News Column

Standards Central to Economic Competitiveness - Experts

June 26, 2014

Sara Saltman

The African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO), has called on African governments to step up efforts to maintain product standards if they are to become competitive players in the global economy.

The call was made yesterday during the 2nd celebration of the African Day of Standardisation in Kigali.

The event coincided with the ongoing 20th ARSO General Assembly underway in Kigali.

In attendance are member state representatives, the private sector among other partners.

"The aim of the African Day of Standardisation is to raise awareness amongst African regulators, industry, academics and the entire African citizens on the benefits of standardisation to Africa's economy," said the president of ARSO, Dr Joseph Odumodu.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 80 per cent of the world trade is related directly or indirectly to standards.

Dr Odumodu said Africa has had impressive economic growth in the past decade. Between 2001 and 2010, six of the world's fastest growing economies were in Africa, according to the International Monetary Fund.

However, Odumodu said this growth was accompanied by minimal industrialisation and little job creation.

Dr Mark Bagabe, the Director General of Rwanda Bureau of Standards (RBS), said Africa is endowed with natural resources which ought to be exploited.

Odumodu said value addition to the continent's abundant raw materials such as minerals, coffee and tea would increase Africa's competitiveness in global trade.

"Economic value springs from adding value to economic resources, not merely exporting crude, and this is where standardisation plays a role," Odumodu said.

Amb. Valentine Rugwabiza, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rwanda Development Board, said standards were a central component of economic competitiveness.

"Countries are competitive if their companies and businesses are competitive," Rugwabiza said.

Rugwabiza noted that standards could also accelerate regional integration.

She explained that in the East African region, there has been tremendous progress in terms of regional harmonisation of standards.

A Cameroon chocolate company saved around $ 2 million after it implemented a quality management system, said Babissakana, the CEO of Prescriptor while explaining the economic benefits of standardisation.

Babissankana said it was crucial to measure the impact of standards on a global, national and company level to involve various stakeholders in the development and application of standards.

Dr James Maringwa, who represented the African Union, announced that the AU Commission would be setting up African business councils and an Africa trade observatory to link the private sector with government bodies.

ARSO's 20th General Assembly runs through June 27.

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Source: AllAfrica

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