Economy still lagging in standardisation

Despite the importance of standardization in the globalised world, there is still little or non-existent standards in many sectors of the country’s economy – a situation Minister of Trade and Industry, Kobina Tahir Hammond, has expressed worry about.

The deficiency in standardization poses several risks including reduced product quality, value and safety, significantly undermining efforts to increase exports and generate much-needed revenue to support development in the ongoing economic recovery process. It also has the potential to dent consumer trust.

The current status quo further presents a hindrance to the country’s competitiveness in international markets, and can potentially impede economic growth as businesses may face challenges in exporting goods and services due to deviations from standards within target markets, he said.

Steps to improve standards

To address these issues, Mr. Hammond noted the country has taken steps to reform its standardisation processes, primarily through passing the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) Act 2022, Act 1078. This legislation aims to amend and consolidate laws related to standards, conformity assessment, metrology and other relevant aspects.

The Trade Minister spoke at a ceremony to unveil a modern heavy-duty truck equipped with a hydraulic crane – also known as a weighbridge truck – procured by the GSA in Accra, and said standardisation will become the norm as a result of ongoing reforms.

One notable step taken by the ministry so far, he revealed, is the ongoing process to establish a national standardisation norm that will set the benchmark for standardisation across various sectors.

This action coincides with a temporary halt in issuing permits for the construction of new cement factories, effective from September 13, 2023. The minister attributed this decision to issues related to standards, adding that his outfit is actively working to streamline the cement industry.

Procurement of the weighbridge truck equipped with a hydraulic crane by GSA is a significant development, he said. It was supported by the World Bank Group as part of the Ghana Economic Transformation Project (GETP).

This equipment will play a vital role in lifting test-weights required for precise verification and calibration of weighbridges across the country.

The Trade Minister acknowledged that substantial assistance was provided by the World Bank Group, emphasising the organisation’s commitment to assisting in the country’s establishment of standards.

This partnership highlights the importance of international support in achieving robust standardisation processes, which are crucial for the country’s economic growth and competitiveness.

Senior Private Sector Specialist at the World Bank in Washington DC, US, Thomas Vis, speaking in an interview at the ceremony explained that the World Bank has a very large economic transformation project of US$200million.

One of the subcomponents is in support of GSA through which funding was provided for the acquisition of the weighbridge truck. The GSA subcomponent under the project is about US$10 million, but going forward that will increase, he added.

He was optimistic that the weighbridge truck would be used around the country, especially at the ports to check weights and measurements of things that are brought into the country, in order to ensure conformity to standards as well as drive revenue.

“It will try to ensure and certify that those weights and measurements are what they are said to be,” he said.

The GETP Project Administrator of the Project Coordination Unit at the Ministry of Finance, Franklin Ashiadey, lauded the progress so far.

GETP, he explained, is designed to help transform the economy through various means, particularly through the private sector.’

“We are delighted that the project has been able to deliver one of the key results which is the weighbridge. It has multiple purposes to bring the required standards we need and also the revenue that you may require to support the development of GSA,” he stated.

The Director-General of GSA, Prof. Alex Dodoo, disclosed that the authority has so far received about US$6 million of the stipulated amount from the World Bank, with part of the funds going into purchase of new laboratory equipment and the weighbridge truck.

Specifically, he said the truck will ensure that heavy weights and other things brought into the country are accurately calibrated and verified per the standards of the authority.

“Enforcement is the way to go globally. So, through the support of the World Bank, and the new law back GSA, there is the need to have trading standards inspectors to enforce trading standards across the country, which is being worked on,” he stated.