Most SMEs in Swaziland are aware of standards and tend to implement the minimum achievable quality measures and or use “inhouse” standards. These “inhouse” standards are mostly formulated from tried and tested procedures. The local economic environment has posed a serious challenge to local SME’s as they face difficulties with issues such as access to markets and financing amongst others. Because of this they often find themselves in financial dire straits thus view standardisation as a costly process and believe that the market they cater for does not justify such. The prior absence of a National Standards Body coupled with the lack of expertise made it difficult for them to explore standards related issues.
Of note is that the SME sector in Swaziland is dominated by indigenous trades such as handicraft whereby historical and cultural backgrounds have provided the main source of “training” to its participants thus there are no standards to guide them. Experience and skills passed from generation to generation have kept the sector alive, though it is challenged by lack of reasonable growth mainly caused by ever changing market demands and economic conditions.
The Swaziland Standards Authority, therefore, aims at uplifting SMEs by providing standards information, writing and/or developing internationally recognised Swazi standards that will cater for all SMEs including those dealing in indigenous products. Standards based training will also be on offer once standards have been developed, adapted and or implemented, for SMEs to fully appreciate the benefits that the concept has to offer.
Given that the process of implementing standards and further being certified is a costly exercise SWASA will encourage SMEs to carry out this process one step at a time, and the Authority will be with them every step of the way. Most importantly though is they have to take the first step which is acquisition of the standard(s) that relate(s) to their business, after which they will then go about putting in place the structures and systems that will ensure that at some point in the future they may fully implement the standard(s) and further seek certification. If one may say, in the initial stages they may seek to be “standards friendly.”
Some of the benefits that SMEs will realise will include:
- Increased customer confidence and satisfaction, thus reducing complaints.
- Increased productivity, due to appropriate utilisation of resources, less wastages and optimised machine efficiencies.
- Qualification for trade in restricted areas both within the country and abroad. E.g. locally they may qualify to supply the bigger enterprises with raw material and other products, thus reducing the country’s reliance on foreign markets for such supplies.
- Reduced accidents and a healthy work environment.