Leaders seek improved integration, harmonised standards

Director-General, SON, Dr  Joseph Odumodu

Director-General, SON, Dr Joseph Odumodu

In order to remove inhibitions to trade across Africa, the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) has called on member states to intensify efforts on trade integration and standardisation of products across the continent.

Indeed, the rejection of African products in the global market due to non-compliance to acceptable standards of those products had continued to inhibit trade and allow for loss of resources by producers who most times export their products cheaply to Europe and America only to pay premium for finished goods.

To brainstorm on modalities for increasing the volume of trade across Africa to at least 35 percent, ARSO, which is the umbrella body of standards bodies in Africa and standards board, converged on Abuja on Monday, to address the status of standardisation and other quality infrastructure components in Africa in reference to regional and international trade.

Speaking at the opening of the conference, ARSO President, who is also the Director-General of Standards Organization of Nigeria, Dr Joseph Odumodu reiterated the need for member-states to realise the optimal benefits of trade by putting mechanisms in place to govern activities of stakeholders and ensuring that no party has an undue advantage over the other.

He said with the increasing move towards globalisation, the economic trends and patterns are also experiencing dynamic shifts, adding that such shifts have not exempted Africa due to the Intra-African which had evolved greatly over time.

Odumodu said trade has significant impact on the political, economic and social cultural development of African countries through the generation of revenues, creation of larger markets, reduction of production costs, improved productivity and reduction of poverty among the people.
He called on all African countries to be members of the institution due to the need for increased collaboration currently sweeping across the continent, adding that the collaborative actions and regional approach has become very critical to achieving the developmental goals of member states.

His words: ‘’The African countries Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and specialized regional institutions which are the institutional building blocks of the continental integration process, as well as regional development organizations are developing strategic regional frameworks and building capacity to pursue regional integration across various regions.

“The general consensus is that regional and continental integration and cooperation is perhaps the most appropriate way of improving the low levels of intra-Africa trade as well as international trade’’.

Odumodu averred that organized standardization has now become an important element of infrastructure needed for the healthy growth of industry and commerce in all countries of the world adding that insistence on standardisation is aimed at achieving the reaping of maximum overall economies of scale.

He said the agreement on a standard way of doing business will also promote integrated or harmonized treatment of trans-boundary issues such as trade regulatory frameworks and policies while at the same time concentrate on regional infrastructure and other cross border issues.

He said with its current members states put at 35 and through the active participation of these member states in standardisation activities through the use and implementation of standards, many countries are now eliminating technical barriers to trade and creating equal opportunities for all businesses and trading partners in Africa.
‘’The current state of globalized world trade requires the standardisation of products and services in line with the requirements of the WTO and its attendant regulations on technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phytosanitary measures, hence the importance placed on the role of ARSO. The challenge of African counties therefore is to consolidate active commitments toward new priorities, strategies and targets for achieving the standardisation agenda to promote the philosophy of One Standard, One Test, One Measurement accepted everywhere’’.

The secretary general Dr Hermogene Nsengimana in his remark said an important part of the commitment of ARSO is to streamline SMEs in national economies and global trade through standardisation targets to create awareness among SMEs on the benefits of standardisation and promote their participation in standards setting processes and implementation.
He said the bottleneck associated with movement of trade across African countries which had made trading with Europe and America cheaper than trading with other neighbouring African countries should be eliminated.

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