PUBLISHED ON April 6th, 2023

Standards authorities want uniform tests for African products

Regulatory authorities in different countries across Africa are pushing for uniform standards for commodities produced on the continent.

The move to harmonize standards is part of efforts to increase intra-Africa trade and reduce the tendencies of international markets to reject African products due to standard disparities.

This was revealed at a capacity building and training workshop for technical committees on African Standards Harmonisation Model (ASHAM) procedures, which ended on Wednesday, at Golden Tulip Canaan Hotel in Kampala.

The three-day event was facilitated by the Africa Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) and the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS).

The event is under the theme Acceleration of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) Implementation-One Test One Certificate Accepted Everywhere.

UNBS executive director, David Livingstone Ebiru said the standards experts, who are responsible for writing the standards across sectors of their respective economies, will review the standards of various commodities for trade across the continent.

Ebiru said harmonized standards for products are capable of increasing trade among African countries to 40% from the current 16%.

He said an increase in intra-Africa trade will improve the quality of African products, reduce imports to the continent and ensure that trading with other parts of the world is done on Africa’s terms.

The experts are representing the different regional economic blocks such as the East African Community (EAC), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

“Currently, standards are harmonized in the regional economic blocks. But Africa does not continue operating in blocks; we need to start operating as a continent. We want to make standards a central part in the integration of Africa, by facilitating trading in commodities where people have a comparative advantage over others,” he said.

Ebiru noted that Uganda has already identified 13 priority products that can be offered to the African market, including organic agricultural products in dairy, horticulture, fish, coffee, and beef. Later, they will expand to manufactured goods such as textiles, pharmaceuticals, and automobiles.

One-test, one-certificate

The secretary general of ARSO, Dr Hermogene Nsengimana, said as taxes reduce on trade across borders due to economic blocs such as ACFTA, the next burden of intra-Africa is non-tariff barriers such as standard-related issues.

He noted that having one standard for a product will require one test and one certificate that is accepted in all countries. This, he added, will also improve market surveillance and inspection of the product, and help to “break borders on products” made on the continent.

“We already have good quality policies in our countries. We only need to align them with the African quality policy. Synergies on uniform standards will help us to build capabilities and laboratory capacities for testing our products,” he said.

Nsengimana said there is a need for not only mindset change among Africans on products from the continent but also improved information sharing on the available markets.

The chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Export and Industrial Development, Odrek Rwabwogo, said the African economies need to increase their capabilities because consumers are changing and demanding better standards and packaging.

He noted that Uganda loses between $100m to $180m from interception related to low standards, which tarnishes the reputation of the country’s products and kills the market.

“When our exporters carry products, such as vegetables and horticulture, they realize that the standards in Europe keep going up as they endeavor to protect their population, but also to limit our sales there. We need to keep smarter with standards that are updated regularly,” he said.

Read original article

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TradeMark Africa.