The ARSO RECs Cooperations, directly aligned with the provisions and aspirations of Chapter XI Article 67 of the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (the “AEC Treaty”), as a means of attaining a coherent and effective continental harmonisation of standards and conformity assessment regime.
The Africa-wide development agenda, as championed by the African Union (AU), is focused on regional integration and the formation of an African Economic Community (AEC) as laid out in the 1980 Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa and the Abuja Treaty of 1991 (AU 2013), which put the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) as the building blocks with a time-bound schedule and Roadmap:
- 1994 – 1999: Establish and strengthen African Regional Economic Communities.
- 2000 – 2007: Eliminate Tariff Barriers (TBs) & Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) in RECs.
- 2008 – 2017: Establish Free Trade Areas (FTAs) & Customs Union (CUs) in RECs.
- 2018 – 2019: Establish a Continental Level CU & Common External Tariff (CET).
- 2020 – 2023: Establish an African Common Market (CM), including the free movement of factors of production and the right of establishment.
- 2024 – 2028: Establish a Pan-African economic and monetary union that includes the establishment of an African Central Bank and a single African Currency.
As the level of continental integration deepens, under the AfCFTA, the trade-related functions of RECs are expected to be consolidated at the continental level, in line with the eighteenth ordinary session of the Assembly of the African Union decision for “consolidation of the Tripartite and other regional Free Trade Areas, into a Continental Free Trade Area”. But the Challenge remains the TBTs at the RECs level and the need for harmonised regulatory frameworks and African standards.
To tackle this challenge, through a Consultative meeting of 22nd to 24th October, 2018 at Intercontinental Hotel Nairobi, Kenya ARSO and the RECs have agreed to, among others:
- The Formation of a common front on the harmonisation of African Standards and Conformity Assessment through the review of the ARSO’s African Standards Harmonization Model (ASHAM) to reflect the joint ARSO-RECs harmonization, RECs treaties and protocols and reflection of the adoption of the African Standards at RECs levels with the rrevised ASHAM expected to be rolled out to different stakeholders for visibility, awareness and buy in (AUC, Governments, Private Sector, academia etc.)
- Analysis of existing standards catalogues within RECs versus ARSO catalogue to identify Common standards that require harmonisation.
- The Establishment of ARSO-RECs Joint Advisory Group (JAG), which is tasked to recommend priority sectors and topics for harmonies. ARSO host the Secretariat currently.
- Development of a Roadmap, through the RECs SQAM structures for the establishing New Work Item Proposals (NWIP) for standards Harmonisation where using their own mechanisms, RECs will work with their National NSBs and stakeholders to determine priority areas and share with ARSO for the standards harmonisation.