The Government of Republic of South Africa, through the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) successfully hosted the 53rd ARSO Council, officially opened by Mr Saul Levin, Director of Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS), Government of the Republic of South Africa. SABS is a statutory body that was established in terms of the standards act, 1945 (act no. 24 of 1945) and continues to operate in terms of the latest edition of the standards act, 1993 (act no. 29 of 1993) as the national institution for the promotion and maintenance of standardisation and quality in connection with commodities and the rendering of services. SABS is a leading global provider of standards, management systems, business improvement and regulatory approval information.
The Council, UNDERLINED
- (i) The importance of standardisation in facilitating participation in global trade and value chains.
- (ii) The increased need for manufacturing and industrialisation in Africa and how harmonised standards and conformity Assessment regimes can facilitate the industrialisation process in Africa.
- (iii) The call for leading African economies to assist less developed economies to industrialise and benefit from the industrialisation through increased manufacturing, competitiveness, economies of scale, and creation of regional value chains.
- (iv) The increasing relevance of the African standardisation bodies (ARSO, NSBs) and the role of harmonised standards for African integration in Market expansion and intra-African trade,
- (v) The need for increasing knowledge sharing and cross fertilisation of knowledge bases between the various standardisation and intergovernmental bodies in charge of trade, regulation, standardisation and Conformity Assessment in Africa.
Mr Saul Levin had in his opening remarks, reiterated the importance of African Integration for economic growth and the need for an all-inclusive growth by all African countries through the support of wealthy African nations, highlighting manufacturing and industrialisation as Africa’s best growth opportunities and with ARSO and the standardisation bodies ensuring conducive regulatory environment.
Dr. Sadhvir Bissoon, SABS, in his address emphasized the great role of standardisation in the African integration and economic development.
The Council reiterated that although available evidence indicates that the continent’s actual level of trade is below potential, given its level of development and factor endowments, Intra-African trade had enormous potential to create employment, catalyse investment and foster growth in Africa and indeed effective Quality Infrastructure was necessary to facilitate the cross border trades among African countries.
The Council identified narrowness of African production and export structure, the relative dependence on primary commodities and agricultural goods, the multiplicity of national borders, the issue of the Non-Tariff Barriers to trade, Corruption, onerous rules, infuriating red tape, infrastructure problems (poorly developed or maintained roads, as well as multiple roadblocks and checkpoints, high tariffs between countries, and lack of a coherent, unified payment system to facilitate trade, difficulty in harmonising polices for the benefit of Africans, small national markets, the technical measures (standards, technical regulations, conformity assessment regimes) as obstacles that act together, inhibiting factors to the boosting of intra – African trade.
To emphasise on the importance of ARSO Conformity Assessment Programme under the ARSO CACO, the Council held a session on Conformity Assessment through a lecture on Conformity Assessment and Standards – role in trade integration – Europe Case by Mr. Dag Lars Bjorklof of BSI/CEN. The lecture highlighted on Conformity Assessment and how the harmonised Conformity Assessment regimes and the CE mark under the New Approach to Standardisation in Europe, is facilitating integration and trade within the European Union.
The Council acknowledged the need for effective ARSO (African) Conformity Assessment regime based on harmonised African standards to facilitate the intra-African trade within countries and RECs toward a Continental Free trade Area (CFTA).
Through a lecture on ARSO Risk Assessment and ARSO Sustainability, by Dr Hermogene Nsengimana, the Secretary General, the Council assessed the Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunity and Threats, highlighting the importance of the support from member States and the Stakeholders.
The Council recognised the importance of ARSO Goodwill Ambassadors in helping to generate public awareness and understanding of ARSO, Standardisation and its benefits, as well as inspiring broad, positive, committed actions in support of ARSO’s mandate and priorities, and designated Her Excellency, Prof. (Mrs) Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, GCSK, CSK, Phd, and President of the Republic of Mauritius, as ARSO Standardisation Goodwill .
The Council noted the admission of ARSO as an Observer member in the WTO TBT Committee on 6th November 2015. The WTO deals with regulation of trade between participating countries; provides a framework for negotiating trade agreements, and a dispute resolution process aimed at enforcing participants’ adherence to WTO agreements. The WTO TBT Committee provides a forum for exchange of information at the technical level among WTO members. This dialogue helps to resolve trade frictions and avoid unnecessary disputes. WTO members have the opportunity to raise concerns in the Committee meetings about other members’ measures which they believe are not consistent with provisions of the TBT Agreement. These specific trade concerns (referred to as “STCs”) can relate to standards, testing and certification procedures, regulations or labelling requirements imposed by the importing country, which are considered to have an impact on both the companies producing these goods and consumers who utilise them.
The Council appreciated the support of USA, Canada, Jamaica, China, Japan, India, South Korea, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and the present African countries (Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mauritius, Nigeria and South Africa). Uganda had made the submission to the WTO members at the 6th November meeting.
Given the mandate o ARSO to harmonise African Standards, the Council approved various Final Draft African Standards for harmonisation as African standards and the Work Plans for 2016-2017 for various ARSO THCs (02 – Agriculture and Food Products, 03 – Building and Civil Engineering, 05 – Chemistry and Chemical Industry, 07, 09 – Environmental Systems, 12 – Services, 13 – African Traditional Medicine).
A visit to the SABS NETFA on 24th November 2015 exposed the African delegates to the immense opportunities that Exist for NSB cooperation in the Conformity Assessment and Standardisation.
The Council also had a session with the South African Stakeholders and the SABS Staff, on 25th November 2015, where Mr. Saul Levin expressed the role of Governments in making ttargeted industrial policies and public intervention in general as necessary conditions rather than optional ones for igniting and feeding industrialization. Mr. Levin noted that for African economies to develop they need to industrialise and emphasised that growth of the manufacturing sector is critical both for the direct benefits that it brings as well as being a lead sector that contributes to the growth of other sectors, including commercial agriculture, agro-processing, value added services, finance.
The session appreciated the fact that market integration provides opportunities for the private sector to develop but there was a need to ensure that industrial development takes place alongside market integration otherwise there was a risk of some countries becoming ‘losers. He called on South Africa as a lead economy in the region to play the role of supporting industrial development across the region and ultimately across the continent as such support by South Africa will result into a win-win economic benefit both for the country and the continent.
The ARSO Secretary General highlighted the role of ARSO in the African Integration Agenda while Mr. Reuben Gisore highlighted the role of standardisation in the African Growth and development and the ARSO standardisation process.
Given that many countries now recognise the need to develop a cohesive and integrative approach to healthcare that allows Governments, healthcare practitioners and, most importantly, those who use healthcare services to access traditional and complementary medicine in a safe, respectful, cost efficient and effective manner” (Foreword to WHO Strategy 2014-2023), the ARSO THC 13 Chairperson, madam Amanda Gcabashe highlighted the standardisation activities of the ARSO THC 13 on Traditional Medicine.