We believe the experts’ views that it is necessary to ensure that products from Africa conform to global standards in order to sustain the pace of economic growth currently being experienced in the continent
As countdown to the historic gathering in Abuja of chief executive officers of National Standards Bodies (NSBs) in Africa begins, mention must be made of Nigeria’s outstanding effort in promoting inter-African trade by driving the culture of quality through standardization. For over two decades, Nigeria has been actively involved in developing and entrenching the practice of standardization. This is aimed at creating an enabling environment that would make quality goods and services to become the acceptable norm in business in all the countries of the continent. The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), entrusted with the responsibility of regulating standards in Nigeria, has played a key role in this regard. The role became more visible since the appointment of Dr Joseph Ikemefuna Odumodu as Director- General in 2011.
The creativity and drive Odumodu brought into the business of standardization attracted other African countries which realized their poor standing and have enthusiastically keyed into the process. This awareness led to the formation of African Organisation for Standarisation (ARSO) in 1977 with the objective of harmonizing African Standards towards entrenching the culture of quality in trade. The body has also assumed the principal mandate of conformity assessment procedure aimed to reduce technical barriers to smooth intra-African trade which would promote industrialization in Africa. Odumodu was elected ARSO President for a three-year term effective July 2013. Since his election, Odumodu has instituted far-reaching initiatives for the implementation of the ARSO objective in the continent.
Drawing from his rich experience at SON, where he took standardisation culture to a sophisticated level, hosting ARSO from the 22nd to 24th of this month, will add fillip to the drive. We identify with this move and congratulate Odumodu in advance for the historic outing that is likely to be attended by President Muhammed Buhari to address the opening ceremony. At present, there is increased attention on Africa by the entire world as a potential hub of economic activities that would match the advanced economies with time. Many countries on the continent have already keyed into the dynamics of economic revolution that would see trade taken to another level.
There is evidence of sustained drive towards technological enhancement for the purpose of exploiting abundant opportunities identified in the wellendowed continent. Countries are building on the benefits of information and communication technology that has radically altered the platform of creativity and innovation in business. Others are exploiting the regional trade regulations that make movement of goods and persons hitch-free. Besides, there are exchange programmes that help in collapsing barriers among states whose interest to promote trade is evident. The underlying themes of all the programme being pursued by ARSO are the imperative of unlocking the vast opportunities identified in viable and fast-growing sectors which existence suffer under the opacity of concentration on the wrong priorities.
Introducing effective policy framework to drive long-term and sustainable investments that create jobs, multiply value chain and reposition the economy for active diversification, has become obviously imperative. Experts believe that with all these opportunities and possibilities, there is concerted need for standardization in the African market. This is to operate in line with international requirements in the exchange of goods and services. African products do not command the required level of acceptability in the international market because of poor standards. Additionally, the avalanche of substandard products that flood the continent is a source of worry to the nations.
Odumodu has stressed the fact that African economies could be robust if the countries in the continent constitute a powerful and vital force to fight economic saboteurs. At a recent media interaction, Odumodu argued that if Africans could trade with one another, the common enemies of the continent like counterfeiters and purveyors of sub-standard products across the continent would be defeated as over 80 per cent of sub-standard products circulating in Africa come from outside the continent. We believe the experts’ views that it is necessary to ensure that products from Africa conform to global standards in order to sustain the pace of economic growth currently being experienced in the continent. It has been established that non-compliance to international standards deprives African producers the needed access to key international markets.
There must be adequate focus on the role of standardization in trade not only to fight the menace of imported sub-standard products, but as a significant potential tool to help in achieving Africa’s sustainable development.We urge the Odumodu-led ARSO to intensify the momentum in driving the objective of the body so that inter-Africa trade can be promoted without the hitches created by lack of standardisation. One way of doing this is by developing the right skills and ensuring that citizens of member states are properly educated. The Federal Government should give Odumodu the required support as he hosts the chief executive officers of National Standards Bodies (NSBs) in Abuja this month. Exchange programmes, especially those that are function-specific, should be encouraged among the member-states so that social, cultural and political challenges that create avoidable economic challenges, and make the quest for standardisation appear unattainable, are removed.