Recognizing the negative impact on trade for African countries, the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has introduced an initiative to tackle non-compliance with international standards and technical regulations by supporting the emergence of internationally accredited African Quality Assurance Centres (AQACs) across Africa.
Kanayo Awani, Managing Director of Afreximbank’s Intra-African Trade Initiative, told a Seminar on Quality Infrastructure Financing Models in Cairo on 3 October that the AQACs will offer conformity assessment services, including testing, inspection and certification, in addition to a training academy to transfer know-how in conformity assessment to the local market. That would help local entities to obtain international accreditation.
Afreximbank’s intervention also includes support for the development of an African quality policy and for the harmonization of African standards, added Ms. Awani who said that the Bank was working on the harmonization of standards in the automotive sector to facilitate the development of regional value chains in that sector.
She said that the Bank’s effort was also aimed at supporting the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
Ms. Awani said that strengthened quality infrastructure and harmonized standards were key to removing non-tariff barriers to trade on the continent, adding, “What we know for sure is that, even if all African countries ratify the AfCFTA, there will be no industrialization or increased intra-African trade without dealing with the issues of standards, technical regulations and quality infrastructure.”
The two-day workshop was organised by Afreximbank, in collaboration with the African Organisation for Standardisation, the African Union and Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, Germany’s national metrology institute. Participants were drawn from the Bank’s origination and specialized products departments, with the objective of equipping them to engage effectively with market opportunities and stakeholders.
The training also sought to better equip the participants to structure transactions and projects that support the development of quality infrastructure and to support the harmonization of standards.
The first day of the workshop included sessions aimed at raising awareness about quality infrastructure matters while the second day focused on different models of financing of quality infrastructure and ways to close the financing gap on the continent, in view of the difficulty in attracting private capital. The training included the development of recommendations that could be pursued by Afreximbank, its partners and other financial institutions.
According to the organisers, quality infrastructure refers to activities used to evaluate whether a product, process, or service fulfils specified technical requirements and includes activities such as laboratory testing, formal inspection by government officials, auditing and certification schemes, all supported by calibration, metrology, accreditation and standards organisations that ensure that the measurements and controls are reliable.
ARSO and the quality infrastructure family, under the auspices of the Pan-African Quality Infrastructure, offered the training to Afreximbank with support from PTB in recognition that the development of quality infrastructure is a key enabler for the successful implementation of the Agreement on the African Continental Free Trade Area.