Interview with IEC Affiliates Leader Rojas Manyame

The IEC Affiliates Country Programme, launched in 2001, provides developing and newly industrialized countries with a platform to participate in the IEC community. Affiliate countries can learn how to benefit from standardization and conformity assessment through ongoing access to IEC publications, IEC experts and support from the IEC Central Office. Currently, 84 countries are a part of the programme, in addition to those who since become IEC members.

Image of Rojas Manyame giving a presentation
IEC Affiliate Leader Rojas Manyame

Every three years, the IEC General Secretary nominates an Affiliate Leader to act as the collective voice for the Affiliate Country Programme and to liaise with IEC governing bodies. Rojas Manyame currently serves as IEC Affiliate Leader in a position that he has held since January 2018.

Prior to the completion of his term at the end of the year, Manyame spoke to e-tech about his mandate as Affiliate Leader, the challenges facing affiliate countries and his advice for his successor.

Tell us a bit about your background and how you became involved in standardization.

I am an electrical engineer and have worked in the electricity industry since finishing university. My interest in standardization has followed me ever since I left university.

Currently, I work for the Electricity Control Board (ECB) of Namibia and am responsible for applying standards in the specifications, including for tendering, and for compliance. As regulators, we are responsible for compliance and, therefore, we need to use standards.

You serve not only as IEC Affiliates Leader but also served as Vice President for the African Electrotechnical Standardization Commission (AFSEC).

I was invited by AFSEC to work with them and grew in the ranks to become the 1st vice president responsible for standards. Then, the IEC invited me to assist with the Affiliates Programme which was a great opportunity. It looked like my pack was already shipped for me in terms of standards.

Because of my experience with the AFSEC, I was very familiar with IEC. It has helped me quite a lot in terms of expansion and sharing experiences with the IEC family and with the AFSEC family. When I joined the IEC, it was quite smooth riding because I had already had the experience from the AFSEC family.

You have been Affiliate Leader since 2018. What did you hope to achieve?

The two major objectives I had when I joined as Affiliate Leader was the full participation by affiliate countries in terms of influencing standards through remote participation and the operationalization of these standards.

What I found was the lack of participation by affiliate countries in influencing standards through technical committees. Resources are necessary to attend meetings and so forth. In 2018, when I started as Affiliate Leader, I felt that there should be remote participation for affiliate countries. Nobody knew about Covid-19 and that remote participation would become the norm.

Another issue I found there was the desire to adopt standards, but participation did not go further. The adoption stage is important, but we want the operationalization of those standards which was something I found lacking. So my drive when I joined as Affiliate Leader was that we should operationalize these standards and ensure their complete application and compliance through conformity assessment. We still have to determine whether there has been any improvement in terms of the operationalization of standards.

And have you achieved these objectives?

One main challenge has been the mobility of expert and is one of the most pressing issues for affiliate countries. Keeping the same expert in a technical committee is a challenge as the person may no longer be a member of the relevant team or have an assignment pertinent to the activities of the TC in six months’ time. And we need to remember that expert participation is part-time, in addition to the expert’s day-to-day activities. There is no full participation, but I am hopeful that we will achieve this. We need to highlight the importance of participation and getting comments from affiliate countries about proposed standards.

In terms of the operationalization of standards, prior to Covid-19, there was a boom in terms of economic growth and trade for affiliate countries. Countries were finding that standards are the way to go to further promote trade. Covid-19 has changed this situation, but I can foresee that the situation will return to normal and we will move forward.

It has been an exciting journey. I would not say I fully achieved my objectives and more work needs to be done in terms of remote participation and having affiliate countries influence standards. I leave that to my successor, Battsengel Gurragchaa, to continue.

How has your work been affected by COVID?

The main thing that has been affected is travel and face-to-face meetings. With Covid-19, remote participation is definitely the norm moving forward. But in a way, it is a blessing in disguise, although I am not saying that it is okay. The blessing is that we have now normalized remote activities and participation.

What have you enjoyed most about being Affiliate Leader?

As Affiliate Leader, I have enjoyed being a part of this big family that is eager to adopt and apply standards. I have also found that affiliate countries should definitely be propelled into the future regarding the use and operationalization of standards.

What advice do you have for your successor?

Battsengel Gurragchaa should know that she will be joining a very big and motivated family and they will definitely be available to support her and the objectives that she will set.