As the global community continues to shrink fastly, economic and business opportunities are equally narrowing while regional and continental organisations have been upbeat concerning trade protectionism and investment promotion. Granted the African continent now appears to be the increasing attraction of the entire world in terms of growth and investments, the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) created in 2002, by the African Union Commission (AUC), has been working round the clock to change the economic fortunes of the continent. There are a lot of issues involved towards realising the African dream. The immediate dream for now is trade facilitation and removal of trade barriers to fast-track the establishment of Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by 2017.
However, there remains a big question? The President of ARSO, Dr. Joseph Odumodu, coincidentally the Director General, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) said African governments should devolve substantial part of their national budgets to support the development of key quality infrastructure across the continent.
Making the appeal at the 52nd ARSO Council Meeting in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian Capital today, Odumodu maintained that institutional strong support for standardisation was indeed an idea which time has come.
Speaking on the theme, “the role of standards in promoting sustainable agriculture and food security in Africa,” the ARSO boss argued those quality infrastructures are critical towards economic growth and global competitiveness.
He charged the governments to channel adequate resources to national standard bodies in order for the continent to catch up with the rest of the world in economic development and trade facilitation.
According to him, resources should be avail to NSBs to facilitate the development of the National Quality Infrastructure including National Enquiry Points (NEP) and support the NSBs participation in regional, continental and international standardisation ahead of the year 2017 which AU declared as Africa’s Year of Quality Infrastructure.
ARSO Boss equally charged African governments through the Ministries of Industrialization, Trade and Commerce to participate and support the NSBs activities for the National celebrations of the African Day of Standardisation as a catalyst towards getting CFTA by 2017.
Lack of proper funding and paucity of funds have greatly affected the campaign against dumping and counterfeiting.
He disclosed that African Union has given a marching order to ARSO to use standards to improve trade through harmonization of standards in the continent and collapse all boundaries, depending on what the African Union Heads of State agree on.
He recalled that African leaders in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia in 2012, resolved to establish CFTA by 2107, as a strategic initiative to boost trade within the continent by at least 30%.
According to him, all hands are on deck to ensure Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by 2017 was feasible
Odumodu explained that the essence of Continental Free Trade Area means that Africa would become one common market, just like the European Union and Latin American markets.
“Africa needs quality infrastructure in order to ably compete with the rest of the world. Quality infrastructure such as accredited laboratories, metrology laboratories, effective quality policy, among others, are pivotal to Africa’s trade renaissance” he said
In all these, he said African Standardisation system remains the logic and magic- wand to turn around Africa’s economic and socio-political emergence. This is what Odumodu has been pursuing as ARSO president using the activities and exploits of SON which he superintends as a veritable pace setter.
“There must be focus on the role of standardisation in trade as a significant tool 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.”
Odumodu also declared ARSO’s commitment to revolutionize Africa’s agriculture, especially by making the trade sector more profitable and globally competitive.
According to him, agricultural development is not only a defense against hunger but also acts as an income generation venture nearly four times more effectively than growth in any other sector.
“These circumstances help to explain why agricultural development is such a powerful tool for reducing poverty in Africa and eliciting economic development.”
According to ARSO boss, 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 decreasing the number of people at lower incomes.
The ARSO Chief reiterated that with increased attention being paid to Africa as the next hub of commercial activities, all efforts should be made to ensure that the continent takes full advantage of this very rare and long-sought after opportunity in order to change its fortunes for good.
“With all these opportunities and possibilities, there is urgent need for standards harmony in the African market, in line with international requirements.
“This is very necessary in order to ensure that products from Africa conform to global standards in order to sustain the pace of economic growth currently being experienced in the continent.
“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.”
He noted that 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.
It was recalled that the 52nd ARSO Council Meeting in Ethiopia comes on the heels of a recent President’s forum in Abuja, Nigeria, where the CEOs of NSBs in Africa equally pushed the case for CFTA by 2017.