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Former KenGen chief goes all out in quest for ISO presidency

By Dominic Omondi | September 13th 2016
Former Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) chairman Edward Njoroge. If elected in today’s elections, Mr Njoroge, who also served as KenGen Managing Director, would break a 70-year jinx that has seen no African ever elected to head the global standards body. (PHOTO: COURTESY)

Daggers are drawn as candidates square it out for the International Standards Organisation (ISO) presidency with former Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) chairman Edward Njoroge making his case to delegates at the 39th ISO General Assembly in Beijing, China yesterday.   

If elected in today’s elections, Mr Njoroge, who also served as KenGen Managing Director, would break a 70-year jinx that has seen no African ever elected to head the global standards body.

The 164 members of drawn from different national standards bodies will have the last word in a secret ballot election that has sharply divided rich and poor countries.

Mr Njoroge, who has no experience on standards, will face off with Canada’s John Walter, the current ISO Vice President in charge of policy in what is billed as a “change versus status quo election.”

The two seek to replace the outgoing ISO President, China’s Zhang Xiaogong. While Njoroge is seeking a three-year term, Mr Walter only wants two years at the helm of the global standards body.

In a his speech to the delegates, Mr Njoroge promised to help developing countries participate more on the development and design of international standards, a move that he believes will elevate poor countries from the current position of being “ISO takers” into “ISO makers.”

“By voting for me, you will be affirming the principle of inclusiveness. ISO would be spending a clear message to the international community that they have a genuine engagement with developing countries and that they support their aspirations,” said Njoroge, who insisted that his vast business management experience is adequate to give him a head-start.

“Having been a business leader, I know the importance of talking with your peer, and the credibility that this brings to the cause you represent,” said Njoroge.

However, Mr Walter seemed to take a swipe at Njoroge’s lack of experience on standardisation, telling the delegates that the Geneva-based organisation is at a critical juncture and needs “a steady hand of experience” and not “on-job training for ISO president.”

He, however, promised to co-opt Njoroge in his team should he win by offering him a job as a special advisor to the organisation, especially on African issues.

Njoroge also promised to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) get involved more in standards activities in a bid to make ISO standards popular everywhere.

Although developing countries comprise over three quarters of the 163 ISO membership, their role has not been as significant. Developing countries under the umbrella of DEVCO have also struggled to maintain their membership at the global standards body.

According to Mr Njoroge, developing countries have struggled to fully participate in international standardisation and fully exploit the value of standards, hampering their access to world markets, technical progress and sustainable development.

ISO, which currently has 23 African members had as by 2015 developed 21,133 international standards covering industry, technology, food safety and healthcare.

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