Quality tests: ‘Lesotho lags behind in SADC’

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Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry Majakathata Mokoena Thakhisi
Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry Majakathata Mokoena Thakhisi

Bereng Mpaki

LESOTHO is lagging behind other southern African countries by failing to establish agencies that provide quality assurance services for businesses and government departments among others.

This was said by Ministry of Trade and Industry Principal Secretary Majakathata Mokoena-Thakhisi on Monday during a high-level stakeholder ISO/IEC 17025 breakfast meeting in Maseru.

The meeting was organised by the Department of Standards and Quality Assurance in collaboration with the Southern African Development Community Accreditation Service (SADCAS) to raise awareness on the importance of accrediting laboratories.

ISO/IEC 17025 refers to the International Organisation for Standardisation general requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories. It is the standard for which most labs around the world must hold accreditation in order to be deemed technically competent.

Mr Mokoena-Thakhisi said there was an urgent need for Lesotho to establish quality assurance infrastructure to foster economic growth.

Quality assurance is a way of preventing mistakes or defects in manufactured products and avoiding problems when delivering solutions or services to customers. It consists of standardisation, metrology, conformity assessment and accreditation.

He said the private sector had already created various products that were awaiting certification so they can be manufactured and sold to the market.

“We are losing out on a lot of business opportunities due to our lack of standards and quality awareness. We need to move fast, since we have fallen behind and the private sector is already ahead of us,” said Mr Mokoena-Thakhisi.

“There are many entrepreneurs who would like to produce certain brilliant products, but their major challenge is there are no quality assurance facilities that allow their products to penetrate the market.”

The PS noted that Lesotho had the requisite human resources for the provision of quality assurance services, adding that they were not being utilised to the country’s detriment.

Lesotho currently relies on South Africa for most of its quality assurance needs, which comes at a higher cost than if the services were available locally.

A SADCAS consultant echoed the sentiment, saying several southern African member states had made notable progress towards establishing quality assurance services, with 50 accredited facilities in the region, while Lesotho had none.

“There is no single accredited facility in Lesotho despite it being a subscribing member of SADCAS, while there are over 50 of such facilities in the SADC region,” he said.

“This poses a threat to Lesotho’s trade prospects since more countries in the region are becoming more competitive than Lesotho. It is imperative, therefore, for more support to be accorded to accreditation activities at various levels in this country.”

For his part, Standards and Quality Assurance department Director Molebatsi Rabolinyane said limited support from the government was among the challenges that prevented Lesotho from making notable progress in quality assurance.

“In the past, our major challenge was lack of leadership support from the government,” Mr Rabolinyane said.

“For instance, when we started the process of developing the law for the standards body in 1996, we were at the same level as Botswana. But they completed and approved the law two years later while we only managed to do that in 2014.”

 

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