WEST AFRICA – The Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) Commission and the European Union (EU) have developed standards for the certification of some major products to boost the level of international trade.

The certification programme, funded by the EU, is being implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) under the West Africa Quality System Programme, reports The Punch.

Among the priority products selected by the fifteen member states in the regional economic union include water, cashew nuts, vegetable oil and fish.

It is targeted at ensuring that the products brought into the ECOWAS market by members states and other African countries meet a level of quality and safety in compliance with the technical standards and regulations.

The certification programme also seeks to ensure transparency between companies and users of information on the characteristics and performance of the products.

Speaking during a meeting in Abuja, the ECOWAS Representative for Industry and Private Sector Promotion, Yaya Niato, said the standards would assist buyers, sellers and other stakeholders to agree on the procedures for conformity assessment.

This, according to him, would help to avoid delays and the multiplication of inspection operations in terms of testing or product certification.

Niato said the need to boost the level of intra-African trade, which according to him stood at about 12 per cent, and product competitiveness informed the move.

“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 the consumers and the environment.

“Intra-regional trade is very low at about 12 per cent in Africa. So, we are working hard to make it better,” he said.

Also speaking, the National Programme Officer, UNIDO, Dr Osuji Otu, stated that with the programme, the aim of sustainability for the ECOWAS Quality Infrastructure Scheme would be achieved.

“UNIDO’s vision for inclusive and sustainable industrial development stands on three pillars which are; improving economic competitiveness, create and share prosperity, and protecting the environment to allow an inclusive and sustainable industrial development.

“The success of a mark requires the existence of expertise in several areas, including in the field of calibration, standardisation, technical regulations, and testing, to name only those.

“Therefore, the support of UNIDO covers inclusively all these needs,” he added.