Building quality infrastructure for sustainable industrial growth
Hinging its proposition on the objectives of Goal 9 under its sustainable development goals which seeks to build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation, UNIDO believes Nigeria and other African countries need to build their capacity and address quality infrastructure deficit to sustain economic development driven by industrialization.
Over the last few decades, transnational corporations have fragmented their production processes, allowing them to more efficiently exploit different countries’ comparative advantages along (regional, subsequently global) value chains, forming a global division of labour.
Statistics from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that global chains have further spurred international trade, particularly trade in intermediate goods, which now accounts for about half of global trade.
The boom of global trade in intermediates has also widened the spread between the pattern of international trade and the international process of value addition, because products assembled in a given country with intermediates imported from abroad embody only limited domestic value addition.
All of these remain impossible without a quality infrastructure as bilateral ties become strained due to the quality gap in products being exchanged among countries.
According to UNIDO, technological progress is a key foundation of efforts to achieve environmental objectives, such as increased resource and energy-efficiency, adding that without technology and innovation, industrialization will not happen, and without industrialization, development will not happen.
“Investments in infrastructure – transport, irrigation, energy and information and communication technology – are crucial to achieving sustainable development and empowering communities in many countries. It has long been recognized that growth in productivity and incomes, and improvements in health and education outcomes require investment in infrastructure”, UNIDO stated.
Worried by these challenges, the World Bank, UK Department for International Development (DFID) European Union, United Nations Industrial development Organisation (UNIDO) among others, have committed 230.5 million Euros to support the Federal Government in developing policies and implementing measures to improve the nation’s competitiveness in the non-oil-related sectors.
With a timeline for achieving the target set before 2020, amid the implementation of trade agreements with Europe, the international agencies hope to improve the business/investment climate and facilitate international trade in order to contribute to job creation and poverty alleviation.
Besides, stakeholders equally attributed high rejection of products from Nigeria to poor packaging and labeling, stating that most products being exported to European Union countries are bagged in Ghana-must-go sacks and poorly labeled.
Need to address quality infrastructure deficit
Speaking at a workshop organized by the UNIDO National Quality Infrastructure Project (NQIP) for media professionals on the “Concept of Quality in Nigeria” in Minna, Niger State, UNIDO’s Chief Technical Adviser, NQIP, Dr. Charles Malata explained that lack of quality infrastructure has limited Nigeria’s export performance in the non-oil export as conformity to international standards has been very low.
According to him, UNIDO and other international agencies seek to assist the nation in improving its capacity to trade by addressing quality infrastructure challenges affecting the quality, safety and marketability of non-oil export goods.
“UNIDO helps developing countries and economies in transition to comply with international standards. Product traceability to ensure information on the source of produce is just one example of the global standards with which exporters need to comply in order to enter foreign markets. Manufacturers in developing countries and related industry support institutions need to develop systems to comply with the new management standards, and therefore require assistance in related capacity building, awareness building and the dissemination of the necessary know-how and information.
“While analysing the gap in the non-oil export vale-chain, UNIDO also provides technical assistance to ensure that before products enter global markets they are adequately tested according to international standards and conformity assessment requirements. Countries are required to operate laboratories, which are able to test products and samples for compliance to international standards”, he explained.
Malata added that while Nigeria’s development strategy may have identified trade and investment as a vehicle to enhance non-oil related domestic production and to reduce poverty, there is a need for government to address the challenges of overlapping interests among stakeholders, technical pre-requisite and requirements as well as address necessary interventions where needed.
Standards as gateway to global markets
Similarly, Standardisation and Quality Promotion Expert at UNIDO, Bruno Doko emphasized the need for Nigeria to deploy sophisticated equipment as well as improve capacity of exporters and regulators in order to improve market access of goods originating from the country.
“Competitive, safe, reliable and cost-effective goods and services are a key prerequisite for enhancing an industry’s competitiveness and export market share in tradable goods and services. Industries therefore have a continuous need for market information, know-how, restructuring and upgrading. This is usually supported by investment and technology inflows for process upgrading, as well as by productivity and quality management improvement.
“Many products from Nigeria are rejected due to poor packaging and labeling. This is equally affecting the country’s image and reputation when products originating from Nigeria are sited. It is disheartening that Nigerian goods are presented in Ghana-must-go sacks and poorly labeled. No one will take such exported items seriously.
“It is mandatory to strengthen the National Quality Infrastructure institutions and to provide a national quality promotion strategy that builds on NQI and assists the country’s efforts in becoming globally competitive”, Doko added.
Role of accreditation
With the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) receiving accreditation for its laboratory recently, UNIDO’s Accreditation expert, Steve Cross, explained that if a country does not have a strong accreditation system in place, it stands to lose out on the benefits of global trade.
According to him, the international recognition of work conducted by laboratories, certification bodies, inspection bodies and other types of conformity assessment bodies are key to whether goods produced by a country are acceptable to other countries. Work carried out by internationally recognized conformity assessment bodies can provide the needed proof that exports meet an importer’s requirements.
“Domestically, consumers want to purchase products that will last, perform as they are supposed to and be safe. Work done by these same conformity assessment bodies can provide consumers and regulators with greater confidence that the products will meet those expectations
“Similarly in industry, the quality of process inputs, and quality assurance to produce conforming products are important to the successful conclusion of commercial transactions. As industries become more global in nature, where components are sourced from a variety of manufacturers in any number of countries, the need for compatibility of standards and measurements from one country to another becomes absolutely essential”, Cross added.
Media as agenda setters
To drive the key goals of sustainable development as well as implementation of the national quality infrastructure project, Partnership and Communication Expert, UNIDO, Efehi Ubebe stressed the need for the media to support the mechanism for the implementation of all the SDGs and targets.
“The media involvement in the Global Goals Agenda lies in effective understanding and communication on the progress of the SDGs. Each news media outfit has the opportunity to be a part of this global campaign to promote sustainable development in the critical areas that touch on the economic, social and environmental dimensions of our existence”, she added.
While every country seeks to be a major player in the global value chain, UNIDO explained that its support hopes to help develop local capacities in quality infrastructure, in order to provide services to local testers, producers and exporters according to international best practices, and also to enhance
consumer protection; make internationally recognised certification services for international public and private standards regarding, inter alia, quality, environment, social accountability, food safety, and traceability, available to exporters and local enterprises.
Furthermore, it is expected that its efforts would enable national and regional accreditation schemes to assess the performance of local and regional laboratories, inspection units and certification bodies; and build the capacities of consumer associations to promote consumer rights based on national policies and in line with international best practices.
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