Development of the African Quality Policy (AQP)

The need for a African Quality Policy (AQP) was first identified in Article 67(1) of the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (AEC) of 1991 which called on Member States to:
a) Adopt a common policy on standardization and quality assurance of goods and services among Member States;
b) Undertake such other related activities in standardization and measurement systems that are likely to promote trade, economic development and integration within the Community;
c) Strengthen African national, regional and continental organizations operating in this field.
The recently launched agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) recognizes the centrality of having in place the said policy as a means of facilitating free movement of goods as a key pillar of the AfCFTA. To this end the Agreement’s annexes related to addressing technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures and the elimination of non-tariff barriers pre-suppose the existence of a robust continental quality infrastructure.
Current State of Affairs
Trade competitiveness is increasingly being affected by the extent to which countries produce goods and services that meet the ever changing international requirements and customer expectations. Countries the world over are taking measures to meet requirements for the safeguarding of safety and protection of life, health and the environment. They have also agreed to the removal of technical obstacles that hinder trade including the creation of conditions for free movement of goods. Modalities to simplify verification procedures of product quality have been established for the creation of mutual trust between product suppliers and their customers through measurement traceability, standardization, conformity assessment, accreditation and supporting quality & management system certification in accordance with standards such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 22000. Countries that produce goods and services that meet the required standards and customer expectations are likely to succeed not only in their domestic markets but also in international markets.
In many African countries, there is evidence of lack of clarity on the roles of institutions involved in the setting and implementing of standards and technical regulations. The shortage of suitably accredited laboratories and adequately developed conformity assessment and quality assurance infrastructure, in general, is identified as one of the major challenges faced by African countries in their efforts to expand and diversify their export bases.
Recently it has become evident that the technical regulation regimes in many African countries are uncoordinated, fragmented and non-compliant with World Trade Organisation TBT and SPS Agreements requirements with excessive overlaps and duplications occurring amongst various regulatory agencies. To control the integrity of products entering the market, technical regulation regimes and the national quality infrastructure require systemic streamlining in order for coordination and efficiency to be achieved. Uncoordinated technical regulation regimes can constitute a major impediment to industrialization and trade.
This proposed Pan-African Quality Policy therefore fulfils the AEC Treaty and AfCFTA requirements and is an essential tool in promoting efficiency in all facets of Africa’s integration agenda.
Under the leadership of the AUC Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Pan African Quality Infrastructure (PAQI) Secretariat hosted by the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO), an African Quality Policy (AQP) is being developed with financial support from AFREXIM BANK and German Cooperation implemented by Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB). The contribution of AU Member States and Regional Economic Communities will be crucial in the development of the PAQP which is expected to complement the national quality policies (NQPs) and regional quality policies (RQPs) that AU Member States have developed or are developing for implementation at national and sub-regional levels.
The PAQP will be developed through a series of consultative workshops with national and regional quality infrastructure stakeholders in Africa.