Abidjan, 6 March 2018 (ECA) - The African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in partnership with the African Organization for Standardization (ARSO) organized a capacity building workshop on National Quality Policy Implementation in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) from March 6 to 7, 2018 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
In his opening presentation, the Secretary General of ARSO, Mr. Nsengimana emphasized that complying with standards and technical requirements is crucial for participation in regional and global trade, particularly in industrial goods. At the same time, he noted that standards are complicated and can create significant challenges for capacity constrained African small and medium enterprises (SMEs), highlighting the need to simplify and harmonize standards, as well as build awareness and develop tailored outreach materials.
For his part, Mr. David Luke, Coordinator of ATPC highlighted that the African Continental Trade Area (AfCFTA) offers substantial opportunities for industrialization and diversification on the continent, but that this transformative potential will not be realized without the development and implementation of African quality standards. Mr. Luke commended ECOWAS as being the first Regional Economic Community (REC) to publish its Quality Policy and emphasized the need for strong National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) to support its implementation. He concluded by noting that RECs serve as building blocks for the AfCFTA, and will continue to have a crucial role to play in African standards.
Mr. Lawson-Hechelli, ECOWAS Director of Industry, in his opening remarks, emphasized that the ECOWAS Quality Policy (ECOQUAL) is home-grown and that its development was informed by a series of consultative and participatory missions to ECOWAS Member States. He noted the enthusiasm among ECOWAS Member States to develop and improve their National Quality Policy (NQP) in line with the five pillars of quality identified in ECOQUAL. Finally, Mr. Lawson-Hechelli highlighted that the workshop would be led by two experts responsible for the development of ECOQUAL.
Six important steps were identified for the successful implementation of ECOQUAL at the national level: 1) Formally adopt ECOQUAL as the NQP; 2) Appoint a champion organization for the implementation of the NQP; 3) Set up a National Quality Infrastrjcture (NQI) coordination mechanism; 4) Revise the institutional and legal framework including the establishment of a fully functional National Standards Bureau (NSB); 5) Sensitize stakeholders on the NQP; and 6) Explore sources for funding implementation.
The workshop concluded with a set of concrete recommendations to pave the way forward for ECOQUAL domestication. These included the need to improve NQI; effectively engage the private sector to ensure standards harmonization is demand-driven; expand the financial contributions of Member State governments to QI; and carry out assessments to establish the current QI status in Member States and guide regional capacity building initiatives.
The main resolution of the workshop was the decision for Member States to facilitate the free movement of products through Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) of certified products. The workshop agreed to establish a Champions Pilot Project, to first establish good practices, which could then be rolled out across the ECOWAS region. Eight Member States were selected as Champions – Nigeria (Chair), Ghana (Vice Chair), Niger (Secretary), Benin, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Mali. These States agreed to develop or adapt a Mutual Recognition Protocol on products for which they have exclusive jurisdiction. The African Export Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK) and ECA will support the Champions to establish a Roadmap for the pilot project and towards subsequent roll-out in the ECOWAS region.
The workshop was attended by thirteen of the fifteen ECOWAS Member States, with high-level representation from National Bureaus of Standards, regulatory bodies, conformity assessment bodies and the private sector. ARSO, AFREXIMBANK, ECOWAS Secretariat and ECA officials were also in attendance.
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