Standardization critical in fostering innovation

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HARARE(New Ziana) – THE role of standardization in promoting arts, culture and heritage is critical in fostering innovation, producing quality exportable products and services, regulating a rapidly growing industry and complementing African governments’ objectives to boost Africa’s economy.
Shannele Bingepinge, a recent graduate from the Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) argues in an essay, that won her the second prize in a competition organised by the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO), that Africa is rich in diverse treasures, including but not limited to extensive talent, expressed through theatre, visual arts, cinema, TV, computer games, architecture, design and fashion among others.
Bingepinge studied Fashion and Design at Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT).
Bingepinge and Lincoln Majogo were second and third winners respectively of the recent 8th African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) essay competition. The first winner was a South African student.
The theme of the essay competition was “The role of Standardisation in promoting Arts, Culture and Heritage – The Creative Economy in Africa, on submissions were assessed at the national, regional and continental levels and the achievements of the Zimbabwean students were at all three levels.
The Annual ARSO Continental Standardisation Essay Competition aims at empowering the African youth to understand the role and importance, as well as the benefits of standardization in facilitating sustainable development in Africa.
The competition promotes quality standards for all goods and services produced on the continent, thus ensuring safety at all times.
To this end, each year, students at tertiary institutions and under the age of 35 are invited to participate.
ARSO argues that the new creative-digital ecosystem has created a sense of a “creative era” – the knitting together of information, media, creative content and the digital sphere is a movement that has allowed for the rapid globalization of ideas and information.
ARSO believes that growing in breath, economic share and innovation, the cultural creative industries have great potential to accelerate socio-economic change across Africa.
The cultural creative industries are today among the most dynamic sectors in the world economy, providing new opportunities for developing countries to leapfrog into emerging high growth areas of the world economy.
At its 74the General Assembly in 2019, the United Nations declared 2021 the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, under which it prioritises on-going need to support developing countries with economies in transition in diversifying production and exports, including new sustainable growth areas that include creative industries.
The African Union (AU), whose Heads of State and Governments are meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the 35th Summit of the organisation has highlighted that one of the major challenges that Africa must first confront is that of production, and has called for serious attempts to help African producers to focus not only on quantity, but also on quality because those are the pillars on which Africa’s competitiveness in the world will be determined.
The AU declared their theme for 2021 as, “The AU Year of the Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for building the Africa we want” and the draft concept released by the AU illustrated the organization’s commitment to giving visibility to the creative industry.
In addition, the document emphasizes the need for careful reflection on issues affecting the industry including intellectual property rights and artists’ status. To accomplish this noble task, it helps to take a look at a case study to examine the role of standardization in fulfilling the AU 2021 theme.
With the growing commercialization of the creative industry, it is vital that African nations participate and compete globally.
An effective framework that will support, regulate and drive production of quality goods and services in the creative industry is therefore fundamental Bingepinge explains, adding that ultimately, standardization is key in the production of quality exportable creative goods and services.
The culture and creative arts industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the world economy, with an estimated growth rate of seven percent of the world’s gross domestic product. This growth has been realized mostly by developed countries such as Italy, spurred on by advancement in technology, the rise of innovation and the increasing adoption of standards by industry giants. Bingepinge notes that developing countries in Africa, however, continue to lag behind. A report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development cites domestic policy weaknesses and obstacles at global levels as the two major obstacles faced by developing countries (UNCTAD, 2008).
In some cases, these polices exist on paper, but are poorly implemented or totally ignored. As a result varied challenges arise in the culture and creative industries hindering the pathway to expected socio-economic change in Africa.
Lack of domestic policies and robust infrastructure has resulted in decreased capacity of creative goods and services that meet export quality requirements. In this respect, standardization is vital to meet international regulatory demands. At the same time standards should be continuously reviewed and upgraded to reflect and protect the true values of the industry.
The creative industry has become an increasing driving force in the international marketplace with estimates showing that it is growing annually at five percent a year annum (Joffe & Newton, 2008).
Successful economic drive is dependent on a holistic view of the economy, with the creative industry receiving due attention at national and global level. For best results African governments have to draft and implement domestic arts and cultural policies specifically for the creative industry. These policies must be complimented by the construction of innovative infrastructures, which are able to equip creators with tools necessary for them to compete globally. These will induce rapid commercialization of the sector, thereby closing market gaps. Furthermore the sector must be formalized using solid frameworks that protect creators’ products and services using various types of intellectual property like copyrights, patents and trademarks, as well as standards that can regulate and foster innovation.
Bingepinge is already in the process of transitioning to an entrepreneur in the cultural creative sector.
“From here onwards,” she explained during a recent interview, “my goal is to start small with the intention to grow bigger. I’m focused on starting my own fashion clothing production unit where I will be producing my own designs with options for haute couture and ready-to-wear garments catering for all classes of society.

“The unit provides a wide range of clothing for adult male and females as well as children.
My specialty is rather a unique enhancement style to enhance any clothing, which customers will be seeing a lot of, and to differentiate myself from other designers so that, we can, in the future collaborate and work together.”

Bingepinge’s project while at CUT was dressing children for parties, and she designed a wide range of dresses for children from the ages three to five which were suitable for attending parties and special events.

The Nairobi-based ARSO, is an inter-governmental body established by the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in 1977 with the principal mandate to harmonise African standards and conformity assessment procedures in order to reduce technical barriers, thus promoting intra-African and international trade, as well as enhance the industrialization of Africa.
While ARSO was established in pursuance of a recognition system for sustainability standards, the essay competition was first officially launched in 2013 with a focus on eradicating poverty through ensuring that Africa’s youth are enlightened, and engender a culture of quality.

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