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Adopt quality policies now -- Deputy Trade Minister urges African governments

BY: From Kester Aburam Korankye, Yaounde, Cameroun
Michael Baafi (2nd left), speaking at the event. With him are Professor Alex Nii Dodoo (left), Erin Crowley (2nd right), and Temwa Gondwe (right).

A deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Michael Baafi has called on African governments to develop and adopt a national quality policy (NQP) to help facilitate a harmonised standards regime across the continent.


He said when collectively adopted, the NQP would guide the creation of quality infrastructures that would enhance trading under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and deepen economic growth.

“If we are going to exploit the full potential of AfCFTA, we need to harmonise standards across Africa and there is no better way to do that than putting in place the right policies, so let us get our national quality policies proved and move towards harmonisation,” he said.

Mr Baafi was contributing to a panel discussion on “The impact of harmonised African standards in promoting the pharmaceutical industry’s growth” at the 28th African Standards Organisation (ARSO) General Assembly in Yaounde, Cameroun on Wednesday.

The panel included the Director-General of the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), Professor Alex Nii Dodoo, the Senior Manager in charge of Intra-African Trade Initiative at the Africa Exim Bank (Afreximbank), Temwa Gondwe and the Chief Scientific Officer of Q Laboratories, Erin Crowley.

Huge market potential

Mr Baafi said there was huge market potential for the pharmaceutical companies in Africa that could propel economic growth if there was a harmonised standards regime in place built on national quality policies.

He said for instance, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimates that Africa imports about 94 per cent of its pharmaceutical and medicinal needs from outside the continent at an annual cost of $16 billion.

“This is a huge market and Africa cannot fail this time because we want to be part of a new Africa where we are able to establish policies that would help us harmonise our standards to avoid duplications that could create problems in trade. so my advice is that let us push for harmonisation for the development of Africa,” he said.

Agreement

Responding to a question on how quality infrastructure could enhance local pharmaceutical production and deliver financial solutions, Mr Gondwe said for industrialisation to be effective in Africa, there should be collective implementation of trade and economic agreement across the continent.

“There has to be a uniform implementation of our trade agreements that we have agreed on at the continental level because AfCFTA is only an agreement but how it is implemented is at the national level and there must be a uniform implementation to harness its full potential,” he said.

He said the Afreximbank will continue to support the harmonisation of standards and position it as the bedrock for industrialisation.

Enforcement

For his part, Prof. Dodoo said to develop the pharmaceutical industry, there must be collaborations between national standards bodies and national medicine regulatory agencies.

He said there was also the need for countries to adopt harmonised standards to create uniformity and help build trust.

“The biggest gap in the regulation of medicine in Africa is the pace at which countries adopt, so how do we ensure that all countries on the continent adopt harmonised standards to build trust,” he said.

He said most regulatory agencies in Africa did not have the financial muscle to operate with and therefore rely on licensing fees and other charges to manage their operations.

That he said could hinder the adoption of harmonised standards if trust is not built and agreements are not reached on how to share proceeds.

Touching on the infiltration of counterfeit medicines on the African market, he said in most cases, counterfeit medicines were linked to poverty or choosing cheap over quality.

However, he said regulatory agencies must build the capacity to strengthen its enforcement mandate and apply it in a way that facilitates trade.

“Enforcement can help drive away counterfeit but we all know that over enforcement could disrupt trade so regulators must find the balance,” he said.