Standards & Quality Infrastructure

Through the Unit responsible for Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures, SADC works to enhance the quality and competitiveness of goods and service produced by the SADC region as well as ensuring that goods and services imported for use in the region meet the requirement of international standards. This is done through the work of the regional quality infrastructure that consists of seven Technical Barriers to trade (TBT) cooperation structures, namely SADCSTAN (standards harmonisation), SADCMET (measurement traceability), SADCMEL (legal metrology), SADCA (accreditation), SADCTRLC (technical regulation liaison committee), SADC TBT SC (Stakeholder Committee) and the SADC TBT Expert Group. A structure in the SPS sphere is the SADC SPS Coordinating Committee (SADC SPS CC) with its three subcommittees (Animal health; Food safety and Plant Protection) These structures are continually producing soft skills and instruments to strengthen the regulatory support frameworks for trade, industry and investment and for consumer and environment protection.

Key focus areas

  • Standards harmonisation is the works done by SADCSTAN wherein agreement mutual recognition of each MS requirements on the contents of a standards is facilitated between Member States. The harmonisation of standards essentially means that the trading partners agree on the definition of whatever the good or service should be.
  • Technical regulations are normally set to protect a Member States legitimate objective such as to do with environmental protection, public health and safety and protection of flora and fauna. The approximation of Technical regulations recognises that MS regulate in different ways hence the use of the word “approximation” which implies recognition of how close the regulations of the MS may be at achieving the legitimate objective of each MS.
  • Ensuring the traceability of measurements essentially seeks to ensure that a kilogram (or any measurement) in one part of the world is equal to a kilogram of the same substance in another part of the world. This is done through checking that the calibration of the measurement instruments around the world are referenced back to the same measurement standards defined internationally.
  • Legal Metrology is the measurement that is associated with trade. It ensures that the measurement instruments that are used in trade e.g. fuel pumps, butchery scales, the milliner’s meter are measuring the traded commodity accurately for the price charged. This is a form of consumer and public interest protection and it is important that all measurements are as defined in internationally recognised standards.
  • Accreditation is the attestation by an authorised body that a body that does conformity assessment services e.g. inspection, testing, quality certification, is competent to do what they do and that the test, inspection or certification certificate they issue is believable. In the SADC region there are three internationally recognised accreditation bodies, namely, Mauritas, SANAS, SADCAS. Unlike the two that are nationally owned by the states of Mauritius and South Africa, SADCAS is a multi-economy accreditation body operating as a subsidiary organisation to the SADC Secretariat. It is financially supported by thirteen 13 SADC Member States, namely, Angola, Botswana, Comoros, DRC, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, Seychelles, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  • Private sector involvement in standardisation, quality assurance, accreditation and metrology (SQAM) matters is important because they are the ones that experience the day to day.
  • Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures are overseen by the SADC SPS Coordinating Committee that is established by Article 14 of the SADC SPS Annex to the SADC Protocol on Trade. This committee consists of three sub-committees responsible for Animal Health, Food Safety and Plant Protection. These sub-committees have the duty to ensure that the SADC Member States are implementing the appropriate SPS measures and that their collective understand of their application is similar in order to facilitate trade. 
  • Cross-cutting matters: The Expert Group is the apex body of the cooperation structure which addresses matters that cut across all the cooperation structures. The executive Committee of this structure was revived in 2021 so as to enable the structure to meet during the year and give ongoing guidance to the other cooperation structures and the TBT/SPS Unit of the SADC Secretariat.

Some of the projects and programmes being implemented include Trade Facilitation Program as the main implementer of the TBT/SPS activities which focusses on building capacities, frameworks and studies; Trade Related Facility (TRF) which is implemented at Member State level but contains projects that have the four elements of SQAM which the SADC TBT unit has to support with advisory and networking services; and SADC-PTB (Physikalisch Technische Bundesanstalt) Program has four areas of delivery, namely, (i) Support to the SADC TBT Cooperation structures; (ii) Support to build capacity of the SADC TBT Unit; (iii) Support to individual Member States and (iv) Support to the African Continental Free Trade Area.

In ensuring quality and standards of goods and services, SADC works with Member States, SADC Technical Barriers to Trade Cooperation Structures and Physikalisch Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB).

Some statistics on key issues

The region has harmonised one hundred and twenty-four standards texts; trained over one hundred and thirty accreditation assessors for SADCAS; harmonised regulations for twenty-one horticultural fruits and nineteen horticultural plants; the unit annually convenes at least one standards-based training session for conformity assessment bodies and at least one for small-scale business operators. Six of the SADC Member States have participated fully in the SADC Quality Awards in order to showcase the level of understanding and implementation of the standards and quality principles in their economies. As at June 2021, the SADC NTMs database was being developed with Member States uploading their national regulations for transparency in trade; six regional value chains were bien analysed for their standards and conformity assessment needs.

List of documents - Protocol, Strategies, Frameworks

  • Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Annex to the SADC Protocol on Trade (1996),
  • Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Annex to the SADC Protocol on Trade (1996), 
  • TBT and SPS Articles of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement; 
  • TBT and SPS Articles of the African Continental Free Trade Area ( AfCFTA) Agreement.