To support the standardization and competitiveness of ECOWAS enterprises, while ensuring compliance with international best practices, the Ministry of Commerce through the National Standards Laboratory yesterday launched the West African Quality System Programme (WAQSP).
It is also intended to develop a sustainable quality infrastructure in order to facilitate trade and encourage the establishment of a West African Common market.
The project is being funded by the European Union (EU) through the United Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and held at the National Standards Laboratory (NSL), Ministry of Public Works.
According to Steve Mambu, National Training Coordinator of the NSL, the first phase of the WAQSP started in 2001 and was just for the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA/WAEMU) member countries. Following the successful first phase from 2001 to 2005, the second phase was launched in 2007, which included the remaining seven ECOWAS member states, together with Mauritania, through funds donated by the EU through UNIDO.
He disclosed that the overall objective of the programme is to strengthen regional economic integration and trade by creating an environment that facilitates compliance with international trade rules and technical regulations of particular importance which are World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreements on Technical Barrier to Trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures.
“Five thematic areas were supported by the programme both at regional and national levels including Quality Promotion, Quality Policy, Quality Infrastructure and Standardization, Metrology and Accreditation,” he recalled.
Mambu explained that the programme made achievements at the Regional and National levels, specifically for Liberia, as it enabled the country to set up its national quality infrastructure namely the National Standards Laboratory, actualizing the functionality of the institution in services to private and public sectors of the country.
He disclosed that WAQSP’s further support the country in the area provision of rehabilitation and equipment for the testing labs (Chemical and microbiology labs) and the metrology/calibration lab; training of the technical staff of these laboratories; and upgrading of local enterprises for international certification for the recognition of the local products, all supported the development of the National Quality Policy, designing of this state-of-the-art metrology building and payment of membership fees to ISO, OIML, and others.
According to him, the Programme conducted a circular mission in 2008 by an international laboratory expert for an in-depth assessment on microbiology, physical and pesticides testing laboratories, as well as metrology and calibration labs.
Representing the Minister of Commerce and Industry, deputy minister for administration Frantz Che Sawyer, said given the challenges of globalization and the important role industry plays in national development over the years, ECOWAS has recognized that regional integration and cooperation through industrialization is one of the major interventions in ensuring that West African Countries benefit from tremendous gains of ever-increasing global trade.
Minister Sawyer said ECOWAS member states reaffirmed their commitment to industrialization vehicle for the development and efficient implementation of the West Africa Common Industry Policy (WACIP), which motivated the establishment of ECOWAS.
The WACIP, according to Deputy Minister Sawyer, was formulated to implment the ECOWAS Revised Treaty of 1993, with a vision “to maintain a solid industrial structure which is globally competitive, environmentally friendly and capable of significantly improving the living standards of the people by 2030,” he said, quoting the treaty.
The implementation of the past quality programs in support of the WACIP has had significant and profound impact on regional and national economies, he said.
As a beneficiary of the past West Africa Quality Program , Liberia has, through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, developed key national policies and strategies that are in line with regional efforts which include National Trade Policy, Industrial Policy and National Export Strategy.
Minister Sawyer lauded the European Union for its financial support towards ensuring that ECOWAS region-trade capacity is enhanced to take advantage of immense opportunity of Global Trade.
He also praised UNIDO for its support to implementing previous quality programs and called on all national stakeholders to cooperate and support the building of a national platform to ensure
Liberia’s fullest participation and accrue the benefits that the WASQP offers.