Brief highlights on the ARSO events, – January – March 2019, and partly December 2018

8th March 2018 – ARSO Lunches the Eco Mark Africa Certification Scheme

In a ceremony attended by the ARSO President, ARSO Secretary General and representatives of African Union and COMESA Business Council and the National Bureau of Standards ( Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda, Zimbabwe); Fairtrade Africa, African Round Table and Kenya Cleaner Production; GIZ, Kenya; Kenya Government Officials, ARSO launched the African/Eco Mark Africa (EMA) Certification System, being implemented under the ARSO Conformity Assessment Programme, at the Stanley Hotel, Nairobi, Kenya. Prior to the launching event, ARSO built capacity in auditing and testing capacity for various Certification Bodies (CBs) and laboratories (Labs) in ten (10 countries, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe) with further 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 at the launch on the 8th March 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya. The EMA scheme, already been benchmarked with Fair Trade Ecolabel, integrates, the concepts of environmental, social and economic sustainability and is a useful tool for promoting sustainable production and consumption of goods and services as well as addressing various sustainable development goals.

At the launch, the AU Representative highlighted that Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP), for which Ecolabels are key components, is a far reaching topic whose importance for a sustainable future is highlighted by its long history and centrality to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, and in which the African continent, as led by the African Union, has played a key role, in the UN Conferences and which culminated into the development of the African 10YFP programme that gave birth to the African Ecolabelling Mechanism. The AU efforts Environment Conservation are also reaffirmed in the Monrovia Declaration, 4h (OAU, 1979) and the Lagos Plan of Action (LPA) (OAU, 1980); and the Agenda 2063 Aspiration 1 (prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development), under Goal 7 that calls for Environmentally sustainable and climate resilient economies and communities.

21st March 2019 – Africa Celebrates African Day of Standardisation

ARSO President and Secretary General’s Message

By the resolution of the 59th ARSO Council held in Nairobi Kenya on 6th December 2018, the African Day of Standardisation is fixed on 21st March, each year, to coincide with the historic signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement, which is a flagship Project of the AU Agenda 2063, on 21 March 2018, in Kigali, Republic of Rwanda at the 10th Extraordinary Summit of the AU Assembly of Heads of State.

On 21st March 2019, ARSO members celebrated the African Day of standardisation under the Theme ’The Role of Standardisation in winning the fight Against Corruption for sustainable Africa’s Transformation’’. In their combine message, the ARSO President Dr. Eve Gadzikwa and ARSO Secretary General, Dr. Hermogene Nsengimana called on the African countries, should therefore remain committed towards increasing awareness on the negative impact of Corruption, highlighting that the Celebrations of the African Day of Standardisation under the theme presents great opportunity to reflect on the role of standardisation in aiding on the war against corruption as the underlying philosophy of standardisation is one of eliminating the opportunity for corruption by changing incentives, by closing off loopholes and eliminating misconceived rules that encourage corrupt behaviour, and ensuring the best internal best practices as per the specifications and requirements provided for in a standard….More documents and full Message is available on ARSO Website: :

26th – 28th March 2019 – Capacity Building Workshop on the Implementation of ARSO Sustainability Standards on Aquaculture

ARSO in collaboration with NEPAD Agency conducted a three day Training Workshop at the Hilton Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya  for farmers from six (6) ARSO members (Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe) with the aim of supporting Farmers in to the Eco Mark Africa Certification, and especially to enable the farmers and the stakeholders within the Fisheries sector improve their understanding on the role of sustainable management for trade of fish resources African Catfish and Tilapia)  towards food security, safety, nutrition and Export diversification and Trade.

20th March 2019, Nairobi, Kenya – Common Wealth Standards Network (CSN) National Bureau of Standards Training.

The ARSO Technical Director Mr. Reuben Gisore is making a presentation at the Common Wealth Standards Network (CSN) National Bureau of Standards Training for the Kenya Bureau of Standards in Nairobi, Kenya where he emphasized on the need to need for countries within the Commonwealth to share reference documents for development of standards. The launching was done by the BSI, the UK National Standards Body, in partnership with the Department for International Trade and Department for International Development, on 26 September 2018 in Genève, Switzerland. 24 Commonwealth National Standards Bodies, four regional standards organizations and several other interested stakeholders contributed to the event where they helped shape the network to deliver the following outcomes: Increase use of existing international standards; Improve technical and institutional capacity of National Standards Bodies;    Increase trade and Reduce poverty. The programmes include extensive training and the delivery of a standards toolkit for all participating Commonwealth states. For more information about the CSN: To find out more about the network and/or membership, please contact the CSN Programme Manager Ben Hedley

22 January 2019 – Harmonising African Traditional Medicine Standards – ARSO THC 13.

As part of efforts to improve, harmonize and standardise traditional medicine practice in Africa, ARSO (under its ARSO THC 13 on Traditional Medicine) and the African Union, through an intergovernmental body in Nigeria have initiated a plan to adopt ten medicinal plants (Moringa oleifera, bitter kola (Garcinia kola), bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina), cashew (Anarcadium occidentale), scent leaf (Ocimum gratissimum), African bush mango (Irvingia gabonensis), yellow yam (Dioscorea bulbifera), Prunus africana for prostate cancer, baobab (Adansonia digitata), and Hibiscus sabdariffa (zobo)) captured in Food as Medicine. Nigeria has a national mirror committee (NMC) for the ARSO THC 13 made up of Nigerian experts and representatives from Nigerian Medical Council, Veterinary Council, the various schools of pharmacy, some pharmaceutical companies, the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), the Raw Materials Development Council, the Nigerian Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) Abuja, the Nigerian Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA) Lagos and many Nigerian individual Scientists. For more information

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

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.

The AfCFTA, the Benefits, the TBTs Challenges, the Opportunities and the role of ARSO.

Due to their Mandate and Influence on the establishment of the Legal and Institutional Framework for Regulatory Compliance, Quality Governance Institutions in Africa, like ARSO, PAQI Institutions, RECs SQAM, and the National Bureau of Standards have a decisive influence on the question “to what degree Technical Barriers to Trade presents a stepping stone or rather a stumbling block towards the implementation of a African Continental Free Trade Area.

The AfCFTA Benefits

The news, therefore, that, at the AU Head of States Extraordinary Summit on 21st March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda, 44 heads of delegation ratified the land mark African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) treaty, and that, 27 leaders signed the second protocol establishing the African economic Community relating to the free movement of people, the right of residence in the signatory countries and right of establishment ,  in addition to 43 Heads of delegations signing the third protocol dubbed the “Kigali Declaration” to formally launch the AfCFTA, were truly the best for Africa’s Integration Agenda.

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement, is lauded, as probably the biggest trade agreement since the establishment of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and a concrete, provable culmination of the goals of African Renaissance and Afro-optimism.  The optimism about the TFTA and CFTA is presumably a sign that, in Africa, there is support for a new generation of intra-African trade agreements and a belief that the TFTA and CFTA fall in this category.  The public debate about what the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) and the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) will bring about portrays an optimistic picture. Many commentators claim that these agreements will bring significant benefits to millions of consumers and a marked reduction in poverty in many countries. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) predicts that the AfCFTA, which is prioritizing the production of value-added goods and services that are “Made in Africa”, has the potential to increase intra-African trade by 52.3% by eliminating import duties, and to double this trade if non-tariff barriers, especially the Technical Barriers to Trade  (TBTS) are also reduced (UNECA 2018).

As the largest single free Trade area in the world, a computable general equilibrium (CGE) analysis by Cheong, Jansen and Peters (2013) estimates that the CFTA could stimulate intra-African trade by up to USD 35 billion per year, or 52% (above the baseline) by 2022. It could also lead to a USD 10 billion decrease in imports from outside the continent, while boosting agriculture and industrial exports by up to USD 4 billion (7%) and USD 21 billion (5%) respectively. The continent’s gross domestic product will rise from USD 1.7 trillion (2010) to USD 2.6 trillion (2020) pushing up consumer spending from USD 860 billion (2010) to USD 1.4 trillion (2020) and thus potentially lifting millions out of poverty (McKinsey Global Institute, 2010)..

Experts (Mevel, Simon and Karingi, Stephen – 2012, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi – 2016, Henri J. Nkuepo, 2012) highlight the fact that the AfCFTA is poised to contribute significantly to increased competitiveness of Africa’s industrial products through harnessing the economies of scale of a large continental market; increased rate of diversification and transformation of Africa’s economy and better integration of the continent into the global economy.

The TBT Challenges

With the emphasis of Quality and compliant to standards Requirements, as a major determinant of trade in a Free Trade Area, Experts, leaders and policy makers already anticipate that, under AfCFTA, African countries will continue to be confronted with the main TBT issues given the fact that under the TBT Annex 6, article 3:  “the State Parties reaffirm their rights and obligations under the WTO TBT Agreement in respect of the preparation, adoption, and application of standards, technical regulations, conformity assessment procedures and related activities”.

This means that the challenge of mandatory regulations set by governments to meet their objectives regarding health, safety, and the environment, and for market-driven standards, set within the private sector, will continue (John Keyser 2012 – Policy Note no. 33, July 2012, Based on this article, to successfully access the African Common Market, under the AfCFTA, or meet local technical regulatory requirements, including those intended to protect human, animal or plant life and health from imported pests and diseases:

  • Governments will introduce more and more regulatory requirements to address inter-lia health, safety or environmental issues in accordance with the WTO TBT Agreement and the rights and obligation of members
  • Consumers will demand safety and quality assurance
  • Private and public authorities will continue to scrutinise imported/exported goods for compliance
  • Producers increasingly will need reputable evidence that their products and services meet regulatory, technical and other requirements.
  • African countries, would be confronted with the main challenge of the need to improve the quality of regulation to remove the NTMs (TBTs) in goods, and to deliver competitive markets, while achieving essential public policy objectives relating to issues such as health and safety, and protection of agriculture from pests and disease;

Documented threat of TBTS to intra-African Trade and to the AfCFTA

That African countries, due to the challenge of the TBTs, do not trade much with each other, the TBT issue has remained an issue of interest and focus for scholars, leaders and development partners in Africa:

  • The Panel (African Progress report 2014) reports that in the SADC region, NTBs are seen as the most significant constraint on the growth of intra-SADC trade (AECOM 2011).
  • A World Bank (2011) study finds that notified NTBs affect products accounting for 20% of regional trade. Between 2000 and 2010, the total number of NTBs in Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique increased from 400 to over 1,400 (Kalaba 2012).
  • In the ECOWAS region, Traders travelling from Ghana to Nigeria are reported as having to pay 40 different fees Keyser (2012).
  • The World Food Programme, which is the largest purchaser of food in West Africa, has reported frequent problems obtaining export permits, quality certificates and other documents from different countries in order to process transactions (Keyser 2012).
  • In the EAC, region, on one estimate, eliminating NTBs in maize trade between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda would generate benefits of US$5 billion (Africa Progress Report 2014).
  • World Bank (2012) underlines the magnitude of the problem. Food producing companies in Kenya can export to developed markets in Japan, Europe, and Singapore, which each have strict regulations, yet are unable to export to countries on the continent because of regulations. For example, the allowable moisture content for imports of maize is set at 13 percent in Tanzania, 13.5 percent in Kenya, and 14 percent in Uganda. The tolerance for insect damage is one percent in Uganda, two percent in Kenya, and three percent in Tanzania.15 Malawi requires that maize should meet the following requirements: maximum of 14 percent moisture content, maximum of 2.6 percent of foreign matter, maximum of 11.5 percent of broken grains, and aflatoxin of 3ug per kilogram.
  • Among key trading corridors between Burkina Faso, Ghana and Benin, the cost of obtaining an SPS certificate for maize has been calculated at US$40/ton, equivalent to nine percent of the farm gate price (USAID 2011).

So, unless the AfCFTA is shaped as a comprehensive legal framework suitable for the 21st century challenges, including reducing Technical Barriers to Trade (TBTs) – Standards, technical regulations and Conformity assessment regimes), which have been long standing challenges to Africa’s integration, given the different trade policy Challenges among the RECs and African countries, the trade benefits of the AfCFTA, will remain hard to achieve.

The AfCFTA Opportunities to address the TBTs

It is important to underline that the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers, and Regulatory compliance, called for by the ACFTA initiative offers African countries a great long-term opportunity to address the TBTs issues:, for example:

  • The AfCFTA binds all State parties to commit to the progressive elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade in goods,
  • The TBT Annex, under Article 5: Fields of Cooperation, has provided that States Parties shall cooperate in the development and implementation of standards, technical regulations, conformity assessment procedures, accreditation, metrology, capacity building and enforcement activities in order to facilitate trade within the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
  • Further in Article 6.2 b, c, d and f respectively, calls on the State parties to adopt the harmonised African standards by ARSO and AFSEC.
  • This is aligned with the provisions of Article 8.1 of the SPS annex on Harmonisation where States Parties shall cooperate in the development and harmonisation of sanitary or phytosanitary measures based on international standards, guidelines and recommendations taking into account the harmonization of SPS measures at the regional level.

The Role of ARSO

There is therefore a corresponding drive to create a more robust, adaptive, cost-effective, user-friendly and sustainable quality infrastructure (QI) system that provides access to appropriate standardization, metrology, accreditation, conformity assessment, and market surveillance capability and capacity, along with attendant education and promotion programmes, and based on a Quality Policy. UNIDO (2018) in its document, QUALITY POLICY Guiding Principles Vienna, highlights the need for a Quality Policy as one of the basic cornerstones for ensuring good governance of the Quality Infrastructure, which is a combination of the policies, relevant legal and regulatory framework, and practices needed to support and enhance the quality, safety and environmental soundness of goods, services and processes.

Of importance therefore, to the AfCFTA Implementation,  are the ARSO Collaborative efforts in ensuring the harmonisation of African standards (through ARSO THCs) as a basis Technical Regulations; Conformity Assessment and Mutual Recognition Arrangements (ARSO COCO); Awareness creation and promotion of the Culture of Quality among policy makers, SMEs and Consumers on the benefits of standards (African Day (21st March) of Standardisation, African Quality Award); Standards and Trade Requirements Information dissemination and outreach (ARSO DISNET/African Trade Web portal); Capacity Building and Training (Education about standardisation, Workshop, Seminars). ARSO is also currently working with the African Union to fast-track the development of African Quality Policy.

ARSO-RECs collaborative efforts in standards harmonisation as a basis for African Integration Agenda and Roadmap and sustainable development

The ARSO REC’s Co-operations, directly aligned with the provisions and aspirations of Chapter XI Article 67 of the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (the “AEC Treaty”), as a means of attaining a coherent and effective continental harmonisation of standards and conformity assessment regime.

The Africa-wide development agenda, as championed by the African Union (AU), is focused on regional integration and the formation of an African Economic Community (AEC) as laid out in the 1980 Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa and the Abuja Treaty of 1991 (AU 2013), which put the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) as the building blocks with a time-bound schedule and Roadmap:

  1. 1994 – 1999: Establish and strengthen African Regional Economic Communities.
  2. 2000 – 2007: Eliminate Tariff Barriers (TBs) & Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) in RECs.
  3. 2008 – 2017: Establish Free Trade Areas (FTAs) & Customs Union (CUs) in RECs.
  4. 2018 – 2019: Establish a Continental Level CU & Common External Tariff (CET).
  5. 2020 – 2023: Establish an African Common Market (CM), including the free movement of factors of production and the right of establishment.
  6. 2024 – 2028: Establish a Pan-African economic and monetary union that includes the establishment of an African Central Bank and a single African Currency.

As the level of continental integration deepens, under the AfCFTA, the trade-related functions of RECs are expected to be consolidated at the continental level, in line with the eighteenth ordinary session of the Assembly of the African Union decision for “consolidation of the Tripartite and other regional Free Trade Areas, into a Continental Free Trade Area”.  But the Challenge remains the TBTs at the RECs level and the need for harmonised regulatory frameworks and African standards.

To tackle this challenge, through a Consultative meeting of 22nd to 24th October, 2018 at Intercontinental Hotel Nairobi, Kenya ARSO and the RECs have agreed to, among others:

  • The Formation of a common front on the harmonisation of African Standards and Conformity Assessment through the review of the ARSO’s African Standards Harmonization Model (ASHAM) to reflect the joint ARSO-RECs harmonization, RECs treaties and protocols and reflection of the adoption of the African Standards at RECs levels with the rrevised ASHAM expected to be rolled out to different stakeholders for visibility, awareness and buy in (AUC, Governments, Private Sector, academia etc.)
  • Analysis of existing standards catalogues within RECs versus ARSO catalogue to identify Common standards that require harmonisation.
  • The Establishment of ARSO-RECs Joint Advisory Group (JAG), which is tasked to recommend priority sectors and topics for harmonies. ARSO host the Secretariat currently.
  • Development of a Roadmap, through the RECs SQAM structures for the establishing New Work Item Proposals (NWIP) for standards Harmonisation where using their own mechanisms, RECs will work with their National NSBs and stakeholders to determine priority areas and share with ARSO for the standards harmonisation.

Understanding the Mandate of ARSO in the Context of Africa’s Trade performance

The chief principle mandate of ARSO is to facilitate intra-African and World Trade through Harmonisation Standards and Conformity Assessment which directly aims at reducing Technical Barriers to Trade in Africa.

The intra-Africa trade, which is expected to enhance the absorptive capacity of the continent and mitigates its exposure to global volatility, and which at 15% compares unfavourably with Europe (67%), Asia (58%), North America (48%) and Latin America (20%) (Afreximbank 2018). On the global scale the African countries, though, have equally made considerable progress in their economic transition towards a market-based system and inclusion, the challenge to adjust to the standards, norms and regulations (TBTs) which are used in international trade, remains. The report highlights that the Continent continues to engage at the periphery (3%) of the global economy, with a prediction of 4% by 2030. (AfDB et al. 2014.). This dismal performance in Africa’s external and internal trade, therefore, has remained a major focus of much enquiry, with the Africa Progress Panel (African Progress report 2014) and World Bank 2013, giving evidence that NTBs, especially the Technical Barriers to Trade (Standards, Technical Regulations, Conformity Assessment (Inspection, Testing and Certification) present substantial obstacle to increasing intra-regional and intra-African Trade.

The African Development Bank’s (AFDB 2019) African Economic Outlook projects Africa’s GDP growth to accelerate to 4.0 percent in 2019 and 4.1 percent in 2020 but only if there will be growth of industrial activities to spur intra-African Trade and among other things and mostly of great relevance to the mandate of ARSO, the removal of all nontariff barriers on goods and services, especially the Technical Barriers to trade that have been a great hindrance to the free movement of Goods and services in Africa. The Bank also calls for the elimination of the applied bilateral tariffs in Africa, keeping rules of origin simple, flexible, and transparent. The report highlights that the Gross domestic product reached an estimated 3.5 percent in 2018, about the same as in 2017 and up from 2.1 percent in 2016 ((AFDB 2019).

With different Regional Economic Communities (RECS – EAC, SADC, COMESA, EAC) African countries face the challenge of variation in certification, testing, inspection practices, and standards used by different countries on the basis of the WTO obligation and rights. The African Development Bank’s (AFDB 2019) African Economic Outlook gives Africa a picture of a continent with a general economic performance that continues to improve.  The resultant divergence of standards and technical regulations make trade between African countries difficult, contentious, and expensive.

Formed in 1977 by the African Union (formerly OAU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and currently with a membership of 37 African countries, (Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, New State of Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Sudan, South Sudan, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, with Zanzibar as an observer member), the ARSO mandate of coordinating the harmonisation and implementation of African Standards and conformity assessment procedures continues to be a strategy for promoting the intra-African Trade and integration Agenda.

The Organisation’s key programmes such as Standards Harmonisation based on thirteen (13) Technical Harmonisation Committees, with Experts from all over Africa ensures the harmonisation and implementation of African standards (in reference to Africa Standards Harmonisation Model-ASHAM)  across the continent. The ARSO Conformity Assessment Programme under the ARSO COCO drives the harmonisation of Conformity Assessment regimes in Africa, promoting Mutual Recognition Arrangements and Common Regulatory Framework. The ARSO DISNET, including the African Trade Web Portal ensures the dissemination Trade and Standards information to facilitate compliance to standards and trade requirements across the continent. Harmonisation of African Standards was recognised at the very beginning as a means of promoting not only trade among African countries but also enabling African enterprises to participate effectively in the global trading system. This still remains the core mandate of ARSO.

AFREXIM Bank set to fund the Harmonisation of Standards to Facilitate Intra-African Trade and Development of Pan-African Quality Infrastructure


The African Export-Import  (AFREXIM) Bank in partnership with  Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)  has funded a project on the introduction of Pan-African Quality Policy (PAQP) with support from African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO), African Union Commission (AUC), Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and other Pan-African Quality Infrastructure (PAQI) Pillars namely African Accreditation Cooperation (AFRAC), Intra-Africa Metrology Systems (AFRIMETS) and African Electro-technical Standardization Commission (AFSEC) with an aim of facilitating African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

This policy, in regards to the 1991 treaty that established African Economic Community will ensure that member states;

(a) Adopt a common policy on standardization and quality assurance of goods and services.

(b) Undertake such other related activities in standardization and measurement systems that are likely to          promote trade, economic development and integration within the Community; and

(c) Strengthen African national, regional and continental organizations operating in this field.

In many African countries, there is evidence of lack of clarity on the roles of institutions involved in the setting and implementation of standards and technical regulations, they need to be synchronized and work closely to facilitate free movement of goods and services. There aren’t enough accredited laboratories nor inspection bodies and this is a major problem that faces many African countries in their efforts to expand and diversify their export bases.

Notably, most technical regulation regimes of African countries are non-compliant with WTO-TBT and SPS Agreement requirements and this constitutes a major impediment to industrialization and trade. It is important to note that the technical regulation regime and a country’s national quality infrastructure go hand in hand and therefore systematic streamlining is required in order for coordination and efficiency to be achieved.

This Joint effort sponsored by AFREXIMBANK and PTB and spearheaded by the African Union and ARSO will fulfil the AEC Treaty and AfCFTA requirements mainly Technical Barriers to Trade and Sanitary and Phytosanitary annexes (TBT & SPS) which are essential tools in promoting efficiency in all facets of Africa’s integration agenda. It will be adopted by member states with an aim of being at par in matters quality.

In addition to the Pan-African Quality Policy (PAQP), African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) will harmonize standards in the automotive sector and conformity assessment. This initiative is fully funded by the African Export-Import (AFREXIM) Bank in partnership with and African Union Commission (AUC) in a bid to support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and boost intra-African Trade while contributing to African industrialization as key pillars of Africa’s Agenda 2063.

The automotive sector is essential and will cause an uproar in the automotive industry (vehicle and parts makers) and support a wide range of business segments, both upstream and downstream, along with adjacent industries. This leads to a multiplier effect for growth and economic development across many sectors in the continent. The key concerns with respect to the automotive industry in Africa include the following

(i)   Restrictions of manufacturing while regulatory frameworks encouraging importation.

(ii)  Safety of motor vehicles

(iii) Availability of quality fuels for modern engine technologies

(iv) Availability of certified component/spare parts: Regional automotive value chains have not developed to a significant extent.

(v)  Manufacturing capabilities.

Factors to be considered with regards to AfCFTA include Elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to widen the markets for the automotive industry, local manufacturing/assembly with value addition which meets the rules of origin in the AfCFTA, creating a reliable network of automotive component and spare parts suppliers to service customer needs, harmonization of standards for fuels, parts and environmental performance in line with international agreements and lastly construction of motor vehicles meeting established safety standards to create confidence among Member States.

ARSO will convene meetings of the ARSO/THC 08-4, Technical Working Group on Automotive Technology and Engineering to serve as the platform for the harmonization of standards for the automotive sector in Africa. NSBs will nominate two suitable experts (one internally and another from the manufacturing sector) with appropriate qualifications matching the scope of the Working Group to participate in the harmonization of standards including formulation of workshop agreements, review of international standards for adoption and also handle the harmonization work of the listed preliminary new work items during the first meeting to be held in June 2019. The scope of the working group will revolve around Road vehicles, tyres, rims & valves, Caravans, Electric road vehicles and electric industrial trucks with a vast collection of standards to be harmonized.

Harmonization of the automotive standards will play a big role in the economic development of the African automotive sector through elimination of trade barriers among the member states hence allowing free movement of automotive goods with quality on check. The project has a timeline of one year from the date of countersigning (April 2019).

International Organization for Standardization


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ASTM International


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PTB Germany

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