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Why standards matter

Eve Gadzikwa
THE Vuca (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) environment is continuing unabated with new dynamics at play in the form of currency reforms and pending elections in 2023.

In this perfect storm, Zimbabwe has a very good chance to choose its own destiny and to put its best foot forward.

Standards can create a more predictable, resilient and sustainable outcome for the future of our country and the next generation, attract investments, engender trust, promote sustainability, level the playing field for SME’s and protect consumers.

The Vuca environment is here to stay. It is disruptive and has transformed our lives.

It is a wake-up call for everyone — government, employers, labour, the young and the old. Vuca is a state of mind and no one is spared.

The Covid-19 pandemic swept the entire world causing a lot of disruptions with the resultant winners and losers.

During this pandemic, standards were needed and successfully implemented to contain the spread of Covid-19 and to protect the lives of the most vulnerable in our society.

Without implementation of standards, we could not assure the safety of those in the front line including doctors, nurses, medical and allied professionals, teachers and retail staff.

Thanks to standards, we were able to tame the tide by putting up our defences in the form of effective hand sanitizer and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs).

A number of producers emerged including SMEs to get their products tested and certified in conformity to standards.

Despite the global pandemic, Africa is forging ahead in terms of trade and member states agreed to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

This landmark agreement signalled the start of trade under the single African market with effect from January 1, 2021.

This was indeed a bold move for the continent as it meant that Africa was no longer going to trade its raw materials out of the continent but instead promote inter and intra Africa trade in the form of value added quality goods.

The implication of this decision alone resulted in a race towards retooling industries, embracing innovative solutions and delivering quality products more efficiently.

This in itself was quite an ambitious goal in the face of challenges such as infrastructure gaps.

Again, the issue of standards as a tool to promote trade became a reality under the new trade agreement.

The African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) was mandated to develop appropriate solutions to support and promote inter and intra Africa trade.

Today a significant number of these African Regional Standards (ARS) have been harmonised on the continent and adopted by member states for the purpose of promoting trade.

Why do Standards matter in Vuca during and post Covid-19? In the part 1 of a two part series, I want to look at two areas these being; standards in relation to improving our investment climate and in relation to mitigating climate change.

Improving the investment climate

The biggest challenge Africa faces today, despite its rich mineral deposits, is that of trust of products and services at the right quantities and quality to meet global supply and demand. Two examples come to mind.

Lithium
Lithium continues to be a hot commodity as demand for lithium-ion batteries continues to grow. Spodumene lithium concentrate prices have increased 1150% in a little over 18 months from US$400 to US$5 000/tonne and lithium carbonate could top US$35 000/tonne on the global market. Lithium price ($/tonne) on the other hand has soared from US$4 450 to US$78 032 according to World of Statistics.

Growth in demand for lithium is likely to continue unabated irrespective of shifts in battery sub-technologies. Most lithium has traditionally been produced in the ‘Lithium Triangle’ in Argentina, Chile and Bolivia as well as Australia, but recently Zimbabwe has emerged as a jurisdiction of some importance in terms of Lithium.

The boom in Lithium prices is being driven mainly by demand in Lithium Batteries for Electric Vehicles. In anticipating the boom of Electrical Vehicle (EV) Market, Zimbabwe has responded proactively by adopting relevant Standards for controlling critical elements, processes and by-products of Lithium e.g.

ZWS IEC 62840: Electric vehicle battery swap system: Part 1:2016: General and guidance

ZWS IEC 62840: Electric vehicle battery swap system: Part 2:2016: Safety requirements

ZWS IEC 61980: Electric vehicle wireless power transfer (WPT) systems: Part 1:2020: General requirements

ZWS IEC 62576: Electric double-layer capacitors for use in hybrid electric vehicles — Test methods for electrical characteristics

ZWS IEC 63119: Information exchange for electric vehicle charging roaming service: Part 1:2019: General

If Zimbabwe is to cash in on the boom in the global commodity prices, the future of Lithium Mining in Zimbabwe lies in its ability to attract, improve and sustain investments for this growing strategic industry driven by global supply and demand leveraging standards.

Industrial Hemp
Zimbabwe legalised the production of industrial hemp — a variety of the Cannabis sativa (mbanje) plant species — on a commercial basis in 2019, with the long — term goal of making it a top foreign currency earning crop like tobacco.

According to the Herald of 12/05/2021, industrial hemp production is set for a boom and Zimbabwe is poised to become a regional hub for industrial hemp production as more farmers are receiving better results from their pilot projects. Demand for industrial hemp is growing across the world and the product offers quick wins for farmers who are looking at diversifying their export basket. According to a research by Grand View Research, the global industrial hemp market size was estimated at US$4,71 billion in 2019.

Standards are critical in addressing key needs in the cannabis industry, including quality control, safety, and compliance. The rigor and process behind standardisation process serves to build public credibility, confidence, and trust while offering the industry a path to growth.

In partnership with American Society Testing and Materials (ASTM), the Standards Association of Zimbabwe is playing its part in supporting the Cannabis growers and agro-processors in terms of standardisation requirements to meet global demand for the niche product.

Mitigating climate change
Closely linked to the extractive industry is mitigating negative impacts on the environment especially in terms of mining, agricultural practices and construction industries.  There is a nexus between international standards and climate mitigation and adaptation.

There is a growing clarion call to address the huge infrastructure gaps on the continent, mainly due to housing and transportation backlog. Member States are also scrambling to address energy and water shortages to enhance productivity in the productive sectors. Such activities are placing tremendous pressure on the environment at a time when COP26 had brought parties together to accelerate action towards the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. This agreement, while not binding, challenged nations to reach net zero emissions from homes, transport, agriculture and industry by 2050.

Infrastructure is important for socio-economic development of the country yet the same buildings do contribute to almost 40% of the world’s Greenhouse Gas emissions.

Not to mention the amounts of water, sand and energy used in constructing these buildings, road, bridges and railways. Herein lies the challenge of how Zimbabwe and the rest of the world should and must respond to the climate change dilemma.

To date of the 26 000 ISO international standards, more than 100 of these standards have been developed by ISO, which focus on sustainable buildings.

Regrettably, a number of contractors are oblivious to Sustainable Development Goals 7, 9, 11, 12 and 13, which focus on affordable and clean energy, industry innovation and infrastructure, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and climate action. There is need for more awareness and action to mitigate and adapt to climate change factors if we are to reach net zero by 2050. Companies are encouraged to implement standards such as:

ISO 15392:2019, Sustainability in Building Construction — General Principles.

ISO 50001:2018 Energy Management Systems and ISO 14001:2015 assist in Climate Mitigation and Adaptation.

It is time for Zimbabwe to be part of the Green Standards revolution towards a more resilient and sustainable future.

  • Dr Gadzikwa is a standards expert, director-general of SAZ and serves on ISO Council. She writes in her own capacity. These weekly New Horizon articles published in the Zimbabwe Independent are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society (ZES) and past president of the Chartered Governance & Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe (CGI Zimbabwe). Email: kadenge.zes@gmail.com and mobile No. +263 772 382 852.

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