UGANDA – The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) in conjunction with the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) have trained over 60 experts across the African continent on standards harmonization to boost the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The three days training was held under the theme “The Standards we want – African Union Agenda 2063 and African Continental Free Trade Area, “The role of Standardisation and Conformity Assessment during the journey of 41 years”.
The experts were chosen from the national standards organizations, academic institutions, industry, and other regulatory bodies in charge of creating and harmonizing the standards necessary to promote AfCFTA.
The purpose of the training is to improve the Experts’ abilities and capacity to effectively contribute to the Standard harmonization process at ARSO.
The Executive Director of UNBS, Mr. David Livingstone Ebiru, claims that this expert capacity building is intended to meet the growing demand from African countries to expand the trade volume, which is now at 16%.
He asserts that the Bureau is promoting standardization at the regional and continental levels at a time when regional economic blocs like the East African Community (EAC), Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), Southern African Development Community (SADC), InterGovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are all striving to harmonize standards for their top commodities.
Mr. Hermogene Nsegimana, Secretary General of ARSO, revealed that thus far, 54 African countries have signed the AfCFTA Agreement while 47 have ratified it.
According to UNECA research, the Intra African trade is predicted to rise from its current 16% to over 40% by 2045 as a result of the implementation of the AfCFTA.
In order to preserve African heritage and culture, Mr. Odrek Rwabwogo, Senior Presidential Advisor for Exports and Industrial Development (PACEID) and Dairy Sector Entrepreneur, urged the standards experts to give priority to local standards for African organic products that don’t require any changes to their natural content and nutritional value.
He also urged them to resist the enticement of the growing influence of Genetically Modified (GM) products.
Mr. Odek briefed the audience on Uganda’s 13 priority commodities, which include coffee, dairy products, beef, fish, cereals, grains, horticulture, pharmaceuticals, and other agricultural and industrial goods, and which are all ready to be traded in the African market.
Charles Musekuura, Chairman of the UNBS National Standards Council, urged experts to always keep in mind that the success of the AfCFTA is in their hands given that quality standard compliance continues to be a major barrier for African products to access both regional and global markets.
As a result, he requested that the experts offer answers to the continent’s current market access issues through standardization in order to streamline and integrate trade and investment within the region.
UNBS also hosted the Joint Advisory Group (JAG) and Standards Management Committee (SMC) of ARSO in order to strengthen existing ties with Regional Economic Communities regarding standardization, establish a priority list of the industries and products that need standardization at the continental level, and enhance the management of protocols and processes for the prompt execution of harmonization initiatives.