President of the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO), Professor Alex Dodoo, has called on ARSO member countries to seize the opportunities embedded in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to industrialise the continent and position it as a global manufacturing hub.
With present economic uncertainties across the globe, he said the world needs Africa because of its abundant natural resources – which must be processed into value-added products in accordance with accepted standards.
This, he said, will help rake-in the needed revenue to support the continent’s development. “Africa’s time has arrived, and it is apt that the African Renaissance in trade and industrialisation is being rekindled in Addis Ababa with standardisation as the key tool for industrial transformation and accelerated trade.”
Prof. Dodoo, who is also Director-General of the Ghana Standards Authority, made the call today (Tuesday) at the 67th ARSO Council Meeting at Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, where a high-powered assembly of leaders from the continent’s standards community have gathered.
The meeting opened on November 27 and is expected to officially close on December 2 this year. It is the first meeting chaired by Prof. Dodoo since he was officially sworn into office as ARSO President in June this year at the ARSO General Assembly in Cameroon.
Prof. Dodoo cautioned member-countries of ARSO not to use standards as a punitive tool against industry, but rather as an enabler that drives trade and ensures sustainability. Standards, he explained, are critically important tools for trade; and member-countries should use standards to unite Africa, not to restrict trade across the continent.
“As I have said repeatedly, once tariff barriers are removed between countries, non-tariff barriers become prominent – and we at ARSO must work with our governments to eliminate these non-tariff barriers, because standards should not be stumbling blocks for intra-Africa trade. Remember, where there are no standards there is no trade. Where there is no trade there is no economy. And where there is no economy there are NO jobs,” he said.
Going forward, Prof. Dodoo outlined some key milestones that must be achieved to ensure a quick realisation of the continent’s industrial development. “Africa must and will industrialise, starting now,” he said.
He said Africa’s industrialisation will be sustainable because Africa can learn from other geographies what worked and what did not.
“Africa’s industrialisation and rapid growth will be inclusive since it is our females – our mothers and sisters and daughters – who will lead this industrialisation; and since no one will be left behind – because in Africa the concept of the family is each for all and all for God and Allah – together we shall industrialise,” he said.
He added that: “We will pay attention to females, the youth, vulnerable and marginalised groups. We will listen to and work with them to drive industrialisation across Africa. Already, most SMEs in Africa are female-led – and they are transforming our economies. All we need to do is support their scale-up and expansion across the continent”.
To position the continent’s trading community on the path of rapid growth, Prof. Dodoo said there is a need to put in place some measures and score some significant policy goals.
Among other things, he said, there is a need for a harmonised regulatory framework and adoption of African Standards to address TBTs in Africa for increased Intra-African trade and capacity building and standardisation education and support to SMEs, standardisation experts, consumers and the youth.
He said it is also important to facilitate partnerships and collaborative efforts with the Africa Union, AfCFTA secretariat, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), Afreximbank, AfDB, the private sector and donors; and facilitate formulation of the African Union Regulatory Directives, Summit decisions and legislations which promote Quality Infrastructure and Common Regulatory Frameworks.
Prof. Dodoo said it is also critical to ensure the promotion of Mutual Recognition Arrangements, which currently have been initiated by ARSO and are being championed by Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Zimbabwe, while also focusing on universal membership in ARSO by all African countries.