Visionary business leaders who grow their brands’ power and revenue in international markets are those who ensure that their goods and services always meet the highest global standards of technical consumer safety and quality.
The importance of rising to meet global standards was highlighted at a recent Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal export seminar that focused on the opportunities for businesses to grow their cross-border trade, under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Bureau Veritas government services director for the Southern Africa District Jean Michel Perret, speaking at the conference and on the sidelines of the event, highlighted how AfCFTA incorporated objectives to eliminate the many ‘unnecessary and unjustifiable technical barriers to trade’ (TBT), and the importance of businesses taking advantage of the opportunity to meet global standards and grow on the continent. Bureau Veritas is a leader in the global testing, inspection and certification market.
Exports set to grow in Africa
The aim of AfCFTA is to grow intra-continental trade in Africa to 60% by 2034 from the current low of just 17%, compared to the EU’s 69%, and Asia’s 59% intra-continental trade levels. Another aim is to suspend/cancel 97% of the customs duties among the current 36 countries that have ratified the agreement.
AfCFTA came into force on 30 May 2019, when the first 24 countries ratified the agreement and trading came into effect on 1 January 2021.
Perret said that in order for businesses to take advantage of AfCFTA and contribute to growth in trade, it was vital to meet export markets’ consumer safety, technical and quality standards.
Perret explained how AfCFTA’s Article 6 from Annex 6 of the Agreement promotes cooperation in standardisation across export markets.
“The recommendation is to ensure that all national standard bodies work together to harmonise standards as much as possible in order to facilitate trade. International standards are the preferred standards to be promoted and adopted,” he said.
In terms of AfCFTA, each state shall promote the adoption of the standards developed by the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) and the African Electrotechnical Standardisation Commission (AFSEC).
“In the last six months a lot of exporters were thinking that thanks to the agreement they could export freely across the continent, which is true to a certain extent, in that yes goods would be able to move easily and that there would be no duties or less duties. But businesses still have to comply with any regulations and standards that exist in that market in order to export,” he said.
Importance of complying with international standards
He added that Article 8 of AfCFTA recommends that all states comply with the World Trade Organisation’s Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement by making use of international standards and conformity assessment procedures.
“AfCFTA also promotes the use of accredited conformity assessment bodies as a tool to facilitate trade amongst the state parties. An accreditation body is responsible for determining, in the public interest, the technical competence and integrity of an organisation such as those offering testing, inspection, calibration and certification services,” Perret said.
In order to offer these services, conformity assessment bodies such as Bureau Veritas are accredited by National Accreditation Bodies such as:
*Comite Francais d’Accreditation, French Committee for Accreditation (COFRAC)
*UK Accreditation System (UKAS)
*South African National Accreditation System (SANAS)
Support to ensure export product compliance
Perret said the stringent assessment and accreditation system ensured that businesses wanting to expand to new export markets were prepared to meet international standards and quality requirements.
“In the process of exporting, always make sure you do your homework at the very beginning and get the support of government entities like Trade and Investment KZN for example, make sure you understand the rules of the market you want to enter and ensure that you comply with the rules,” he said.
Perret added that Bureau Veritas supported businesses by helping them to access markets and helping them to improve the safety and reliability of their products.
“Our services help businesses to grow their market share by improving their brand reputation in the country. We also support our clients by helping them to obtain any new licenses that they might need to operate or remain in their industry in a particular country,” Perret said.
“Complying with international standards enables firms to maintain a high level of quality assurance in order to establish their brands in the export country, grow consumer confidence and build brand power,” he said.
Issued By: Assegai & Javelin
On Behalf of: Bureau Veritas