Kenya is in talks with the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) member states to develop a common regulatory framework that will fast track the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
AfCFTA deliberations not only bind all ARSO member states to commit to the progressive elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade, but are expected to contribute immensely in sustainable development of Africa.
This is through poverty reduction by improved harmonization of standards and conformity assessment, and coordination of trade policies and instruments across African countries and Regional Economic Communities (RECs).
While addressing delegations from African countries during the official opening ceremony of the 25th ARSO General Assembly and the Africa Day of Standardisation forum, Hon. Peter Munya, MGH, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives reaffirmed the government’s commitment in promoting intra-African trade through elimination of import duties and non-tariff barriers.
“As a signatory to both the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and AfCFTA agreements, Kenya is committed to ensuring that Technical Barriers to Trade are reduced as a way of ensuring market access for all players. In this regard, we will continue to commit necessary resources to ensure sustained participation in the ARSO Standards Harmonization programs,” said Hon. Munya.
It is estimated that if all the 55 African countries join the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, the market size would include 1.7 billion people by 2030, with an estimated US$6.7 trillion of cumulative consumer and business spending making it the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organization seven decades ago.
According to The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), prioritizing the production of value-added goods and services that are ‘Made in Africa,’ under the umbrella of AfCFTA, has the potential to increase intra-Africa trade by over 50 per cent by eliminating import duties, and double this trade if non-tariff barriers, especially the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) are reduced.
On his part, Lt. Col. (Rtd). Bernard Njiraini, Ag. Managing Director, Kenya Bureau of Standards called upon African countries and the Regional Economic Communities to harmonise Standards, Technical Regulations and Conformity Assessment systems so as to realize the full benefits of the AfCFTA.
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“We are cognizant of the central role that standards and conformity assessment plays in the realization of the full benefits of the Free Trade Area Agreements (FTAs). Kenya, having been the first Country to ratify the AfCFTA agreement, is in the process of putting in place economic and trade policies that will support Standards development systems and the quality infrastructure necessary to ensure conformity to standards, including testing, certification, and laboratory accreditation. I therefore want to appeal to all the ARSO member states to follow suit,” said Lt. Col. (Rtd). Njiraini who was addressing delegates at the same forum
“After today’s deliberations and the ARSO General Assembly, I strongly believe that we shall make strides in supporting the AfCFTA. As One People and One Continent, our aspiration is to have mutual recognition of quality marks across Africa, pursuant to the framework of the AfCFTA Agreement,” he added.
This comes after the AfCFTA agreement, a key flagship for Agenda 2063, came into force on 30th May 2019, following its ratification by 24 Africa countries with Kenya being the first country to ratify the agreement followed closely by Ghana.
Other benefits to be realized include increased competitiveness of Africa’s industrial products through harnessing the economies of scale of a large continental market; increased rate of diversification and transformation of Africa’s economy and better integration of the continent into the global economy.
The 25th ARSO General Assembly and the Africa Day of Standardisation forum is organized under the theme – ‘The Role of Quality Infrastructure within a Free Trade Area’ alongside the ‘Made in Africa Expo.
The event was also attended by Dr. Eve Gadzikwa, President, ARSO; Mr. Edward Njoroge President-Elect, ISO; Mr. Sergio Mujica, Secretary General, ISO; Mr. BOOTO Charles a NGON, President-Elect ARSO; Dr. Hermogene Nsengimana, Secretary General, ARSO; representatives of African Union Commission (AUC), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Regional Economic Communities (RECs), International and Regional Organizations, ARSO members, standardization stakeholders, regulatory and Conformity Assessment officials, National Bureau of Standards delegates from all over Africa, Kenyan Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Industries