The Federal Government has tasked African countries to invest more in the training of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) on issues of standards as a means of improving the continent’s economy.

Speaking while declaring open the 30th Assembly of the African Organization for Standardization (ARSO) in Abuja on Wednesday the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Doris Uzoka Anite said standardization plays a vital role in the growth of the economy.

She stated that “allow me to highlight that the 30th ARSO General Assembly theme, “Educate an African fit for the 21st Century – Building a Quality Culture – “One Market, One Standard” articulates the essential role of standardisation in promoting sustainable development, innovation, export-oriented manufacturing and production.

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“Furthermore, the theme draws my attention (I believe yours too) to the 21st Century symbiotic relationship between education, sustainable development, industrialisation and trade; with standardisation being a strategic pillar for us as a government, stakeholders and as well as the standardization community in general.

“Candidly speaking, this points out the need to equip the African youth with relevant skills and SMEs with innovative tendencies needed for the 21st Africa’s Industrial Development and Integration Agenda as provided under the AfCFTA so as to create awareness on the role of standardization in sustainable development to catch up with the rest of the world”.

Represented by the Permanent Secretary, Amb. Nura Abba, the Minister explained, “as you are already aware; standards shape our everyday lives, drive economic efficiency, facilitate trade and are the fulcrum for tackling the challenges of moving towards a more sustainable and resilient model of development.

“There are many areas of policy-making decisions guided by standards of different kinds in areas such as facilitating international trade as well as helping establish trust through guaranteed specifications and quality requirements.

“With the world moving towards Artificial Intelligence for faster development, I dare to say that future policy-makers will need a better understanding of standards and standards-related issues through the exchange of ideas and knowledge, relevant training and robust research findings to support and maintain artificial intelligence.

“Furthermore, I like to believe that the current standardisation activities – at the national, regional and continental levels – will require robust synergy and collaboration among African nations and ARSO member states to re-lubricate the implementation of the AfCFTA Agreement, especially with respect to enhancing a Common Regulatory Framework in the Context of TBT annexe 6, article 5.

“You may recall that these instruments recommended development and implementation of standards, technical regulations, conformity assessment procedures, accreditation, metrology, capacity building and enforcement activities to boost intra-Africa trade, particularly trade in value-added production and commerce across all sectors in the continent.”

Anite stated that “although, only 35 of the 43 African nations that ratified the AfCFTA agreement (piloted in six African nations of Kenya, Rwanda, Cameroon, Ghana, Tanzania, Mauritius, Tunisia, and Egypt) all being ARSO members, they will largely benefit from AfCFTA, strategies of reducing tariffs and non-tariff barriers among member nations.

“Distinguished delegates, it may also interest you to know that AfCFTA could stimulate intra-African trade by up to USD35 billion per year, boost agriculture and industrial exports by up to USD 4 billion (7%) and USD 21 billion (5%) respectively and stimulate a GDP rise from USD 1.7 trillion (2010) to USD 2.6 trillion (2020) thereby pushing up consumer spending from USD 860 billion (2010) to USD 1.4 trillion (2020) and thus potentially lifting millions out of poverty (McKinsey).

“Furthermore, AfCFTA has been structured to boost intra-African trade which over the years has suffered three major categories of obstacles; namely weak productive capacities and limited economic diversification, tariff-related trade costs, and high non-tariff-related trade costs that hamper the competitiveness of firms and economies in Africa,” she said.

In his open address, the Director General of the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), Dr. Ifeanyi Okeke stated that “we delve into our theme for the year 2024, we are reminded of the essential role that standardization plays along the way.

“The challenges we face are enormous, sometimes complex: understanding the various theories of climate change and addressing them, harnessing the 4th Industrial Revolution, uplifting the young people, controlling burgeoning population, amongst others.

“These challenges demand that we equip our youth with cognitive skills and knowledge necessary to navigate and succeed in an increasingly complex global landscape.”

He said standardization, “as we all may agree, is not merely about setting guidelines, it is about fostering a quality culture that permeates every aspect of our lives.

“It ensures that our products and services meet international benchmarks, enhance competitiveness and facilitate trade.

“It’s about creating a unified market where quality is the norm, not the exception. This vision of “One Market, One Standard” is integral to achieving the aspirations of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA),” Okeke explained.

The President of ARSO, Prof. Alexander Dedoo charged the continent to take advantage of her huge population to change the narrative.

He called for the certification and training of the in-formal sector to improve the economy of Africa countries through standardization.

The African Organization for Standardization (ARSO) traces its genesis to the unfolding events and the prevailing mood of the African social-political and economic Pan-Africanism of the 1970s.


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