Nigeria Urges African Nations to Strengthen SME Training and Trade Standardization

The Federal Government of Nigeria has called on African nations to invest more in the training of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to enhance trade standardization and boost economic growth across the continent. The government reaffirmed its commitment to promoting education and technical standards as key drivers for increasing intra-African trade.

During the ongoing 30th General Assembly of the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) in Abuja, the Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment, Doris Anite, emphasized the critical role of standardization in fostering sustainable development and enhancing the continent’s economic integration. The assembly, themed “Educate an African Fit for the 21st Century – Building a Quality Culture – One Market, One Standard,” brought together African ministers to discuss the challenges of technical barriers to trade in Africa and the need for harmonizing and implementing African standards.

Representing the minister, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Nura Rimi, underscored the importance of implementing standards to drive sustainable development, innovation, and export-oriented manufacturing. He highlighted that compliance with quality requirements and globally recognized quality infrastructure is essential for successful and sustainable exports.

“Standardization is a cornerstone for economic efficiency, facilitating trade, and building trust through guaranteed specifications and quality requirements,” said Anite. She further stressed the interconnectedness of education, sustainable development, industrialization, and trade, with standardization playing a pivotal role for the government and stakeholders alike.

The minister called for a deeper understanding of standards among policymakers, especially in light of rapidly advancing technologies like artificial intelligence. She also emphasized the need to equip African youth with relevant skills to foster innovation within SMEs, which is crucial for achieving Africa’s industrial development and integration agenda.

“This meeting also highlights the need to equip African youth with relevant skills and SMEs with innovative tendencies necessary for Africa’s industrial development and integration agenda, as provided under the AfCFTA, to create awareness of the role of standardization in sustainable development to catch up with the rest of the world,” Anite added.

Anite assured stakeholders of the government’s unwavering support for ARSO’s mission, which aligns with the objectives of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). She pointed out that the AfCFTA aims to significantly boost intra-African trade by reducing tariffs and non-tariff barriers, potentially increasing trade by up to USD 35 billion annually.

“AfCFTA could stimulate intra-African trade by up to USD 35 billion per year,” she said, calling for robust collaboration among ARSO member states to implement the AfCFTA’s Common Regulatory Framework, particularly in areas related to technical barriers to trade. This cooperation is expected to enhance intra-African trade, industrialization, and economic diversification.

In his remarks, Ifeanyi Okeke, the Director General of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), emphasized the organization’s commitment to fostering a culture of quality and knowledge transfer through standardization. He highlighted the forum as an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss the role of standardization in future development needs for Africa, including promoting the competitiveness of SMEs and “Made in Africa” products in terms of safety and quality.

“Standardization is not merely about setting guidelines; it is about fostering a quality culture that permeates every aspect of our lives. It ensures that our products and services meet international benchmarks, enhance competitiveness, and facilitate trade. This vision of ‘One Market, One Standard’ is integral to achieving the aspirations of the African Continental Free Trade Area,” Okeke stated.

Alexander Dodoo, President of ARSO, urged African countries to leverage trade standards to address the continent’s challenges effectively. He emphasized the need for African solutions to African problems, warning that without meaningful job creation, Africa’s youth might continue to seek opportunities abroad, leading to what he termed a “new slave trade.”

“We have to create African solutions for African problems; otherwise, quality education will be meaningless. Our biggest challenge is our jobs, and our youth are going across borders in a new form of slavery because we have not created meaningful jobs for them,” Dodoo concluded.

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