In retrospect and taking stock: The Africa we want through the African Union Decisions on addressing the TBTs challenges in Africa, as a background for the implementation of the AfCFTA

Under the OAU Lagos plan of action for the economic development of Africa, 1980-2000, CHAPTER VII, Trade and finance, Trade, Intra-African trade expansion, paragraph 250 (k and I)

In so far as intra-African trade expansion-which is meant to constitute the mainstay for the present strategy is concerned, the following measures are recommended:

  • (k) membership of the African Regional Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO), which presently comprises only 19 countries, should be expanded to include all Member States by the end of 1982. ARSO should be entrusted with the task of establishing African regional standards for all products of interest to intra-African trade. If need be, ECA should be requested to offer the necessary advice and assistance;
  • (l) trade fairs and publicity campaigns should be held at least annually at the national sub-regional and regional levels, with particular emphasis on publicising the quality of African products. In this respect, ARSO should operate a regional certification marking scheme with a view to certifying the quality of and promoting African products. A permanent “Buy African Goods” campaign should also be vigorously launched under the aegis of OAU and ECA within the framework of the all-Africa trade fairs, starting with the next fair to be held in 1980. Participation in these fairs should be confined solely to African countries with a view to promoting African products.
  • Current membership of ARSO is 37.
  • Afreximbank-AU held an Intra-African Trade Fair in Cairo, Egypt in December 2018 with standards harmonisation event held on the side-lines.
  • UNECA (ECA) has remained a key stakeholder supporting ARSO Standardisation activities, as UNECA is currently the ARSO Champion on establishing the African Regional Value Chains and the role of standardisation.

Under the Abuja Treaty of 1991 establishing the African Economic Community (June 3rd 1991, Abuja, Nigeria), the OAU adopted Chapter XI on Standardization and Measurement Systems whose Article 67 set the Common Policy where Member States agreed to:
adopt a common policy on standardization and quality assurance of goods and services among Member States;

  • Undertake such other related activities in standardization and measurement systems that are likely to promote trade, economic development and integration within the Community; and
  • Strengthen African national, regional and continental organizations operating in this field.

2.  To cooperate in accordance with the provisions of the Protocol concerning Standardization, Quality Assurance and Measurement Systems.

  • The establishment of the Pan African Quality Infrastructure in 2013 comprising AFRIMETS, AFRAC, AFSEC and ARSO) is a milestone in Africa’s cooperation in Standardization, Quality Assurance and Measurement Systems.
  • The Current collaboration with the PAQI and the African Union in the evolution of the Africa Quality Policy is highlighted.

The AU Ministers of Trade, Customs and Immigration, Rwanda 2004, under Resolution 79, the AU Ministers while noting the effort so far deployed by ARSO to re-engineer itself, accordingly agreed to, among others,

  • encourage country membership and participation in ARSO and its activities and urge AU Member States
  • to commit adequate resources to Standardisation, Conformity  Assessment and related matters,
  • promote the development of a quality culture in their respective Member Countries,
  • apply the principles of harmonisation of standards as laid down in the WTO/TBT and SPS Agreements.The increased support of the 37ARSO members ad active involvement of the continental standardisation is a great achievement.The ARSO Essay Competition among the University Students, ARSO Education about standardisation and Trainings; and the initiative for the ARSO Quality Award as a basis for setting Quality Culture in Africa is highlighted.

The AU, through the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) Ministers of Environment, on the implementation of the African 10YFP, Development and the Implementation of the African Ecolabelling Mechanism/ UNEP/AMCEN/12/9/-36/12 June 2008, calls upon the Commission of the African Union, Governments and all stakeholders to work together to ensure the development and implementation of an African Ecolabelling mechanism based on African experiences and lessons, with the Secretariat at the ARSO Central Secretariat.

  • Through collaborations with the BMZ, Germany and the African Union and other African Stakeholders, the ARSO Eco mark Africa, officially launched on 8th March 2019, has been initiated.
  • EMA is being implemented as a certification recognition system for sustainability standards with developed Conformity Assessment Criteria and mutual recognition Arrangement Scheme (in the sector of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, Tourism) has been designed to accommodate a large number of smallholder producers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) businesses in Africa.
  • Already Seven (7) companies (Kabngetuny Coffee farmers’ Cooperative Society, Kapkiyai Coffee farmers’ Cooperative Society, Kamuthanga Fish farm, KOFINAF ltd and Coffee Management services ltd from Kenya, Hotel Mille Collins from Rwanda and Quarcoo Initiatives from Ghana) in Africa, in the agriculture, aquaculture and tourism sectors, which were also audited for conformity to the mentioned sustainability standards and awarded EMA certificates

In the DECISION ON BOOSTING INTRA-AFRICAN TRADE AND FAST TRACKING THE CONTINENTAL FREE TRADE AREA (AfCFTA)/ Assembly/AU/Dec.426 (XIX)/Assembly/AU/11(XIX), the 18th African Union Heads of State Summit in July 2012, re-emphasised the need for a common quality reference system as a precious tool for boosting African trade.  Under Resolution 2 and 4, Assembly/AU/Dec. 426(XIX), the Assembly “RE-AFFIRMS the commitment to deepen Africa’s market integration through the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by the indicative date of 2017 and the implementation of the Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade. Under this “The CFTA members will need to appreciate and recognise the importance of standards, metrology, conformity assessment and accreditation and calls on the AfCFTA members to harmonise their practices in this area to achieve mutual product recognition… (AU 2012).”

The AU through the CONFERENCE OF MINISTERS OF TRADE’s 9th Ordinary Session, 01-05 DECEMBER 2014, ADDIS, ABABA, ETHIOPIA – AU/TI/TD/CAMoT-9/RPT.MIN/FINAL emphasise the need for effective quality infrstructure in Africa and standards harmonisation under ARSO by calling on:

  • All AU Member States that are currently not Members of ARSO should endeavor 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.
  • With 37 member States, and actively involved in ARSO activities, African countries are realisng the benefits of standsisation in sustainable economic development
  • The PAQI Quality Infrastructure Stocktaking (2014, 2017) and efforts on the development of African Quality Policy remains a basis for creating awareness on the status of Quality in Infrastructure and the need for support