The UN General Assembly in its 74th Plenary held on the 6th April, 2017 declared 27th June as Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day, recognizing the importance of Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in achieving sustainable development goals and in promoting innovation, creativity and sustainable work for all. with this, Economic and Trade policies are becoming alive to the fact that Investing in SMEs is a long-term and smart strategy, with sustainable returns that multiply across societies, as the world over, SMEs are the cornerstone of most economies. They account for about half of global gross domestic product (GDP) and 60 %–70 % of employment. In Africa, they make up the lion’s share of enterprises and hire a large portion of the workforce, mainly the poorer, more vulnerable segments of society, such as youth and women. Investing in them will make them contribute more to GDP growth because of increased SME productivity, and it would mean better jobs and higher pay in the low-wage segments of the economy. Their increased competitiveness and productivity, through Policy reform, development of the trade support ecosystem and capacity building, including better regulatory environment and adopting of the Quality culture, standardisation, can contribute to solving one of Africa’s greatest socio-economic challenges, unemployment, poverty and hunger. It is estimated that Africa’s workforce will increase by a staggering 910 million people between 2010 and 2050, of which 830 million will be in sub-Saharan Africa. The ARSO SMEs Standardisation programme (including, the Made in Africa Expo, the African Day of Standardisation Forum, Simplified outreach Materials, Capacity Building and Training Workshops, and involvement in African Industries in the ARSO Standards Development and Harmonisation projects) seeks to addresses some of the, following barriers highlighted below by Experts (Henk J. de Vries et al. 2013, New opportunities – Improving SME access to standards- https://www.iso.org/news/2013/02/Ref1711.html; SME Competitiveness: Standards and regulations matter http://www.intracen.org/uploadedFiles/intracenorg/Content/Redesign/Projects/SME_Competitiveness/Part%20I.pdf,; UNCTAD/ITE/TEB/2005/1- improving the competitiveness of SMEs through enhancing productive capacity, BSI):
- Barriers Restricting SMEs’ Awareness of Standards
- lack awareness of the importance of standards for their own company or the potential added value of standards
- Barriers Restricting SMEs’ Use of Standards
- Once SMEs know that standards exist that can be useful for their company, they may then face problems in finding and tracing relevant standards Selecting which among the standards require a good measure of market intelligence and contact with buyers as well as experience in assessing the relative demands, costs, and benefits of each—something for which there is almost no data whatsoever;
- Finding the right standard, interpreting the text, implementing the standards and for solving those problems. Education is part of the solution. For Obtaining standards, the process may still not be easy and straight-forward. Even after, obtaining, SMEs may then face problems in understanding the standards as a result of difficult technical content, technical language, non-availability of a version in the national language, too many references to other standards, insufficient information to highlight the differences from the previous version of the standard, or a lack of information about the context of the standard.
- On implementation, SMEs may then have difficulties in implementing standards because of their complexity, a lack of knowledge, skills or resources to do so. Many of the barriers and issues faced here are similar to those mentioned above, in that understanding is a first step to effectively using a standard. Outreach.
- The reason for the implementation of a standard is to achieve business goals, and it is important that SMEs are able to evaluate the implementation of these standards and the impact of their use. However, the management of smaller firms is largely involved in the daily operational practice, and there is little time or money available for activities that are not directly related to this primary process. Further, SMEs may not find the time, or have the ability to assess the implementation of standards, meaning that they will not fully identify or understand the benefits of implementation, learn from the experience or modify their implementation as a result.
- Barriers Restricting SMEs’ Participation in Standards Development
- SMEs may also face a sequence of barriers, each of which may hinder them from benefiting from becoming involved in the process of standardisation (i.e. the development of standards). On the other hand, SMEs may be aware of standards but not realised that they can actively participate and influence the development process. Once SMEs are aware of the fact that they can become actively involved in standardisation, they may not be aware of the importance of participation or its potential benefits. This problem has two sides: low awareness amongst SMEs and employees, and a failure to create awareness through appropriate and sufficient communication activities. Once SMEs are aware and interested in the development of standards, they may face problems in tracing relevant standards development projects. An important reason for non-participation and not becoming involved in standardisation is simply being unaware of the standardisation process. Lack of resources (money, time, skills and knowledge) is another reason, where the costs of participation in terms of the time required, travel expenses and membership fees can be proportionally higher for SMEs.
Highlights of the 25th ARSO General Assembly Events – 17th -21st June 2019 –:
ARSO held the annual ARSO Week, the 25th ARSO General Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya on 17th – 21st June 2019 at Panari Hotel, with the events including:
- 60th ARSO Council and the 3rd ARSO Champions meeting – 17th – 18th (Monday-Tuesday) June 2019 (ARSO Council and Champions members only).
- One day forum for the Africa Day of Standardisation and the Opening of the 25th ARSO General Assembly Events – 19th (Wednesday) June 2019 (all invited members and stakeholders).
- One day Meeting for the 25th ARSO General Assembly – 20st (Thursday) June 2019(all invited members and stakeholders).
- Industrial visits and other related social events organised by the Host – 21st (Friday) June 2019 (all invited members and stakeholders).
- The Made in Africa Expo to run concurrently with the events from 17th – 21st (Monday – Thursday) (June 2019.
The events, hosted by the Government of the Republic of Kenya, through the Kenya Bureau of Standards were attended by representatives from twenty-four (24) member States, Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia (Proxy Zambia), Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zanzibar (Observer member) and Policy Makers, Regulatory Bodies, Automotive Industry Experts/Stakeholders, representatives from national regional, Continental and International Organisations (AAS, AMC Group Africa, AFREXIM BANK, AFRAC, AFSEC, AFRIMETS, African Union, AFNOR, BSI, CEN-CENELEC/SIS, COMESA, DNVGL, ECOWAS,GSO, DNVGL, IEC, Intertek, ISO, ITU, KCFCS, KABM, KENAS, KATS/Korea, KOFINAF, NEPAD, NRCS,PTB, RNF, SAC, SMIIC, TMEA, UL, UNECA, UNIDO.
The opening ceremony was presided over by Hon. Mr. Peter Munya, the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Trade, Industries and Cooperatives, and addressed by Dr. Oswald Dr. Chinyamakobvu, Senior TBT/SPS Expert, African Union Commission, ARSO President, Dr. Eve Gadzikwa, KEBS Managing Director, Mr. Bernard Njiraini (addressing the delegates), and the ARSO Secretary General, Dr. Hermogene Nsengimana.
Mr. Munya emphasised on the importance of the AfCFTA as a key African Agenda 2063 Flagship Project that will trigger a virtuous cycle of more intra-African trade, which in turn will drive the structural transformation of economies from low productivity and labour intensive activities to higher productivity, with a marked impact on Poverty reduction and significant benefits to millions of African citizens. He called on all Standardisation Stakeholders to work closely with Policy Makers to address the challenges posed by TBTs within the opportunities under AfCFTA Protocol.Hon. Peter Munya (center), together with the ISO President, Mr. Eddy Njoroge, 2nd Right and Dr. Nsengimana, 2nd left, following proceedings of the African Day of Standardisation Forum.
Dr. Chinyamakobvu outlined the current re-orientation of policy at the Africa Union, with the African Quality Infrastructure development being given high priority, under the Pan African Quality Infrastructure (PAQI). Dr. Eve Gazikwa emphasised the integral part being played by Quality Infrastructure in the implementation of the Free Trade Areas and called on the Standardisation community in Africa to collaborate in strengthening Quality Infrastructure in Africa’s. Mr. Bernard Njiraini emphasised on the role of the African National Bureau Standards (NSBs) on the implementation of the AfCFTA, while Dr. Nsengimana highlighted the strategic role of ARSO and the importance of the partnerships among the various Stakeholders, including the Private Sector and Development Partners in addressing the TBT Challenges under the AfCFTA.
In their Contributions, the ISO Secretary General Sergio MUJICA and the ISO President Elect, Mr. Edward Njoroge called on the increased, the need for strong voice of African countries in ISO Standardisation work and participation of ARSO members in the ISO Governance structures, and greater cooperation with ARSO within the opportunities in the AfCFTA Agreement and in the ISO initiatives on Sustainable development Goals.
The African Day of Scandalisation Forum on 19th June 2019, left no doubt that, while international trade provides opportunities for companies to benefit from important economies of scale, a proliferation of different standards and technical regulations and inconsistency in quality requirements, including the African Automotive Industry, drastically reduce these benefits. The overall recommendation of the Forum is the need for a common Regulatory Framework for Africa driven by the three global principles of “once tested (harmonised standards/equivalence policy), once certified (harmonised conformity assessment procedures), accepted everywhere (Accreditation and Mutual recognition arrangements)”, along with building Institutional Capacity and greater Awareness among African Institutions, Policy Makers, Producers and Traders (SMEs), the Academia, Consumers and the General Public, and with ARSO and the standardisation stakeholders (RECs, the AU, UNECA, Afreximbank, AfDB, NEPAD (PAQI institutions-AFRIMETS, AFRAC, AFSEC)and the Private Sector) playing a greater role.
The Events also witnessed the signing of cooperation MoUs between ARSO and the International Trade Union (ITU) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Standardization Organization (GSO), and side-line meetings on ARSO Cooperations and programmes implementation with:
- KATS especially on the discussion on the KATS-Korea invitational Training for the ARSO members scheduled for 19th – 23rd August 2019, in Seoul, Korea.
- ISO on the Regional engagement to “explore tailor-made approaches to address the needs of the ISO African members through ARSO.
- SIS – ARSO-SIS Cooperation on Strengthening Quality Infrastructure in Africa their respective ISO members.
- INBAR on the potential of standardisation to boost trade in bamboo and rattan products within the framework of the AfCFTA, and the participation of ARSO in the INBAR strategy aligned with SDGs within the INBAR Africa’s Projects dedicated Activities/Components invited training program for ARSO members
- ITU on the Standardisation opportunities, including the online solutions, within the ITU programmes and activities for the benefit of ARSO members
- SAC – on cooperation in standardisation on the Action Plan of Standard Connectivity on Building the Belt and Road (2018-2020), involving infrastructure development and investments in 152 countries and international organizations in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas.
- UL – Discussions on the Areas of mutual interest for ARSO and UL, including the structured cooperation through signed MoU on sharing the UL standards with ARSO for reference / adoption / adaption, and the ARSO Standards education and awareness programs.