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Why standards matter

EVE GADZIKWA
Continued from last week
THIS is the second part of my article following last week’s where I dealt with how standards are critical with regard to two areas; standards in relation to improving investment climate and in relation to mitigating climate change.

This week I want to discuss how standards can enhance competitiveness and the potential impact of the fourth industrial revolution.

There should be no doubt that standards can create a more predictable, resilient and sustainable outcomes for the future of our country and the next generation, attract investments, engender trust, promote sustainability, level the playing field for SME’s while protecting consumers.

Enhancing competitiveness

Competitiveness pertains to the ability and performance of a firm, sub-sector or country to sell and supply goods and services in a given market, in relation to the ability and performance of other firms, sub-sectors or countries in the same market.

In terms of industry competitiveness, we need to look at various macro and micro factors, such as, the forex exchange market, funding gaps and business inclusion.

Thanks to Covid-19 and other micro factors, we have a distorted labour market and unable to retain a trained skilled labour force.

Competitiveness is linked to the ability to generate our power more competitively, have access to skilled manpower and utilities such as water and transport, to rapidly adopt digital innovations and improve global competitiveness rankings.

This can happen if we integrate standards in our manufacturing processes, standardise our products and promote quality and sustainable production through the use of cleaner production mechanisms.

Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) or in the African context A4IR refers to our current period of rapid technological growth which is fundamentally changing the way we live.

By drawing on a multitude of advanced technologies, 4IR blurs the lines between the physical, digital, and biological worlds. So what does it mean for your business?

Technological advancements, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, disrupt how we conduct business.

Augmented decision-making, the use of computer systems to support human thinking and planning, is one way 4IR is changing the way we work.

Let us take a closer look at the implications of this technological revolution in the Zimbabwe context.

According to United Nations Industrial Development Organisation’s (Unido)’s Newsflash 24/2022, in “new normal” the world will increasingly be driven by advanced digital technologies that are associated with both post-pandemic recovery and newly emerging growth pathways.

This has led to the concept of harnessing resilience and higher competitiveness through continuous digital innovation driven by strategic vision, learning and efficient partnerships among government, business, and civil society.

McKinsey & Company share interesting insights in terms of 4IR capability building.

For manufacturing companies, A4IR transformation across the board is a complex task because it requires change on two broad levels that, while related, are quite distinct.

First, there are hands-on technical skills. Everyone from shop-floor operators and technicians to middle managers to senior leaders is confronted with compelling new digital tools ranging from new apps and software to IoT devices.

Mastering them requires new content knowledge (knowing what to do and how to do it) and developing understanding (when to do it and why).

But beyond boosting technical capability lies another category of essential learning: New leadership skills.

Leaders at every level, from the shop floor to the C-suite, face the challenge of learning how to organise, communicate, delegate, facilitate, and manage a workplace and a workforce undergoing technical transformation.

Amid any substantial change come the human elements of stress, uncer¬tainty, and, often, even fear.

Leaders are tasked with stewarding their people through what can be demanding and disruptive adaptations.

Bringing it closer to home, Zimbabwe has a number of opportunities to radically transform our economy backed by implementing 4IR innovations like Blockchain, IoTs, Machine Learning, 3D printing technologies, 5G mobile network and open source.

In collaboration with International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission  (IEC) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association (IEEE-SA) (USA) and other international standards setting bodies, Zimbabwe has an opportunity to set itself on a new path to rapid digital transformation.

Conclusion

The world is moving at an alarming pace characterised by fresh and interesting challenges and opportunities to modern society.

Clearly, one cannot solve today’s challenges by relying on yesterday’s solutions. In a world that is radically changing as seen by the turbulent environment, pandemics and geopolitical risks, opportunities still exist.

To paraphrase it, “Opportunities can easily be missed by most people because they are dressed in overalls and looks like work.”…Thomas Edison.

Businesses are faced with a torrid time of how to transform such opportunities into real business, deliver better products more efficiently and contend with competitive pressures.

Businesses today need to be more agile, green, resilient, innovative, responsible and collaborative.

Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs), for instance, must scale up by leveraging on strategic alliances, thought leadership and by building in performance measurements to monitor their processes if they are to survive in volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA).

Data analytics and recognising critical stakeholders in the formulation of strategies are all part and parcel of the new world order.

If we are to survive the VUCA wave that is sweeping our country we need to remove our rose coloured glasses and to look squarely at our investment climate, assess the implications of geopolitical risks, climate change, evaluate the drivers of competitiveness and leverage the 4IR.

I contend, the starting point is to recognise and accept inevitable transformation.

One sure way we can leapfrog this massive transformation is by embracing standards in a VUCA environment.

There is therefore no doubt standards do really matter in today’s world and must be at the centre of industrial development.

  • 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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