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Trade Ministry & Standards Bureau launch West Africa Quality System Programme for Sierra Leone

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

The Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Sierra Leone Standards Bureau in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, UNIDO on Friday, 26th June, 2015 unveiled the West Africa Quality System Programme for Sierra Leone in Support of the implementation of the ECOWAS Quality Policy (ECOQUAL) funded by the European Union.

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The 1st phase of the West Africa Quality Programme (WAQP) that started in 2001 was just for the (UEMOA/WAEMU- West African Economic and Monetary Union) member countries. Following a successful first phase from 2001 to 2005, the second phase of the West Africa Quality Programme (WAQP) was launched in 2007 and this included the remaining seven ECOWAS member states and Mauritania. The European Union (EU) provided funding for this second phase and technical support came from UNIDO.

The representative of the UNIDO in Sierra Leone who also happens to be the National Technical Coordinator Mr. John Paul Kaisam said the overall objective of the WAQP was to strengthen regional economic integration and trade by creating an environment that facilitates compliance with international trade rules and technical regulations. Of particular importance he said were World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures adding that a prime objective was to increase the competitiveness of enterprises in the region thus enabling them to better integrate into the global economy.

Mr. Kaisam said “the role of testing laboratories in the assurance of the quality of products cannot be over-emphasized”. He said conducting relevant tests on products ranging from the sachet water sold on the streets to processed fruit juices meant for export, testing laboratories provide objective evidence of the compliance or otherwise of products with the requirements of quality demanded by national or international standards. This guarantees public health and safety, since non-conforming products can be identified and removed from the market.

A representative for the acting Minister of Trade and Industry, Merewether Thompson said the presence of representative of national and international institutions in the launching programme shows a reflection on the need to strengthen, upgrade and maintain the national quality infrastructure of Sierra Leone to facilitate trade, enhance exports and accelerate economic development in line with international best practices.

On behalf of the acting Trade Minister, Mr. Thompson said “the overall aim of the programme is to strengthen regional economic integration and international trade participation by creating an environment that facilitates compliance with international trade rules and technical regulations, leading to enhanced competitiveness and to promote sustainable development”. He said that the ECOWAS Quality policy was derived from the West Africa Common Industry Policy which emphasized the need for the establishment of a regional quality infrastructure comprising of metrology, standardization, quality assurances and accreditation. He added that the formulation process of the policy began with the first consultative workshop for national experts held in Mali Bamako where every member state represented made a presentation of its national quality infrastructure and stated whether or not the country had a national quality policy.

He said the government of Sierra Leone has provided financial support to strengthen and upgrade the national quality infrastructure in Sierra Leone by the construction of national standard laboratories to test food products locally manufactured and imported as well as food products meant for export to international markets. He added that the national quality infrastructure will help improve the quality and competitiveness of products, trade promotion, environmental, health and safety of the general public against the dumping of sub-standards and counterfeit products into the country.

A representative of the European Union Stephan Valpart was appreciating for the launch of the West Africa Quality System Programme for Sierra Leone. He made reference for many of the projects the European Union has been supporting in Sierra Leone. He said the Ebola has crippled the economy of the country adding that after Ebola it is a time to wake up the economy of the country again. He noted that Africa is the continent of the future with many potentials and resources and that Asia is focusing in Africa because of these potentials and resources.

The Chairman National standards Council of Sierra Leone, K. B Evans said non compliance with international standards deprive ECOAS Producer’s access to key international markets and has led to a further reduction in global markets shares. He added that the launching of the West Africa Quality System Programme for Sierra Leone should be as an opportunity to reflect on the ECOWAS competitiveness in the global markets.

The Executive Director of the Sierra Leone standards Bureau, James Dumbuya (Ing.) said the first and second phases of the programme which ended in August 2010 and December 2011 respective has contributed significantly to the development of  the ECOWAS Standards harmonization model and the development of the ECOWAS quality policy for the region.

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