West African quality infrastructure entities offer a credible response to the need for expertise in West Africa

The ECOWAS region now has workable quality certification structures. These are operational in most of the technical fields concerned, i.e. standardization, metrology, conformity assessment, accreditation and technical regulations.
The effectiveness of these structures was demonstrated in particular during the organisation of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To this end, the ECOWAS Commission had urgently mobilised its regional harmonization mechanism, ECOSHAM, to develop
essential standards for the production of masks for non-sanitary use and hydro-alcoholic solutions for hand disinfection.
In the area of accreditation, SOAC, the UEMOA Accreditation System, had set up a free capacity-building programme for some 300 technicians in the areas of safety and laboratory accreditation. As mentioned by the Director General of SOAC, "in line with the recommendations of ECOWAS Heads of State in the fight against the pandemic, these laboratories carry out diagnostic tests for the disease and must be able to provide reliable results. Their staff must also learn safety precautions, particularly to avoid being contaminated in the performance of their duties".

ECOWAS accreditation bodies also enjoy greater credibility in the region. Thus, laboratories previously accredited by foreign structures are now addressing the structures established in their region. At the SOAC level, 13 laboratories have started or finalised their request for accreditation to West African entities and the Nigerian National Accreditation Service (NiNAS) has 25 accredited conformity assessment bodies What is the justification for such interest for the structures in the region? For the General Administrator of the CERES LOCUSTOX Foundation in Senegal, the laboratories are determined to comply with the regional regulations set up by the ECOWAS and UEMOA commissions. Three accreditation bodies are now at their disposal: the Ghana National Accreditation Service (GhaNAS, www.moti.gov.gh/ghanas), the NiNAS (www.ninas.ng) and the SOAC (for UEMOA Member States and Guinea, www.soacwaas.org). Cabo Verde, the Gambia, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which do not have national accreditation bodies, can turn to one of these three structures.
It also refers to the impact exerted by the imperatives of a common market under construction, notably with the external tariff and the Continental African Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which advocates referring to regional organizations to boost its competitiveness.
The need for the accreditation system in the region to provide the confidence and trust on goods and services to be traded in AfCFTA informed the drive and commitment of NiNAS in expanding her scope to certification of persons, products and management system. In same vain, NiNAS began accreditation in inspection scopes in June 2020 and The Pan Africa Quality Infrastructure (PAQI), which coordinates the African Quality Infrastructure, has nominated, in February 2020, NiNAS Chief Executive Officer as new Chair. According to him, “Accreditation has enormous role in the fight against spread of COVID-19 because of the need for ensuring that Conformity Assessment of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are reliable and trusted. Accreditation is the mechanism that ensures that these products conform to approved standards before entering our markets”.
However, a number of challenges remain to be met, including the consolidation of the network of accredited laboratories, certification and inspection bodies, the development of standards that meet the expectations of the public and private sectors, the international
recognition of West African accreditation bodies and the operationalization of the ECOWAS Quality Agency (ECOWAQ).GhaNAS, NiNAS and SOAC has huge responsibility of ensuring that our sub region is not leſt behind in AfCFTA due to technical barriers. As accreditation provides basis for equivalence, this will significantly improve market integration and reduce technical barriers to trade in the ECOWAS region. This is a call for ECOWAS Member States to support and embrace accreditation.

Monday, June 8, 2020 - 04:45

This program is funded by the European Union with the technical support of UNIDO, the implementing Agency

The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of the Commision of the European Union