One Africa One Market – The role of standardisation in attaining sustainable development within the context of regional integration
The 24th ARSO General Assembly events, to be hosted by the Government of the Republic of South Africa, through the South African Bureau of Standards will be held on the 18th to 22nd June 2018 at the Hilton Hotel Durban.
The 24th ARSO General Assembly follows the 57th ARSO Council events which were hosted by the Government of the Republic of Sudan through the Sudanese Standards and Metrology Organisation (SSMO) in November 2017. ARSO members and Stakeholders engaged in round table discussions on the Strategies for ARSO Sustainability within the Strategic Plan 2017-2022, and heard a lecture by the Secretary General on the “Role of Quality Infrastructure and Standardisation in facilitating Trade and sustainable Development within the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA)”.
The ARSO President Dr. Eve Gadzikwa in her official address to the delegates highlighted the importance of ARSO and its standardisation programmes in achieving the Africa’s Industrialization Agenda and the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Dr. Gadzikwa made reference to the celebrations of African Industrialization Day on 20 November, with the 2017 theme being “African Industrial Development: A Pre-Condition for an Effective and Sustainable Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA)”, which focused on the industrial challenges faced by Africa, with a special emphasis on industrial development as a foundation for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
This also happened at a time when the global focus on Africa’s industrialization with the need for the sustainable industrialization in Africa captured by the unanimous adoption of a resolution proclaiming the period 2016-2025 as the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa on 25 July 2016 by the United Nations General Assembly and by the initiative by the G20 to include in their Action Plan, support for Industrialization in Africa and Least Developed Countries, upon the proposal by the Chinese Presidency in September 2016.
UNECA, in its Economic Report on Africa 2015, highlights the importance of such institutions as PAQI (ARSO) in addressing the TBT issues: “[S]tringent standards and sanitary and phytosanitary measures, due to Africa’s lack of quality-assurance and easily accessible standard setting and monitoring bodies, increase costs for African producers, particularly in developed country markets. Given these bodies’ large fixed setting-up costs, the case for a coordinated regional action including strengthening the African Organisation for Standardization (ARSO) and PAQI institutions by extension, is self-evident.”
USAID (2016) warns against underestimating the importance of metrology, accreditation, standards, certification, and quality (MAS-Q) in the development of economic policies as understanding the link between global trade, industrialization MAS-Q and export competitiveness is at the forefront of trade policy.
UNIDO (2016) further highlights that “Setting up a Quality Infrastructure System is one of the most positive and practical steps that a developing nation can take on the path forward to developing a thriving economy as a basis for prosperity, health and well-being.
Experts (including Jensen and Sandrey, 2015) have indicated that to benefit from the CFTA, Africa must focus on reducing technical barriers to trade as major inconsistencies among countries’ and Regions’ (RECs) standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment regimes, as a major obstacle for trade, remain, and this can only be underpinned by an effective and better quality infrastructure.
NTMs, especially the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBTs – Standards, technical regulations and Conformity assessment regimes) are still prevalent across Africa´s regional groupings, despite positive efforts made in reporting and monitoring mechanisms.
The 24th General Assembly is scheduled to take place three months after the signing ceremony of the Framework Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) by the AU Head of States during their Extraordinary Summit on 21st March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda. The elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers called for by the AfCFTA, under an effective Quality Infrastructure initiative offers African countries a great long-term opportunity and greater challenge (political, economic, legal and functional – under the WTO TBT/SPS Agreement) to improve industrial capacity and trade.
Due to their mandate and influence on the establishment of the legal and institutional framework, Quality Infrastructure governance structures in Africa, such as ARSO, NSBs and the PAQI institutions have a decisive influence on how the regional economic integration and the challenges of the TBTs presents a stepping stone or rather a stumbling block towards the liberalization of trade within the AfCFTA.