The ARSO CACO Working Group 1 on Conformity Assessments and Technical Regulations as step towards a Continental Technical Harmonisation.

In line with international best practice, transparency in the standards and regulation setting environment leads to improvements in understanding what is regulated and where standards are actually used to meet regulatory objectives. In developing standards, identifying regulatory objectives can ensure that attempts to promote wider harmonisation take account of desired industrialization objectives.  Development of national legislations and regulations based on harmonised African standards to achieve a predictable and harmonised continental technical regulatory framework in such sectors such as manufacturing, environment, utilities, trade transactions, health and safety, increases the scope for African countries, under the AfCFTA, to look for opportunities for greater collaboration among countries to share and implement, based on harmonised standards, similar technical regulations.

With the Experience of a Workshop held in June 2018 at the 24th ARSO General Assembly, in Durban, South Africa, ARSO has initiated, through the ARSO CACO programme, regulatory cooperation between regulators from different Member States and standardisation bodies as one element of not of Good Regulatory Practice (GRP). With a set of Certification programmes under the ARSO Conformity Assessment Programme (ACAP), the ARSO (CACO) Conformity Assessment Committee is being restructured to include the African regulatory bodies. This is in recognition that the conformity assessment work has been separated from the standard bureau in many countries. The ARSO Conformity Assessment Committee (ARSO CACO) aims at establishing various tools and capacity building for Good Conformity Assessment Practices (testing, certification, inspection, market surveillance, laboratory accreditation and calibration) and facilitating Mutual Recognition Arrangements, to ensure that products and services conforms to the recognised Standards and Technical regulations and thus facilitate intra-African Trade. The Working Group seeks to leverage on the benefits of Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRMs) where African countries will recognise one another’s testing and certification requirements as acceptable, thus limiting different testing or customs inspections to reduce the barriers imposed by differences in technical requirements. The use of MRAs with more trading partners is expected to cement bilateral relations among the African countries and alleviate some of the testing and conformity assessment issues encountered by African traders as MRAs will lead to free movement s of Goods and services as is anticipated by the AfCFTA.