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 July 2007
Feature

Richard Wilhelm is the news editor for SN. He has worked at ASTM International for 17 years.

Moving Forward Together Open House for Sub-Saharan Africa Standards Leaders Charts a Path for Future Collaborations

Seated left to right (1st row): Mary Saunders, chief, Standards Services Division, National Institute of Standards and Technology; Glen Fine, executive vice president, Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute; Gaby Lubiba Mampuya, technical assistant of the managing director, Office Congolais de Controle; Kitty Kono, vice president, global cooperation, ASTM International; Maureen Mutasa, director general, Standards Association of Zimbabwe; Shafeenaaz Nurmahomed, Embassy of the Republic of Mauritius; W. Ocheme Okpeh, head, ASTM matters, Standards Organization of Nigeria; Hratch Semerjian, chief scientist, National Institute of Standards and Technology; June Ling, associate executive director, codes and standards, American Society for Mechanical Engineers

Seated left to right (2nd row): Gregory Saunders, chairman of the board, ASTM International, and director of the Defense Standardization Program of the U.S. Department of Defense; James Kojo Buabeng, director of finance, Ghana Standards Board; James Thomas, president, ASTM International; Karen Burress, senior international trade specialist; U.S. Department of Commerce; Charles Malata-Chirwa, director general, Malawi Bureau of Standards; Mataa Mukelabi, director, Zambia Bureau of Standards; Elsie Meintjies, managing director, Botswana Bureau of Standards; Gary Kushnier, vice president, international policy, American National Standards Institute; Steven Bipes, director international policy, regional and bilateral programs; American National Standards Institute; Henson Dlamini, administrator, Standardization and Quality Assurance Section, Swaziland

Standing left to right: Guillaume Ligongo Maliba, director of standardization management, Office Congolais de Controle; Mesai Girma, director general, Quality and Standards Authority of Ethiopia; John Akanya, director general, Standards Organization of Nigeria; Obiora Manafa, head, metrology, Standards Organization of Nigeria; Martin J. Kuscus, chief executive officer, South African Bureau of Standards; Jay Peters, executive director, plumbing and mechanical programs, International Code Council; Khemraj Ramful, director, Mauritius Standards Bureau; Adu Gyamfi Darkwa, executive director, Ghana Standards Board

Over the course of three days in May, executives from the national standards bodies of 11 African countries met at ASTM International headquarters in West Conshohocken, Pa., for the Open House for Sub-Saharan Africa Standards Leaders. ASTM International sponsored the Open House in cooperation with the American National Standards Institute and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Executives from the national standards bodies of Botswana, Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe attended the Open House, which was held May 16-18. These executives were joined by representatives from ASTM International, ANSI, NIST, the United States Trade Representative’s office, the International Code Council, the American Society for Mechanical Engineers, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute. Representatives from each of these groups explained the roles their organizations play in the realm of international standardization.

Obiora Manafa, head, metrology, Standards Organization of Nigeria

The Open House program provides an opportunity to discuss important issues regarding the challenges to developing countries, new technologies for standards development, ASTM International’s memorandum of understanding program and other topics related to international standardization. Throughout the Open House, the executives from Africa and the United States explored a variety of standardization issues facing Sub-Saharan Africa and simply got to know each other better. The discussions that resulted from presentations made throughout the workshop were open, honest and optimistic (while still being realistic) and may pave the way for future collaborations among the attending organizations.

Hratch Semerjian, chief scientist, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Introductions and Issues

After an opening day spent visiting Philadelphia landmarks and becoming better acquainted during an evening reception, Open House participants were welcomed to the event the following morning by Kitty Kono, ASTM vice president, global cooperation. In her opening remarks, Kono said, “This program has been in the planning for over one year and seeing you all here with us today is the fulfillment of a dream.”

Also extending greetings were James A. Thomas, president, ASTM International; Gary Kushnier, vice president, international policy, American National Standards Institute; and Hratch Semerjian, chief scientist, U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology.

(Left to right) Henson Dlamini, Swaziland Ministry of Enterprise and Employment, and Martin J. Kuscus, South African Bureau of Standards

In his opening comments, Thomas said, “You have come a long way here hoping to learn how we can work together in a spirit of cooperation. ASTM shares this same goal. This Open House is an expression of our interest in building relationships between our organizations.” Kushnier said that the time and effort involved in traveling to ASTM headquarters was an indication of the high level of interest participants had in learning more about the standardization system in the United States. During his opening remarks, Semerjian cited the example of the Egyptian cubit to remind everyone that the origins of standardization reside in Africa.

W. Ocheme Okpeh, head, ASTM matters, Standards Organization of Nigeria

Following the welcomes, representatives from each of the 11 African national standards bodies introduced themselves and their organizations. During these introductions, participants provided a brief history of their standards body and talked about challenges currently facing them. To read more about these introductions, see the sidebar here.

Throughout the introductions, Teresa Cendrowska, ASTM director of external relations, compiled a list of issues and challenges as they were mentioned. This list reinforced the ties shared by standards organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa. The following are some of the needs that emerged during this section of the Open House:

• Creating awareness among the general population and among potential stakeholders of standards and their value;
• Improving systems of enforcement for product quality;
• Eliminating dumping of substandard materials and products;
• Supporting more advanced testing capacity;
• Gaining greater and better participation;
• Capacity building;
• Obtaining greater use of voluntary standards by regulators; and
• Financing of standards process.

Shafeenaaz Nurmahomed, Embassy of the Republic of Mauritius

While all of these issues generated interest at the Open House, capacity building struck a familiar chord among all the assembled delegates, with standards emerging as a way to deal with the issue. “ASTM standards have become the industry practice, we don’t have to re-invent the wheel,” said Martin Kuscus, chief executive officer, South African Bureau of Standards. “Given limited resources worldwide, the sooner we cooperate, the better to breach the capacity gaps.”

The Thursday morning session concluded with an address by James A. Thomas, who said that the purpose of the Open House was to acknowledge and deepen the connections among the organizations involved and to present the benefits of developing standards within ASTM— an international organization that is accessible and permits direct participation. Speaking about the workshop, Thomas said, “One of our great hopes is to reveal the opportunities that could exist for cooperation among our organizations.”

USTR: Building a Success Highway

The Open House sessions began on Thursday afternoon with a luncheon speaker, Florizelle Liser, assistant U.S. trade representative for Africa, who spoke from Washington, D.C., via videoconference. Liser was joined by Patrick Coleman, director for African affairs, USTR, and Betsy Stillman, director for technical barriers to trade issues, USTR.

Liser said that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is helping to “build a success highway,” in Sub-Saharan Africa. “We want to help build the capacity on the ground in Africa and make sure that Africans can move things forward themselves.”

Gaby Lubiba Mampuya, technical assistant of the managing director, Office Congolais de Controle, Congo

Liser described what the USTR office is doing to strengthen the trade and investment relationship between the United States and Sub-Saharan Africa. She spoke specifically about the African Growth and Opportunity Act which is at the center of U.S. trade and investment policy on Africa. AGOA was passed as part of the Trade and Development Act of 2000 and provides eligible countries in Sub-Saharan Africa with the most liberal access to the U.S. market available, to any country or region with which the United States does not have a Free Trade Agreement.

In addition, AGOA reinforces African reform efforts, provides improved access to U.S. credit and technical expertise, and establishes a high-level dialogue on trade and investment through the U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Forum.

(left to right) Khemraj Ramful, Mauritius Standards Bureau, and Glen Fine, Clinical and Laboratroy Standards Institute

Liser noted that there are many aspects to AGOA, but the most important is that it eliminates tariffs on more than 6,000 products that eligible African countries might export to the United States.

According to Liser, AGOA has been a success, particularly in boosting non-traditional imports such as apparel and cut flowers, as well as value-added goods including processed food and industrial products. “By eliminating tariffs on processed and manufactured goods, AGOA is helping African exporters to move up the value chain — from cotton to apparel, from unprocessed fruits to canned fruits and juices, and from iron ore to automobiles,” said Liser.

(Onscreen, left to right) Patrick Coleman, Florizelle Liser and Betsy Stillman, all of the U.S. Trade Representative office, appeared via video conference from Washington, D.C., at the Open House.

Liser concluded her presentation by saying that the work of the USTR on standards and trade in Sub-Saharan Africa will help pave the way to increased African market access and global competitiveness, improved development and implementation of domestic regulatory regimes within African countries, and greater cooperation and compliance with international disciplines and commitments related to standards.

Adding to the Conversation

Presentations from Gary Kushnier (ANSI), Mary Saunders (NIST), Jay Peters (the International Code Council) and June Ling (ASME) followed Liser’s on Thursday afternoon (see page 28 for details). Each was followed by brief but lively question-and-answer sessions that touched on points made by the presenter, as well as other issues that had been raised earlier during the Open House.

Mesai Girma, director general, Quality and Standard Authority of Ethiopia

Each presentation added immensely to the ongoing conversation that was developing as the Open House progressed. This is also true of presentations given on Friday morning by Greg Saunders (U.S. Department of Defense), Glen Fine (Clinical and Labororatory Standards Institute), Kitty Kono and James Olshefsky (both of ASTM International).

New Collaborations, Possible Solutions

The Open House drew to a close with a conversation about ways to follow up on ideas generated during the program. While it was acknowledged that the issues list created during the self-introductions is large and complex, there was also a feeling of optimism that new collaborations and possible solutions could ultimately emerge from the Open House discussions.

Noting that “this is about partnership,” Martin Kuscus said of the Open House, “I am walking away with a better understanding of your system.” His sentiments were echoed by Maureen Mutasa, director general, Standards Association of Zimbabwe, who said, “I believe there is much we can learn from this forum.”

“Our candid and engaging discussion over the past three days has helped us all to better understand each other and how we can work together in the future,” noted James A. Thomas at the conclusion of the Open House. “This event is just the beginning of what we hope will be increased collaboration and openess, which has been the hallmark of ASTM International and our consensus process. We look forward to working with all of you to increase our mutual success in the months and years ahead.”

The Open House for Sub-Saharan Africa was the fourth in a series of ASTM programs bringing together national standards bodies. Previous open houses were held for Latin American, Caribbean countries and Canada (November 2001); Asia Pacific countries (September 2003); and the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (July 2005). //

Presentations Highlight Diversity of Voluntary Standardization System

Gary Kushnier, vice president, international policy, ANSI. Noting that “the international language of commerce is standards,” Kushnier focused on three key points: the importance of standards and conformance; the U.S. approach to standards and conformance; and an overview of the ANSI federation.

Mary Saunders, chief, standards services division, technology services, NIST. Saunders spoke on the U.S. government’s use of voluntary standards. She described the U.S. voluntary standards system as taking place in the private sector with government participation. It works through cooperation and communication with stakeholders and meets their needs by supporting the protection of health, safety and the environment, enhancing industry competitiveness and contributing to a liberalized global trading system.

Jay Peters, executive director, plumbing and mechanical programs, International Code Council. Peters provided an overview of the International Code Council, as well as speaking generally about building codes and their global importance. Peters noted that, because of the diversity in construction throughout the world, building codes often must be adapted for local conditions.

June Ling, associate executive director, American Society of Mechanical Engineers. “The standards community is a family,” said Ling during her presentation. “We all have the same purpose: safety and improving the economy.” Ling described ASME as an organization that works toward these goals by promoting “the art, science and practice of mechanical and multidisciplinary engineering and allied sciences to diverse communities throughout the world.” She spoke of the purpose of ASME and the process by which the organization develops its codes, standards and conformity assessment programs.

Gregory Saunders, director, Defense Standardization Program, U.S. Department of Defense. Saunders, who is also chairman of the ASTM International board of directors, discussed the standardization activities of the U.S. military. He noted that while the Department of Defense still develops standards for military-unique items, it depends on thousands of voluntary standards from the private sector, including many from ASTM.

Glen Fine, executive vice president, Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute. CLSI uses a consensus-driven process to develop standards and guidelines in healthcare medical laboratory testing. Fine described the importance of healthcare standards in medical labs, particularly in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and spoke of current work by CLSI in Tanzania, Nigeria, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Kitty Kono, vice president, global cooperation, ASTM International. Kono spoke of ASTM International’s memorandum of understanding program. The program establishes partnerships and promotes communication, using ASTM’s resources to strengthen national standards bodies and to promote greater global input into the content of ASTM standards. Kono described the responsibilities and benefits of the MOU for national standards bodies and ASTM International.

James Olshefsky, director, committee services, ASTM International. Olshefsky outlined the ways in which ASTM International has used the Internet to provide greater worldwide access to its standardization activities. These include virtual training for MOU countries, virtual meetings, electronic registration of new work items, standards searches and electronic balloting.

James Thomas, president, ASTM International, stated that the purposes of the Open House were to welcome Sub-Saharan Africa to the ASTM system of standards development, to acknowledge and deepen the connection between ASTM and the national standards bodies and to present the benefits of developing standards in an international standards developing organization that is accessible and permits direct participation. //