratories from 20 countries, 18 originating in Africa.
The PACE-PTS proficiency testing scheme addresses:
- Public institutions
- Academic laboratories
- Private laboratories
- Industry and association laboratories