Producers of locally manufactured products risk being outperformed with the start of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) if they fail to ensure their products meet the standard certification requirements, Principal Scientist at the Product Certification Department of the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), Emmanuel Adjei, has said.
This is against the background that about 50 percent of local manufacturers delay in complying with the timeline for renewal of certification licenses issued for products, by GSA, while some do not renew at all. However, every product ready for export need such certification.
In the case of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), some of the businesses are said to lack the basic documentation on the quality of the products produced for the local market.
It is for this reason that Mr. Adjei cautioned that, if local businesses default or fail to comply with product certification obligations, they will not be able to compete favourably with goods from other member states, of AfCFTA.
He said local manufacturers will need to have their products certified as a guarantee, to compete in other markets with the confidence that products have undergone standardization, certified by an authority like GSA.
To this end, he called for support from various agencies of the government and donor organisations, particularly for SMEs, to be assisted to go through the product certification process. This, he said, will enable them to have the leverage to fully participate in AfCFTA.
“Those who have gone through the process can attest to it, that once you’ve been taken through, you will notice that there is some value addition to the products which makes them competitive in the global market space,” he stated.
Mr. Adjei also cautioned against abuse of the ‘GSA mark,’ displayed on products by some manufacturers yet to undergo the certification processes.
“The GSA has been doing a lot of sensitisations through the regional offices and stakeholder engagements to desist from the act and take advantage to go through the certification processes,” he said.
All locally manufactured products, by law, are to undergo certification by GSA. However, the bureaucracies and the financial commitments that come with the process, according to some local manufacturers, have been a disincentive.
This has led to the influx of several products on the local market without the certification of regulatory authorities such as the GSA and the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA).
But, while the FDA did not respond to an interview request on the subject, the GSA, on the other hand, explained that the specific procedures for product certification cannot be compromised whereas also flexible guidelines are provided for applicants to go through the laid down processes of certification.
Furthermore, Mr. Adjei said a thorough process has to be followed to certify products, including an assessment of quality control records of applicants, and sampling of products for scientific analysis among others.
Again, licenses issued after products have been approved are renewable annually. Meanwhile, the GSA within the period embarks on market surveillance to ensure that standards are being maintained, he explained.
For instance, in a random market interview conducted by B&FT, it emerged that most traders in consumables in parts of the Greater Accra Region are unaware that products that are sold in their shops should be approved or certified by the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) or the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA).
A provisions seller at Awoshie known as Mama Pat was quite surprised to know she must check whether the products sold in her shop are FDA/GSA approved. “I don’t check but once in a while, my daughter checks for expiry dates on the products. The FDA and GSA have never been to our shop to check if the products are approved or certified. But should we be doing that?
Esther, a supermarket owner at Madina, told the B&FT: “We get products from Nestle, Promasidor, and other well-established manufacturers in the country. So, they have the certification but when it comes to other products like cosmetics, there is no tag on them, so we don’t know whether it is approved or not,”
“We do not check those things, whether there are stamps from FDA or GSA on the products. Even if we buy them in boxes, we don’t check if they are certified or not. We just open the boxes and arrange them on the shelves,” another wholesale trader at Gbawe who prefers to be called Abigail said.
Asked if the staff of the regulatory authorities frequent their shops to inspect goods that have certification, Abigail responded that the FDA usually comes once every year to check for expired goods and not for certification.
“It was once, and even with that one, they came to inspect the cosmetics. Some of the cosmetics have hydroquinone which is not good for the skin, so they came to check and told us to remove them from the shelves. And sometimes, the FDA comes around to check for the expiry goods but not whether the goods are certified or not. For checking of the expiry goods, they come once every year, but to check if the products are certified or not, it’s only once that I have met them,” she noted.
Esther further called on the FDA and GSA to step up their efforts, as leaving it in the hands of the traders to check for certifications won’t work.
“I think they should be up and doing by checking it frequently. We wouldn’t know whether it is approved or not but if they want the consumers to have good products, then they should be doing their work.
Some of the goods come from the ports, and warehouses before getting into our shops, and you tell me to remove them from the shelves, it will be difficult because I have paid for them already, and so I will sell all until they are finished,” she said.