ARSO advocates harmonised standards to boost intra-African trade
WITH an improvement in the level of intra-African transactions and communication, African products would enjoy a boost at the global market coupled with the concomitant promotion of peace, integration and trans-border trade across the region, the African Organisation for Standardisation has said.
Underlying the need to boost intra-African trade, ARSO President, Dr. Joseph Odumodu, who is also the Director-General of Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), stated that the organization is working at boosting intra-African and global trade through the provision, facilitation and the implementation of harmonized standards in the continent.
According to him, the fundamental mandate of ARSO is to develop tools for standards development, standards harmonization and implementation of these systems to enhance Africa’s internal trading capacity, increase Africa’s product and service competitiveness globally towards sustainable industrial growth and development.
He stated that by 2017, the African standardization mechanism should be able to deliver a benchmark that would be acceptable to all in the continent.
“Most of our achievements at ARSO are on the continental level, but one thing we have done is that, we have midwifed the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) between countries because we believe that even though we act at the continental level, it is the country to country relationships that will result in a closer working relationship between countries.
“For example, Nigeria has signed with five other African countries and I am also aware that Cameroun has signed with another seven African countries. The other point I will like to make is that the regional blocs, whether ECOWAS, East Africa, Southern Africa or Central Africa redefined an agenda for agricultural and food products like garri, cocoa, potatoes sesame and cashew nuts”, he said.
Odumodu added that African countries need quality infrastructure to kick-start the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).
“The Continental Free Trade Area means that Africa will become one common market, just like the European Union markets. We will collapse all boundaries, depending on what the African Union Heads of State agree. We may not apply any kind of tariffs because we need to break down the tariffs that are barriers to trade seamlessly with each other. In doing that, we must ensure that we have all attained a comfortable level of development in terms of quality infrastructure”.
“These circumstances help to explain why agricultural development is such a powerful tool for reducing poverty in Africa and eliciting economic development,” the ARSO boss explained.
According to ARSO, agriculture and agricultural trade are a major source of income for almost all African countries, stressing that “the expansion of agricultural trade has helped provide greater quantity, wider variety and better quality food to increasing numbers of people at lower prices.
It is estimated that 80 percent of global trade is attributed to standards in one form or the other and conformity assessment services which is direct result of the implementation of standards is the mechanism of attestation of product or service quality.
According to Segun Adeosun, “Non-compliance to international standards would deprive African producers the needed access to key international markets.
“There must be focus on the role of standardization in trade as a significant potential tool to help in achieving Africa’s sustainable development. Africa needs quality infrastructure in order to ably compete with the rest of the world. Quality infrastructure such as a larger number of accredited testing laboratories, metrology laboratories, effective quality policy, among others, are pivotal to Africa’s trade renaissance”.
African integration remains a key strategy for the continent to transform itself from less developed or developing to a strong, united economic bloc like the European Union.