Regional integration initiatives in Africa have a long history, dating back to the establishment of the South African Customs Union (SACU) in 1910 and the East African Community (EAC – launched in a special initiative by the OAU) in 1919. The Lagos plan of Action, the formation of Economic Commission for Africa and the Abuja Treaty (1991) that came into force in 1994, all mark major milestones in the realization of All-African Common Market. The Lagos Plan of Action had envisaged an all-African Common Market by the year 2025. The Lagos Plan, promoted by the ECA, envisaged three regional arrangements aimed at the creation of separate but convergent and over-arching integration arrangements in three sub-Saharan sub-regions. Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which pre-dated the Lagos Plan in West Africa, a Preferential Trade Area (PTA-1981) later COMESA (1993) in East and Southern Africa, and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS-1983). Together with the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) in North Africa, these arrangements were expected to lead to an all-African common market by the year 2025. In April 2001, African Heads of State launched the African Union at Sirte to replace the OAU, with one of its focus as the establishment of the African Common Market.
Role of ARSO and RECS in Standardisation
Currently there are eight recognised African Union reconised RECs (AMU, CEN-SAD, COMESA, EAC, ECCAS, ECOWAS, IGAD, SADC) with various standardisation infrastructures.
ARSO is a relevant organisation in the area of harmonization of standards and Technical Regulations within the African continent and it is especially useful in spearheading the adoption of International and African standards as a basis for incorporation into technical regulations which if not harmonized can become Technical Barriers to both intra-African and International Trade.
The RECs and their attendant standardisation structures are the building blocks for a solid continent-wide standardisation infrastructure as they develop regional standards applicable in their area of jurisdiction. On the other hand ARSO coordinates continent-wide harmonisation of standards to promote intra-African and global trade. The RECs in realising this onerous mandate have signed memoranda of understanding (MoU) in pursuit of the objective of increasing African share in global trade to match its current tangible resource base. This role is recognised by the African Union.
Under Article 3 paragraph 2 of the ARSO-RECs, MoUs the parties agree that the REC shall and hereby grants recognition to ARSO as the competent body to spearhead and coordinate harmonisation of national and/or RECs standards within the continent as African Standards; and that REC shall cooperate and offer assistance to ARSO in order to realise harmonisation of national and/or RECs standards.
RECs in strong partnerships with National Bureau of Standards, as solid building blocks for African Industrialization should have effective relations with ARSO and AUC in order to promote and reinforce the role of African standardization as a tool for supporting African policies and for simplifying legislation in Africa. This will ensure the development and implementation of a common African legislation related to standardization activities.
ARSO and RECs partneships will deliver comprehensive range of African Standards and Guides for the implementation and recognition of good Conformity Assessment practices, suitable for all forms of first, second or third party involvement and evaluation, widely used by all interested parties, as well as developing a Keymark as the preferred mark of conformity to African Standards, leading to strengthening the concept of Mutual Recognition for the implementation of the principle “one standard, one test, one certificate”.