ARSO Certification System

The ARSO Certification System: Main Features

Main Issues

The ARSO Certification System (ARSO-CERT) is a third-party certification system designed for application at the regional level in Africa in collaboration with member States and based on African Regional Standards (ARS) or technically equivalent standards of member States. It is aimed at promoting intra and extra-African trade through enhanced quality, marketing advantage, acceptability, and export capability of products that are certified under the system.

The basic legal documents of ARSO-CERT are the Constitution, Rules and Guide. They define the legal framework within which ARSO-CERT operates, the criteria for membership, the procedure for granting and use of the ARSO Certification Mark and the elements of a National Certification System to be operated by members of ARSO-CERT in order to ensure compatibility among the national systems.

The membership of ARSO-CERT is open to all National Standards bodies (NSBs) of ARSO member States. The NSB will apply to ARSO stating the scope of its activities in terms of products or group of products for which it seeks accreditation from ARSO. An assessment of the NSB ‘s facilities and certification system is carried out by independent assessors appointed by ARSO. If favourable, accreditation is granted. This will entitle the NSB among other things, to audit the quality system and inspect products of relevant producers that apply for the ARSO Certification Mark in its territory.

The ARSO Certification Mark is a proprietary mark of ARSO. Licence to use the mark by producers on specific products or group of related products made from one factory might be given upon application by the producer to a national member of ARSO-CERT. The national member shall conduct a systematic assessment of the producers’ quality system and carry out inspection, sampling and testing of applicable products in accordance with its national certification system. If satisfactory, the NSB shall proceed to apply to ARSO for the use of the ARSO Mark in combination with the national certification mark by the producer. ARSO shall evaluate the documents from the NSB for compliance to ARSO-CERT regulations and if favourable, approve the award of the ARSO Mark to the producer. The surveillance of the producer’s quality system and products shall be the responsibility of the NSB. Reports of all surveillance will however, be communicated to ARSO.

The specific objectives of ARSO-CERT as provided in the Constitution of ARSO-CERT are:

(a)        Certification of goods produced in accordance with African Regional Standards (ARS);

(b)        Improvement of the quality of goods produced in Africa;

(c)        Facilitation of trade amongst African countries and with the outside world; and

(d)        Provision of a forum for collaboration in certification activities in the African region with a view to affording mutual benefits to the participating members of ARSO-CERT.

In order to achieve the above objectives, ARSO-CERT shall, through its members and organs, seek to:

(a)        Establish principles, rules, guides and directives for the operation of ARSO-CERT;

(b)        Contribute to the implementation of African Regional Standards (ARS);

(c)        Ensure application of uniform working methods and procedures in certification, and techniques used in certification;

(d)        Assist in establishing and strengthening national capabilities for certification in African countries by providing training and technical advisory services including promotional and other support services.

(e)        Compile and disseminate information on products under ARSO-CERT and under the national certification systems of participating members of ARSOCERT;

(f)         Endeavour to satisfy the technical needs of the African Sub-regional Economic Communities for certification;

(g)        Facilitate co-operation between ARSO and other regional and multinational bodies operating certification systems; and

(h)        Endeavour to satisfy the needs of member States not yet operating certification systems through members of ARSO-CERT.

International Alignment of ARSO-CERT

The ARSO-CERT Rules and Guide are based on ISO/IEC Guides on certification, inspection and testing laboratories. Hence, the regional certification system conforms to recommended international practice.

ARSO-CERT will in no way replace or infringe on national certification activities since the ARSO Mark will be used solely for export products where the Mark will provide a marketing advantage and acceptability. The activities of national certification programmes in their territories will therefore, continue as usual. The operation of ARSOCERT will however, strengthen the national certification systems and harmonize their operations.

Furthermore, ARSO-CERT is not restrictive. Any producer who feels he has got the right level of product quality and that ARSO Mark will promote his export sales is free to apply to an ARSO-CERT national member. The system is therefore, open to all producers in Africa. The only condition is that the producer must have had the conformity mark of the national member for at least one calendar year with respect to the product concerned before coming under ARSO-CERT marking.

The liability of products marked under ARSO-CERT rests with the producer. This is as contained in the Constitution of ARSO-CERT. Generally, most African countries have product liability and customer protection laws which rest liability of any failure, injury or damage caused by products on the producer.

It was opined that the level of intra-trade in the African region which was put at 4% is rather low. Any programme like ARSO-CERT that can assist in improving the situation is welcome. Africans look for products from the developed world because of their inherent quality. The improvement of the quality of African products is therefore essential. This will make Africans to look inward in their purchasing and also promote the competitiveness of African products overseas. In this connection, information on ARSO-CERT should be directed to various target groups in and outside Africa. ARSO should assist in providing the required information materials for dissemination.

Key Perspectives

  • Procedure for the Assessment and Approval of a National Standards Body (NSB) for Membership of ARSO-CERT
  • Basic Infrastructure for a National Certification Programme
  • Accreditation of Testing Laboratories under the ARSO Network of Testing, Metrology and Instrumentation Centres (ARSO-TMICNET)
  • Assessment of a Factory for the Award of the ARSO Mark
  • Administration of the ARSO Mark
  • The Quality Manual

This represents ARSO’s first set of documentation for the continental conformity assessment system. It is to be recognized that ARSO at that time combined the functions of metrology and accreditation in its scope of work.

The ARSO Certification System (ARSO CERT) Main Document Report (English).pdf

Constitution ARSO-CERT (English).pdf

ARSO Certification System Guide (English).pdf