The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), in partnership with the African Regional Standards Organisation (ARSO), is hosting over 60 experts from several national standards bodies, academia, industry, and other regulatory bodies responsible for developing and harmonising standards that are required to facilitate intra-Africa trade under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) throughout the African continent.
The three (3) day training, which started on March 27, 2023, is being held in Kampala at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Kampala, under the theme “The Standards We Want: African Union Agenda 2063 and the African Continental Free Trade Area,” and “The Role of Standardisation and Conformity Assessment during the Journey of 41 Years.”
The training is intended to enhance the skills and capacity of these experts so they can effectively contribute to the standard harmonisation process at ARSO.
According to Mr. David Livingstone Ebiru, the Executive Director of the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), this capacity building of experts is aimed at responding to the increasing demand for African countries to increase the volume of trade among themselves, which is currently standing at 16%.
He said that the Bureau is currently championing integration of standards at both the regional and continental level when the regional economic blocs such as the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are all aspiring to harmonise standards for their priority commodities to be traded under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on the basis of having one standard, one test, and one conformity certificate for once market.
According to Mr. Hermogene Nsegimana, the Secretary General of the African Regional Standards Organisation (ARSO), all 55 African countries have ratified the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement.
He therefore urged the experts to ensure that standards for priority products and sectors that have been identified by member countries are fast tracked in order to realise the objective of the AfCFTA of increasing intra-Africa trade among its 1.3 billion people from the current 16% to at least 40% in the midterm.
Mr. Odrek Rwabwogo, the Senior Presidential Advisor of Exports and Industrial Development (PACEID) and also an entrepreneur in the dairy sector, urged the standards experts to preserve African heritage and culture by prioritising indigenous standards for African organic products, which don’t require any modifications to their natural content or nutritional value, and to avoid the temptation of the emerging influence of technology on genetically modified products.
He informed the audience about Uganda’s 13 priority commodities that are ready to be traded in the African market, which include coffee, dairy products, beef, fish, cereals, grains, horticulture, pharmaceuticals, and other agricultural and industrial products.
The Chairman of the UNBS National Standards Council, Mr. Charles Musekuura, urged Experts to always bear in mind that the success of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is in their hands, given that compliance with quality standards remains one of the major constraints for African products to access both regional and international markets.
Mr. Musekura asked the experts to provide solutions to the current African problems of market access through harmonisation of standards to facilitate and integrate trade and investments within the continent.
UNBS will also be hosting the Joint Advisory Group (JAG) and Standards Management Committee (SMC) of ARSO during the week to further foster continued liaisons with regional economic communities (AMU, CEN-SAD, EAC, ECCAS, ECOWAS, COMESA, IGAD, and SADC) in standardisation and prioritise sectors and commodities that require harmonisation of standards at the continental level, as well as improve the management of procedures and processes for timely execution of harmonisation programmes.