The African Day of Standardisation has been celebrated variously in many African countries since its inception in Cameroon in June 2013 under the theme “Celebrating Standardisation as a Strategic Resource to Africa’s economic integration”, the second under the theme “Standardisation as a driver for improving Africa’s Competitiveness” held in Kigali Rwanda in June 2014 and now the third under the theme “The role of Standards in promoting sustainable Agriculture and food security in Africa.” To culminate in the celebrations in August 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Remarkably, the response from African countries has been a testimony of a continent ready to embrace standardization and quality as a away of life and interaction with the rest of the world. The latest of the celebrations was in Kenya, on 23rd March 2015, with Nigeria June 2015, while South Africa gearing up also within the year.
Alongside is the Made in Africa Expo which although is coming 35 years after the initial conception by Africa’s leaders under the Lagos Plan of Acton and Abuja Treaty, ARSO views the Made in Africa Expo as an activity ripe in fullness to be put in practice as the continent moves to reassert itself on the global economic scene.
The key message as African countries celebrate this import event is that, as in everywhere else in the world, with globalization of markets, standards have become pillars that underpin the global trading system. WTO (2005) highlights the importance of standards in trade as a tool which allows anonymous partners in a market to communicate, have common expectations on the performance of each other’s product, and trust the compatibility of their joint production.
The Celebrations of the African Day of Standardisation highlights the fact that the Technical regulations and the standards on which they are founded could become either active and unnecessary barriers or facilitators to world trade. The principal mandate of ARSO is to harmonise African Standards and conformity assessment procedures in order to reduce Technical Barriers to Trade and therefore promote intra-African. The African Market is important due to its potential for growth based on the prospects of local processing of natural resources such as agricultural products, the emergence of middle class economies and a shift in focus to local markets.
While there are strong forces working in favour of global free trade, there are counter tendencies, in the African continent, pulling in the opposite direction creating challenges for business worldwide. Signs of low intra-African trade and African participation in the world trade, receding trend in their industrial sectors, export of unprocessed commodities and natural resources with largely undiversified economic bases characterized by significant productivity gaps are dumping expectations.
It is in this regard and taking into perspective the role of ARSO that the theme for 3rd African day of standardisation is reflecting on the “The role of Standards in promoting sustainable Agriculture and food security in Africa.” The emphasis is that strategies that are expected to increase food production and security should be of great importance to the African governments.
Globally farmers are putting trust in Bio technologies and precision farming where various standards and conformity assessment practices are leading to increase in the Output (Yield per Hectare) whilst reducing the Input (Fertilizers, Lime etc.), GPS soil sampling (grid or zone sampling), Soil testing (macro & micro nutrients, PH, salinity, texture and water holding capacities, Digital mapping , Fertility mapping and prescriptions).
Standards are becoming more important in managing the causes of Agricultural imbalances especially with regard to Aflatoxin Management, Grain Storage, Pest Management, Consistent Quality, Consistent Moisture Contents and Circulation with regard to storage, postharvest inefficiencies. Adopting good standardisation and conformity assessment regimes will lead to adoption of new cost-efficient technologies in postharvest processing and storage that add value to agricultural products, improve product safety, and avoid harvest glut and spoilage, leading to a more efficient and fair market chains that improve product marketability while addressing demands for quality and safety attributes.
The Celebrations of the African Day of Standardisation has also highlighted the Africa’s experience with industrialisation following the celebrations of the 25th Industialisation day on November 20th 2014. It remains an issue of interest and challenge to ARSO and other African standardisation stakeholders that in 2010, Sub-Saharan Africa’s average share of manufaturing in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 10 percent, remaining unchanged since 1970s, and the fact that many African countries still find familiarity with products originating from outside Africa than they do with products coming from fellow African countries.
We should not forget that the low income countries of African economies still have significant margins of manoeuvre in terms of policy options (in trade, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, tourism, fisheries and forestry) to develop their economies, but sadly and gradually these are melting away as industries get more integrated in global value chains.
To create awareness on these challenges of industrialization in Africa, ARSO has initiated the Made in Africa Expo to be held alongside the celebrations of the African Day of Standardisation.
Celebrating the African Day of Standardisation, the Kenyan Government Officials reiterated that under vision 2030, the Kenyan Government, like many African countries (for example, Cameroon vision 2015) is focusing on the transformation of SMEs or the backyard market into successful formal sectors, hence the relevance of the Made in Africa Expo.
The Made in Africa Expo is being held to raise the awareness on need for entrepreneurs to embrace standardization to be able to respond quickly and efficiently to both domestic and international market signals to take advantage of trade and investment opportunities and reap the benefits of the regional and international trading system.
Already the African Ministers of Trade have set the pace during their 9th Ordinary Session Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 1st – 5th December when they, upon the receipt of ARSO report, considered that:
- All AU Member States that are currently not Members of ARSO should endeavour to attain membership by the year 2017;
- ARSO and other Pan African Standards organisations to refer to the year 2017 as African year of Quality Infrastructure;
- The AUC and ARSO should increase awareness and mobilize all stakeholders on the role of Quality Infrastructure;
- The AUC and Quality Infrastructure Institutions should assess the status of Quality Infrastructure in Africa; and develop a Strategic Plan on Quality Infrastructure in Africa.
- The AUC and ARSO to develop a work plan on Quality Infrastructure to be submitted to the Senior Officials meeting;
The ARSO Standardisation Programmes and activities including African Day of Standardisation, the yearly standardisation Continental Essay Competitions among the African Youth, ARSO Consumer Committee (ARSO COCO – www.arso.coco.org ), ARSO Conformity Assessment Committee (ARSO CACO – www.arso.caco.org ), ARSO African Standards Education Programme, Harmonisation of African Standards, ARSO Standardisation Training, ARSO Documentation and Information Management System (ARSO-DISNET – www.arso.disnet.org ) and the ARSO DISNET Trade Web Portal (trade.arso-disnet.org ), Streamlining the SMEs in National Economies and Global Trade and the Pan-African Quality Infrastructure PAQI), are such initiatives to ensure standardisation contributes to the economic development of Africa.
With many African countries participating in the 2nd Standardisation Essay Competition where the African Youths are the focus, the need to perpetuate the value of standardization for quality, safety and competiveness in Africa is being realised. The ARSO Continental and Regional Awards ceremony will be held in August 2015 in Addis Ababa at the African Union Headquarters during the 21st ARSO General Assembly being hosted by the African Union Commission and the Ethiopian Government through the Ethiopian Standards Agency (ESA).
ARSO, therefore, forever and always, remains greatfull to the Development partners and Standardisation Stakeholders, ARSO member States, the African Union and the RECs Standardisation Structures for the great support to ARSO to collectively put more calculated efforts for African economies to use standardisation as a tool to diversify, enhance their competitiveness and transit from resource-driven to higher-value-added growth to face the challenges of globalisation and the opportunity of the African demography and natural resources.