Under the West Africa Quality System Programme (WAQSP), the ECOWAS Commission has developed standards for the certification of some major products to boost the level of international trade in the region.
The Product Certification System, which is funded by the European Union (EU) to the tune of EUR 12 million, focuses on five priority products (water, cashew nuts, vegetable oil, cement and fish) for now. It is being implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).
According to the Representative of ECOWAS Commission for Industry & Private Sector Promotions, Yaya Niato, the aim of the programme is to help ECOWAS implement its regional quality policy as well as set up quality structures and institutions in West Africa.
“We have a regional concept for quality,” Niato said during a recent 4-day workshop of the ECOWAS Community Committee For Conformity Assessment (ECOCONF) in Abuja. The summit was held to adopt the draft documents relating to the implementation of the ECOWAS Regional Mark of Conformity (ECOQMARK).
There are five committees for quality checks on accreditation, technical regulation, meteorology and conformity assessment. Niato revealed that these committees have been set up and are functional, and the regional body is working to make them start practical activities in the field.
“The meeting today is to validate the processes and rules to select the products and enterprises that conform with the certification mark … We are also working on a certification mark to show how products and services conform with established standards,” the ECOWAS Representative added.
The initiative is aimed at ensuring that the products brought into the ECOWAS market by member countries and other African nations meet a level of quality and safety in compliance with the technical standards and regulations.
Moreover, a homogenous product certification in the region would help avoid delays and the multiplication of inspection operations in terms of testing or product certification. With this, Niato notes the regional body looks to boost intra-Africa trade which stands at about 12 percent as well as enhance product competitiveness.
The programme would also help to ensure transparency between companies and users of the information on the characteristics and performance of the products. Consequently, consumers would recognize safe and secure products that meet established standards.
“Under this policy, we are working to ensure that companies respect quality, because this will be beneficial not only to the companies by making them competitive in the market but also to protect consumers and the environment,” Niato noted.
WAQSP supports the implementation of the ECOWAS Quality Policy (ECOQUAL) which sets out to “establish a framework for the development and operation of appropriate, relevant, efficient and effective quality infrastructure; to facilitate trade at intra-regional and international levels; to protect the consumer and the environment, and promote sustainable economic development.”