Nigerian Government Urges African Nations To Enhance SME Training

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The Federal Government of Nigeria has tasked African countries to invest more in the training of Small and Medium Enterprises to improve trade standardisation and boost the continent’s economy.

This was as the government has reiterated its commitment to promoting education and technical standards as key drivers for enhancing intra-African trade.

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Doris Anite said this during the ongoing 30th General Assembly of the African Organisation for Standardisation, held in Abuja with the theme, “Educate an African Fit for the 21st Century – Building a Quality Culture – One Market, One Standard.”

The event converging African minister is to discuss the challenges of technical barriers to trade in Africa through harmonisation and implementation of the African standards and conformity assessment system.

The minister, represented by the permanent secretary of the ministry, Nura Rimi, emphasised the critical role of implementing standards in fostering sustainable development, innovation, and export-oriented manufacturing, underscoring the vital link between education, sustainable development, industrialization, and trade.

She said successful and sustainable exports depend on compliance with quality requirements of standards for goods and services based on globally recognised Quality Infrastructure.

According to her, Standardisation is a cornerstone for economic efficiency, facilitating trade, and establishing trust through guaranteed specifications and quality requirements.

She said, “This theme draws my attention (I believe yours too) to the 21st Century symbiotic relationship between education, sustainable development, industrialisation and trade; with standardization being a strategic pillar for us as a government, stakeholders and as well as the standardization community in general.”

The minister stressed the need for policymakers to gain a deeper understanding of standards, especially in the context of rapidly advancing technologies such as artificial intelligence.

Anite further emphasised the need to equip African youth with relevant skills to foster innovation among small and medium-sized enterprises which is crucial for achieving Africa’s industrial development and integration agenda.

She added, “This meeting also points out the need to equip the African youth with relevant skills and SMEs with innovative tendencies needed for the 21st Africa’s Industrial Development and Integration Agenda as provided under the AfCFTA to create awareness on the role of standardization in sustainable development to catch up with the rest of the world.”

She further assured stakeholders of the government’s unwavering support for ARSO’s mission as it aligns with the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement.

By reducing tariffs and non-tariff barriers, Anite said AfCFTA aims to significantly boost intra-African trade, with projections indicating an increase of up to USD 35 billion per year.

“It may also interest you to know that AfCFTA could stimulate intra-African trade by up to USD 35 billion per year.” she said.

The minister therefore called for a robust collaboration among ARSO member states to implement AfCFTA’s Common Regulatory Framework, particularly in areas related to technical barriers to trade. This collaboration is expected to enhance intra-African trade, industrialization, and economic diversification.

In his remarks, the Director General, of Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Ifeanyi Okeke, said that the organization is committed to fostering a quality culture and transfer of knowledge through standardization which is significant progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

He added that the forum presents an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss the role of standardization in future-facing development needs for Africa.

This includes the need for promoting the competitiveness of Africa’s SMEs and Made in Africa Products (with regards to safety and quality) and Regional Value Chains for improved Export oriented Manufacturing, Value addition and Industrialisation for which the development of effective Quality Infrastructure based on internationally recognised quality policy remains a pillar.

“Standardisation, as we all may agree, 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. It is about creating a unified market where quality is the norm, not the exception. This vision of “One Market, One Standard” is integral to achieving the aspirations of the African Continental Free Trade Area,” he said.

Also speaking, at the event, Alexander Dodoo, the president of ARSO called on African countries to use the standards of trade to change the narrative for Africa.

“We have to create African solutions for African problems if not quality education will be meaningless, Our biggest challenge is our jobs, our youths are going across borders in the new slave trade because we have not created meaningful jobs for them,” he said.

 

Punch news/ Olusola Akintonde

 

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