Statement by Ambassador Albert M. Muchanga
African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry
Delivered at the Opening Ceremony of the 2017 Afrimets General Assembly Meeting Held Jointly With the National Metrology Institute of South Africa (Nmisa) 70/10 and African Year of Quality Infrastructure (Ayqi) Celebrations in Pretoria, South Africa on 2 August, 2017.
The Honourable Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr. Rob Davies,
Your Worship the Mayor of Tshwane,
The Chief Executive Officer of the National Metrology Institute of South Africa,
The PAQI Chairperson,
The President of the Physikalisch Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB),
Chairpersons and Representatives of PAQI Structures including AFRAC, AFRIMETS, AFSEC and ARSO,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
May I start by congratulating South Africa for marking 70 years of the existence of Metrology in the country.
In the same vein, I also congratulate the National Metrology Institute of South Africa, NMISA, for reaching the ten-year milestone on its continuing journey to develop scientific and industrial metrology in the country.
I am sure that South Africa has one of the oldest, if not the oldest, formally organized national metrology operations on the African continent, with commendable involvement at the international level as well.
As we celebrate this historic milestone for South Africa, I am certain that the rest of Africa fully shares this joy.
It is well known that NMISA has assisted other African countries in developing their own metrology organizations.
I have been advised that NMISA has conducted many metrology rounds of training in South Africa in addition to attaching metrologists from many African countries as part of capacity building. We commend you for this Pan-African spirit.
I also note with gratitude that NMISA has taken on the role of Secretariat for AFRIMETS since its inception.
We urge you to continue providing this support for as long as it is needed.
It is against this background, that it was appropriate that AFRIMETS agreed to hold its 2017 General Assembly here and combine it with the NMISA 70/10 celebrations.
It is also very good to see that the event is being supported by the presence of representatives of the other African quality infrastructure organizations.
Distinguished Meeting Participants,
The legal framework for the creation of an African Economic Community is the 1991 TREATY ESTABLISHING THE AFRICAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY, popularly known as the Abuja Treaty.
Chapter XI (Eleven) of the Treaty is on STANDARDISATION AND MEASUREMENT SYSTEMS. Article 67 of the Treaty calls upon African governments to develop a Common Policy on Standardization, Quality Assurance and Measurement Systems.
In response to this call, most African Regional Economic Communities have developed programmes on standardization, metrology and quality assurance.
We know, for example, that NMISA is a very active member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Cooperation in Measurement Traceability, (SADCMET), which is the body responsible for scientific and industrial metrology coordination within SADC.
At continental level however, except for the African Organization for Standardization - ARSO, created in 1977, the other continental Quality Infrastructure bodies were only recently established between 2006 and 2010.
These are the African Accreditation Cooperation - AFRAC, the Inter-African Metrology System - AFRIMETS and the African Electro-Technical Standardization Commission - AFSEC.
Following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the four continental Quality Infrastructure organizations in 2013, PAQI was formally established and officially launched in August of the same year.
These developments were not only a practical response to the call by the Abuja Treaty for a robust continental Quality Infrastructure, but also represent a strong link between the African Union developmental programmes and the need to ensure quality outputs which are key to customer buy-in, branding, competitiveness and product sustainability.
Distinguished Meeting Participants,
The Department of Trade and Industry of the African Union Commission is pleased to have the existing linkages with AFRIMETS and the rest of the PAQI.
I am saying this because quality and safety standards are key to sustained industrialization. Currently, most of our countries fail to penetrate some regional and international markets on these scores.
Sadly, some African countries use quality and safety standards as a non-tariff barrier which impedes growth of intra-African trade. At the end of the day, quality and standards should promote the growth of fair trade.
Our core mandate as AUC-DTI is to facilitate the boosting of intra-African trade, fast track establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) and to ensure Africa’s industrial competitiveness in the global economy.
In this way, we are supporting Africa’s structural transformation through diversification and modernization of her productive structures.
May I at this stage spell out some of the interventions in this direction.
With the involvement of member states, we are formulating, implementing and harmonizing Pan-African trade policies to promote increased intra-African trade as well as trade with the rest of the world.
Since 2012, we have been implementing the Action Plan on Boosting Intra-African Trade under seven clusters: trade policy, trade facilitation, productive capacity, trade related infrastructure, trade finance, trade information and factor market integration.
In June 2015, the African Union Summit launched negotiations for the establishment of a Continental Free Trade by December, 2017 and we are facilitating these negotiations.
The CFTA will ensure development of policies on tariffs, non-tariff barriers and free movement of business people across the African continent, thereby boosting investment and trade-with the added results of employment generation, growth of incomes at the household levels and consequently, poverty reduction.
This work requires multi-stakeholder engagement.
In this connection, we are closely liaising with African chambers of commerce, industrial associations, exporters, importers, non-governmental organizations and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs).
We have also been informed by the African Export –Import Bank that they are going in the operations of leasing quality infrastructure to members, especially the equipment for use in laboratories.
With this good news, we requested the organizing committee of this meeting to invite AFREXIM Bank to this august gathering and I am glad that they responded favourably. My expectation is that AFREXIM Bank will become a regular participant in meetings of this nature.
This meeting may also wish to know AFREXIM Bank and ourselves will be partnering to restart the All- Africa Trade Fairs, beginning next year.
We encourage all of you to be regular exhibitors in the All-Africa Trade Fair so that you broaden the knowledge of the public about your activities, a key concern of the African Year of Quality Infrastructure which I will deal with towards the end of this address.
Still on our interventions, let me say we also provide support to African Union Member States in global trade negotiations, such as the World Trade Organization Ministerial meetings, whose eleven edition will be held in Buenos Aries, Argentina towards the end of this year.
In the fields of industry and mining, we are also responsible for implementing the strategy for Accelerated Industrial Development in Africa (AIDA), which is basically the Continent’s industrial policy.
Experts on industrial policy from other continents have highly rated AIDA as being as good as other industrial policies from other parts of the world in as far as content is concerned. Our challenge is to effectively implement it.
Through AIDA, we are rolling out by January next year, Pan African SME and Commodities strategies which will respectively promote entrepreneurship and value addition, both of which are key to Africa’s competitiveness.
We are also facilitating the implementation of the Africa Mining Vision (AMV) which like the Commodities strategy, will assist us in adding value to Africa’s mineral sector.
Distinguished Meeting Participants,
We all realize just how crucial standards and quality are to the success of the initiatives outlined above.
May I then give a few examples of our collaboration with PAQI in these areas.
We are involved in the development of technical barriers to trade (TBT) and sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) measures. These will be appendices to the CFTA legal instrument, which, as I stated earlier, should be finalized by December this year.
We are also involved in the identification of standards and quality requirements in the cassava value chain project, with the ultimate objective of fully implementing the cassava value chain project.
I would, also, like to mention that other departments in the African Union Commission are implementing programmes which can also benefit from collaboration with the PAQI.
These are specifically the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture, Economic Affairs, Infrastructure and Energy; and, Social Affairs.
Distinguished Meeting Participants,
I would like us to recall that despite its importance, the subject of ‘quality infrastructure’ is not on most ordinary citizens’ lips.
It is for this reason that African Union Ministers of Trade saw decided, at their meeting held in June 2014 that the Pan African Quality Infrastructure institutions adopt 2017 as the African Year of Quality Infrastructure (AYQI).
During this year, we are directed by the Ministers to use all opportunities available to highlight the importance of standards and quality assurance in the development of the African continent.
It is for this reason that I suggest you participate in the All-Africa Trade Fair to broaden and deepen public awareness and appreciation of the good work being done in standards and quality assurance.
Still on AYQI, the Ministers also called on governments to fully support Quality Infrastructure institutions in every African country.
We are receiving reports of AYQI activities that have taken place across Africa.
In this connection, I would want to take this opportunity to thank our cooperating partners, in particular the PTB, for their support in the implementation of the AYQI commemoration activities.
May I emphasize that we should all of us not see December 2017 as the end of promoting Quality Infrastructure on the continent. It should be the continuation of an enduring journey.
After December, 2017, work on the development of quality infrastructure on the Continent should grow with the dynamism generated during AYQI.
Let us all build on the momentum that we have established through the commemoration activities.
As I conclude, let me state that I was advised that my statement should be more general than specific to Metrology and AFRIMETS.
From their perspective my Advisors, whom I highly respect for their professionalism, state that Quality Infrastructure is taken as a package in which metrology is as important as the other Quality Infrastructure pillars.
Finally, let me express the hope that we will all move together in the important task of deepening regional and continental integration as well as facilitate trade and industrialization in Africa through our respective contributions. They are all critical.
I thank you all for your kind attention.