By Saikou Suwareh Jabai
As part of activities aim at commemorating World Standards Day (WSD) 2014, The Gambia Standards Bureau (TGCB), in collaboration with The Gambia Competition Consumer Protection Commission (GCCPC), held a day-long information sharing session on Thursday, 23rd October, at the Baobab Holiday Resort at Bijilo.
World Standards Day is celebrated internationally on the 14th October every year.
With the theme ‘Standards level the playing ground’, the seminar was attended by various stakeholders and characterisd by presentations and discussions on the work and role of the Bureau in the areas of standardization, metrology and conformity. It was also an occasion which enabled the Bureau to showcase the first ten published national standards on food and food related issues.
In his keynote address, Mr. Papa Secka, the Director General of The Gambia Standards Bureau (TGSB), said the Day is commemorated each year to highlight and showcase the contributions of experts in the development of international standards. He said every year it is the World Standards Cooperation, composed of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), International Electro-technical Commission (IEC) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which agrees on a pertinent theme for the activities of the commemoration to focus on.
This information-sharing seminar, noted the TGSB DG, is being held to serve as a forum that brings together stakeholders to share with them the work of the Bureau and its achievements and also receive the insights and contributions from participants as useful inputs to their future work programme.
The DG highlighted the achievements of the Bureau during its three years of operation, including the publication of national standards on ten (10) food and related issues as well as the finalization of another nine (9) food standards of which two (2) are on electrical cables and wiring standards and four on petrochemicals on diesel, petrol, jet and premix oil.
At the international level, he said, the Bureau participates in the ECOWAS regional harmonization of standards on Rice, Maize and Smoked Fish and on the current harmonization of Minimum Performance Standards of efficient lighting bulbs and paints.
The TSGB DG concluded by emphasizing the importance and immediate need as a matter of priority for the use and implementation of standards in all sectors of the economy and for the promotion and enhancement of consumers’ welfare.
The Executive Secretary of The Gambia Competition Consumer Protection Commission (GCCPC), Mr. Amadou Ceesay, in his statement, said the WSD is set aside to pay tribute to the thousands of men and women all over the world who develop voluntary standards for the advancement and welfare of societies, adding that it also provides the perfect opportunity to reflect on the benefits that standards bring to our everyday lives, the market economy and to the smooth running of public affairs.
Mr. Ceesay recalled that in April 2014, the National Assembly enacted the Consumer Protection (CP) Act 2014, which was assented to on May 12 the same year by the president. He added that this Consumer Protection Act had necessitated the name change of his institution from GCC to GCCPC.
Mr. Ceesay noted the importance of Standard setting in promoting competition and enhancing consumer welfare, adding that standard setting is the process of determining a common set of characteristics for a good or service. He said standard setting covers many different outputs and processes, from table salt quality, motorcycle-wheel size, gasoline formulations to computer chips protocols.
“The benefits of standard setting or standardization are wide reaching both in scope and form depending on the purpose behind the standard and the type of product that is standardized. Many standards pursue environmental, health or food safety objectives. Standardization reduces transaction costs, for example, ensuring interoperability of complementary products. Firms will also have incentives to have their patents included in a standard which fosters innovation,” said the GCCPC Executive Secretary.
He concluded that stakeholders must continue to adopt standards in their processes as the Gambia cannot excel in any sector if standards are ignored.
Officially opening the forum, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment (MOTIE), Mrs. Naffie Barry, said international standards represent the consensus view of the world’s leading experts in the industry sector, ranging from energy utilities and energy efficiency to transportation, management systems, climate change, healthcare, safety, and information and communication technology (ICT).
Volunteering their knowledge in service of the public interest, Mrs. Barry said, experts in these and many other subjects come together to create standards that share innovation with all the world’s countries and so provide business, government and society with a solid platform for fair and equitable international and domestic trade and ensure a level playing field for all players within the market economy.
She recalled that due to the Government’s continued reform measures with the objectives of creating the right environment for private sector growth and development, it has enacted The Gambia Standards Bureau Act in 2010. The Bureau, she added, was thus established as a specialized Agency under her Ministry with the objectives of facilitating trade, industrial development and efficiency as well as promoting the culture of quality by standardizing goods, providing inspection, testing and certification services and Industrial calibration. She noted: “Preceding this development was the establishment of the Gambia Competition Commission in 2007 also under my Ministry and which has been expanded to enforce the Consumer Protection Act 2014 and is thus now known as the Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.”
In conclusion, PS Barry said: “International standards serve to harmonize global best practices, eliminating technical barriers to trade, and fostering shared socio-economic advance. My Ministry is committed to mainstreaming relevant and appropriate standards in our policies and regulations as a means to better protect the Gambian population. Ultimately, the consumer benefits from a greater choice of quality products and lower prices.”