What can we do to increase the quality of products and services in Ethiopia?

By Berhe Hagos
Berhe.Hagos@teliasonera.com, Swede
July 16 2010

Coming up with quality products is an avenue to excel competitors as well as successfully penetrate the global market. This was the quote of the week by Girma Biru, the minister of Commerce and Industry. I could not agree the least; quality is the main driver to effectuate the export market.

The Quality and Standards Authority of Ethiopia (QSAE) is the National Standards Body of Ethiopia established in 1970. Its vision is to be a national centre for quality and standards that substantially contributes to raising the living standard of the society.

I do not have enough information as to how effective the authority is, but I have observed the quality level of Ethiopian products is under all scrutiny. We have started to produce many products; we are building roads, bridges, houses and many other important infrastructure technologies. However, it is not an exaggeration to suggest that quality has been compromised for the sake of mass production.

In line with the MDG we are purchasing and implementing very expensive technical projects in sectors like Shipping, Airline, Electricity, Telecommunications, Road construction, Oil and Gas, etc.

I think no one can argue against the fact that sustainable infrastructure, high product life cycle, and excellent product brands can only be accomplished through high quality assurance. However many emerging markets are copying the processes that were undertaken by the developed nations during the 70s and 80s, in good faith that they are working with the management of product quality. During this period there was a need to structure, manage and document all processes in the industries. One of the main reasons was to avoid the dependency on individuals who monopolised certain knowledge of the processes and routines pertinent to the production. There was also a need to structure all other types of processes in all sectors to create and implement a total quality in the processes, routines and instructions. The result was the introduction of the so called ISO (International Standard Organisation) standards and thereby companies seeking ISO certification. Now a days few companies are interested in the certification process. Why is it so?

99% of the companies in those countries have achieved their goals in full control of the process flows, in regularly reviewing and taking necessary corrective measures, in documenting and achieving all important records, etc. They do not need an external body to audit their documentation of processes and routines any more. What they focus at today is in the real product quality (sustainability, reliability, finishing, compliance to environment, etc). It is about the quality that will be perceived by you and me as consumers. How is the finishing of the shoe you wear? How is the reliability of the electricity in my house? How many times do I have to dial before I get the line? Do I get proper message when I subscribe for a service from my cell phone? How many seconds dose it takes to open a simple e-mail? Do I have to worry about holes and cavities in the high way when driving? How reliable is the water supply in my house? How many hours do I have to queue for renewing my driving licence? Is the salad I get at the Hilton free of basketries, is the local cheese sustainable and risk free to eat? Are the local plastic tubes of export quality?

There are many things that needs to be done, but
I suggest to H.E Girma Birru initiate with some simple measures that will enhance the control of product quality in our country:

  1. Certify private companies to work with quality assurance like calibration, Laboratory testing, Product Inspection, measurements, etc.
  2. All measurement and test equipments should be tax free.
  3. Introduce product quality certification (not to be confused with ISO certification).