Better quality infrastructure helps curb non-compliance

As consumers become more demanding, product quality testing becomes even more important. However, this requires capable quality infrastructure, such as testing facilities.

Quality testing is becoming increasingly important as consumers continue to demand high-quality products. A simple in-house quality test is no longer enough. Therefore, many South African companies subject their products to South African National Standard (SANS) testing by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).

As Lengwadishang Ramphele notes in an interview for 702 radio station, the SABS and SANS stamp assures customers that the product is safe, complies with standard specifications and successfully fulfils its function.

There are a number of testing facilities in South Africa, which can be used to ensure product quality and compliance with SANS and international standards.

A 2016 study, by the members of the International Association of Engineers (IAENG), compared South African quality infrastructure (QI) with that found in Sweden. Makibane Ntlhane, Stephen Akinlabi and Charles Mbohwa wrote: “QI is important as it provides technical support to companies in order to improve their production processes and to ensure compliance to regulations, or international requirements.”

The infrastructure considered in the study included accreditation and inspection bodies, testing laboratories and certification institutions. One big difference between QI in South Africa and Sweden is government involvement. In Sweden, about 30 percent of QI is structured within government, compared to 98,4 percent in South Africa.

“When these institutions are under one government ministry, it can be easy to influence their policies,” the study reveals. A minister can, for example, influence a body to use an ill-equipped facility with the sole purpose of making a profit.

Another concern is the lack of highly educated staff in the South African QI sector. Only 14,8 percent of respondents from South Africa have a postgraduate education, with 45,9 percent obtaining only a diploma. Of the respondents from Sweden, 45,8 percent had a postgraduate degree.

“It is recommended that the South African institutions encourage their staff to further their studies after completing their undergraduate qualifications,” the researchers noted.

While the respondents from both countries believe their organisations play a role in reducing non-compliance and that they contribute to the economy of the respective countries, South Africa definitely has room for improvement.

Ntlhane, Akinlabi and Mbohwa note: “There are a lot of non-compliant products that are imported into South Africa. These products pollute the economy and cause extensive and long-term harm to consumers and the environment.”

The United States (US), for example, is accused of dumping poultry at unfairly low prices in South Africa, threatening the local poultry industry. However, the US Poultry and Egg Export Council defended its cheap exports by noting that the consumption of 1,8 million tonnes of poultry a year in South Africa outweighs local supply.

South Africa also is yet to sign the African Continent Free Trade Area (AfCTFA) Agreement. While the decision to postpone signing the agreement is based on obscurities in the document, some believe the Agreement will be counterproductive to preventing non-compliant products.

In March, Fin24 reported: “Matthew Parks, parliamentary officer of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, warned that the agreement could lead to the dumping of cheap imports that destroy local industries.”

While the government is responsible for preventing dumping of non-compliant products, companies can invest in highly educated staff, better quality infrastructure and demand the independence of this infrastructure. In this way companies will be able to further reduce non-compliance and ensure consumers receive the best products.

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