Dr Joseph Odumodu, SON DG
Nigeria has taken its fight against dumping of fake, substandard and hazardous products on the nation’s market by unscrupulous elements in the international market to the continental level, calling on the entire Africa to present a united front in the battle to surmount the malady.
Even as representatives of over 20 African countries, under the umbrella of the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO), agreed to harmonise standards, in order to boost the chances of African products and services in the global market.
Director General, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Dr Joseph Odumodu, who represented Nigeria at the first-ever Africa Standardisation Day celebration in Yaoundé, Cameroon, called on all other countries in Africa to join hands with Nigeria to battle the problem of dumping, which he said was ravaging all African states.
The African nations under ARSO, on their part, stressed that greater agreement on standards in education policies set out across the continent would allow joint ventures in academic research, innovation exchanges to facilitate import and export of life saving or life changing discoveries.
“Harmonisation of standards set by ARSO would ensure we get speedier results as well as mutually benefitting outcomes. For instance, the building of standardised railway systems with the same gauge across Africa.
“We need to ensure our manufactures adopt high standards in processing and manufacturing goods. This will in turn diversify and improve the export earnings for the continent,” ARSO stated.
Stressing the importance of a common front in the fight against dumping, Odumodu who is also the interim president of ARSO stated: “Africa has enemies who dump products on them at prices that make it impossible for Africa to compete; enemies who dump radioactive products on us without our knowledge because we do not have sophisticated infrastructure to test and detect these things, enemies who prevent us from developing on our own.
“If we fight these enemies as individual countries, we may not have enough capacity or capability to do so. But if we fight these enemies as a continent, it will be a lot more effective because the smaller countries will take advantage of the presence of the larger countries and vice versa and that is where we are going.”
The Nigerian representative at ARSO, Odumodu, will today square up against his counterpart from Malawi, in a keenly contested election, which will produce a substantive president for the continental standards body.
Meanwhile, the SON boss noted that it was for the purpose of prevailing in the intricate battle, which is in most cases against more developed and stronger nations that the continent is strengthening its umbrella standards body, ARSO.
“We are going through rejuvenation in ARSO” Odumodu said. We have had some challenges in the past. Most of these challenges have now been surmounted and we are moving on to achieve more of the objective of the organisation. We have to create projects around which we can all work together to attain our major goals. This is the reason why all the countries of Africa must work together and learn from what others have done. We do not have to reinvent the wheel,” he added.
The Chief Executive of Nigeria’s standards body explained the importance of the various countries in Africa taking advantage of the experiences of all other countries to build a better Africa.
He said to achieve this, ARSO was using the auspices of the regional economic blocs including West Africa, Northern Africa, East, Southern and Central Africa to marshal a unified response to international conspiracies against the emergence of the industrial sector of all African nations.
“There is a lot work going on. We are looking at national standards and harmonising them into regional standards and from there we will move to continental standards and that is why we have the ARSO standards already in place. About 800 standards have already been elaborated. These are original standards not adopted standards, for example, I come from Nigeria and we have standards for cassava mill (Garri processing) and this is original and native to us. So everybody must share from the successes that everyone else has achieved,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, the Chairperson of the International Standards Organisation (ISO) Committee for Developing Countries, Mrs Evah Oduor, lamented the low level of intra-Africa trade, which currently stands at around 10 per cent compared to Europe, a smaller continent in terms of population and land mass, where they trade with themselves to the tune of about 40 per cent.
She also noted that the current 3 per cent Africa contribution to international trade was unacceptable; stressing that ARSO must commit itself to improving these embarrassing statistics.
“Africa must become more assertive, it must make its own standards in order to improve its capacity to trade more effectively in the international scene and a collaborative stance is imperative,” Oduor stated.
“As one person, as one country, you may go very fast in a race but you can only go far if you run along with other countries,” she stressed.
According to her, Africa must develop and standardise local products in order to turn them into world beaters.