COMESA Strategic Plan for Standardization and Quality Assurance

Posted on: December 01, 2014


The activities in the field of Standardization and Quality Assurance derive their mandates from the COMESA Treaty of 1994, which has a provision for cooperation in Standardization and Quality Assurance under Chapter 15 - Standardization and Quality Assurance.  Under  this  Chapter, Member  States  recognized  the  importance  of  standardization  and  quality  assurance  in  trade facilitation, promotion of health, the enhancement of the standard of living as well as in the protection of life, property, and the environment.

In 2002, the Council established the Committee on Standardization and Quality Assurance to implement the provisions of Chapter 15 of the Treaty. The activities on Standardization and Quality Assurance (SQA) started in 2003 with the setup of the Standardization and Quality Assurance Unit in line with the Treaty of 1994. The unit focuses its activities on the Establishment and Harmonization of Standards, Quality Assurance, Metrology, Certification and Laboratory Accreditation, Cooperation in testing, Documentation and Procedures, Training Publicity of Standardization of Activities and Administrative procedures. The Secretariat, through the SQA Unit is expected to facilitate the work of the SQA Committee and its Sub-Committees.

The purpose of COMESA SQA Strategic plan is to guide the implementation of the SQA Policy, which was developed in 2008 taking into account the challenges facing Member states in quality infrastructure to meet the requirements of the Custom Union.

In this context, the EU ACP TBT Programme, following the request expressed by the COMESA Secretariat, is currently supporting the region in the drafting of the Strategic Plan for Standardization and Quality Assurance.

The project, implemented by "Enabling Environments", includes the support to the 17 COMESA member States (Libya and Egypt are excluded) to develop a five-year Strategic Plan as a framework to guide and underpin activities for Quality Infrastructure, specifically covering Standards Harmonization, Industrial/Scientific Metrology and Legal Metrology, Conformity Assessment, Accreditation, Technical Regulations and Pharmaceutical Harmonization.

The priority accorded to the activities are guided by the needs of foster standardisation and quality assurance in the COMESA region aiming at the promotion of health, the enhancement of the standard of living, the rationalisation and reduction of unnecessary variety of products, the facilitation of inter-changeability of products, the promotion of trade, consumer protection, the creation of savings in government purchasing, improved productivity and the facilitation of information exchange.

The expert team started their work in October 2014 and planned to visit 7 COMESA Member States – Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Swaziland, Uganda and the COMESA secretariat in Zambia.

So far, the missions to the Member States have been carried out successfully during the month of November 2014. The visits included National Standards Bodies, National Metrology Institutes/departments, Accreditation Bodies/ Focal points, Conformity Assessment Institutions/Departments, Pharmaceutical Institutes / Ministry of Health and regulatory institutions.

The purpose of visits was to find out institutional capacities, needs assessment, participation in COMESA activities and awareness of the regulatory functions and implementation of the harmonized procedures. It was also important to find out if there is coordination between the different players of SQA.  

The member states were very cooperative and the team managed to visit most of the quality infrastructure institutions in the respective Member States.

The team of experts is currently in Lusaka Zambia to interview COMESA secretariat and Zambia Bureau of Standards and other quality infrastructure institutions.

The country visits will continue until the end of December 2014, whose main outcomes will serve the preparation of the needs assessment, the SWOT analysis and the draft strategic plan.  

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