The President of the International Standards Organisation (ISO), Mr John Walter, is urging Ghana and other African countries to develop unique products and services that can be exported to the rest of the world.
That, he said, was to help spur rapid development on the continent.
He said that could be done by deliberately supporting Small, Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to develop products and services that were not available in other parts of the world.
“You will have very specific products or services all across Africa that no other region in the world have which must be developed,” he told the Daily Graphic at the 42nd ISO General Assembly in Cape Town, last Thursday.
Mr Walter, who steps down as the President of the ISO at the end of the year, said “In my home country of Canada, we have seen situations where we have approached SMEs and they would have one product that is unique in the world and we have supported them into global brands”.
For instance, he said, there was a company in Canada that developed DNA testing but didn't meet the required global standards.
As a result, he said, the government of Canada, through its Standards Authority, helped the company to meet the standards.
Ghana News Headlines
“They found a way to do that testing on site other than in a laboratory , but the standards said that the testing had to be done in the laboratory so we helped them go get the standards changed and now they have a worldwide market.
“I will bet you that there are hundreds of those kinds of examples on this continent,” Mr Walter said.
Mr Walter explained that emerging economies could develop rapidly on the back of innovation if proper measures were put in place to ensure that all products and services exported to the world met the international standards or the standards of the identified market.
“It’s about being innovative, it is to look at what is it that we are doing that is unique and how can that be exported to the world but the challenge is you need to meet the standards of wherever your market is,” he said.
With the coming into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which is expected to increase intra-African trade by 52 per cent by 2022, according to the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Mr Walter said there was a “huge” opportunity for Africa to speed up its development.
He said such cooperation was healthy and could help position Africa as a giant in the global economy.
“You have a huge opportunity now with the Africa Free Trade Agreement, particularly the cooperation between the African countries on standards.
“This year has been amazing, for ISO, our three policy committees all met in Africa, the General Assembly in Africa and the President of ISO who comes after me is from Kenya,” he said.
Key to growth
Mr Walter said collaboration between African countries on standards was key and could be a springboard for the advancement of the AfCFTA.
“African countries must get together as a group so that they can assume positions in ISO and other international technical commissions to get your products to standards accepted worldwide,” he said.
Touching on the importance of products to meet standards, Mr Walter said, “First of all, the industry players must be mindful of the standards of their market and from a certification point of view, your authorities need to ensure that nothing leaves the country that doesn't meet the right standards”.