Paving the way for trade in sub-Saharan Africa

Online since 3.03.2016 • Filed under Press Release • From Issue 3 - March 2016 - August 2016
Paving the way for trade in sub-Saharan Africa

Intertek, a world leader in Conformity Assessment Programmes, provides insight into addressing the barriers to trade in sub-Saharan Africa through the use of cargo scanning, conformity programmes, and pre-shipment inspections and verification.

WITH much of the population of sub-Saharan Africa living below the poverty line, there is a pressing need to create a favourable environment for regional and international trade and investment. This will boost job opportunities and sustainable economic growth, resulting in increased access to health care, education and better standards of living

Barriers to trade

Sub-Saharan African countries face external trade barriers that include:

• High import tariffs, which make it difficult for products to compete in some markets. • Export programmes, which can be complicated or restrictive. • Rules of origin about proof of where different products (and all their components or ingredients) come from. • The lack of conformity regarding inter-regional agricultural quality standards, which hampers trade as there is often no comparison between countries’ standards. Because of this, products that meet requirements in one country may be rejected by another. • Complicated health and safety requirements relating to food and agricultural products that put African products and producers at a disadvantage. • Problems obtaining export permits, quality certificates, and other documents from different countries to process transactions.

Some of the other more general issues that make trade with sub-Saharan Africa challenging include: • Poor infrastructure such as roads, bridges and ports, and the effect this has on accessibility and transport costs. • Under-developed telecommunications systems and access to technology. • Lack of political stability and peace. • Corruption and illegal trade. • Poor exchange rates. Many of these issues have no quick or easy solutions, and are exacerbated by external factors – for instance, a lack of confidence in financial markets and reduced consumption from global partners such as China. In addition, sub-Saharan African economies can take strain from conditions beyond its control, such as the severe drought brought on by the current El Niño climate cycle. However, some of these challenges have solutions that are within reach when working with ATIC (Assurance, Testing,  Inspection and Certification) companies, which offer quality control and inspections that are fundamental to all businesses involved in the import and export of products. These services help protect consumers, brands and company reputations by minimising defective merchandise, customer complaints, non-compliant products and late/short shipments, making trade within the region more profitable and attractive.

Why the need for quality controls and inspections?

Unsafe and unreliable products can cost a country many millions of dollars each year through replacement costs for products that do not last as long as they should, and also in compensation because of injury, death or damage to property. Without any form of regulation, countries are at risk of being supplied with sub-standard products or counterfeit goods that are likely to fail the most basic safety requirements, endangering not only consumers but the local economy too. In countries where the safety and performance requirements of the importing country or region are not always understood, or may even be deliberately ignored for financial gain, there is even more need for control measures.

Options for stakeholders

Some of the quality control and inspection solutions available to governments, customs departments and industry include:

Cargo scanning  In a global marketplace where illicit cross border trade is still thriving, supply chain security has never been more crucial. Customs need to prevent illegal transport of drugs, arms, other illegal goods, and migrants. Cargo scanning can play a critical role in the non-intrusive inspection of import, export and security controls. When combined with effective profiling methods, the use of non-intrusive scanners can greatly improve customs and security functions by screening cargo flows at sea and land borders.

Pre-shipment inspection Pre-shipment inspections (PSI) and Pre Export Verification Services may be mandated by the government of the importing country. Governments demand that the inspection programme should ensure that the price charged by the exporter reflects the true value of the goods, and that the standard of goods being received meet the country’s requirements. Presently, a number of countries in Africa only require inspections on shipments above a certain value. However, in some instances inspections are necessary for all imported products, regardless of the value.

Standards programmes

Manufacturers need to be able to verify that the products manufactured, shipped and distributed under their brand names meet industry and government regulations. To address this, many countries around the world have implemented and enforced safety standards to ensure that products imported, sold and used within their countries are safe. However, it is not enough for a country to merely publish safety standards. These standards must be enforced. Conformity Assessment Programmes have been widely adopted around the developed world to ensure compliance with the standards. However, this has had the effect of forcing unsafe and unreliable products into emerging economies, adding increasing pressure for the African continent to implement the use of Conformity Assessment Programmes to assist Governments to enforce these standards at the point of export. International standards are selected wherever possible, which means that reputable manufacturers are able to comply with very little effort and, as programmes are usually paid for by exporters, the costs do not have to be carried by the government, or importers.

Benefits of Conformity Assessment Programmes include:

• Ensuring product conformity to standards prior to shipping. • Ensuring correct quantities are being shipped. • Minimising the amount of defective merchandise. • Reducing customer complaints because of inferior products. • Detecting merchandise containing non-standard or noncompliant components.

• Eliminating or reducing late shipments. • Ensuring contractual quantity and quality specifications are as per purchase orders and letters of credit. • Preventing the dumping of poor quality and sub-standard products, thus helping domestic manufacturers to compete fairly. • Assisting when disputes occur, as certificates can form the basis for settling claims either between the parties or through underwriters. • Offering supply chain security. • Preventing the transportation of illegal and undeclared goods. • Improving the security of trade and transportation. • Ensuring compliance with Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) and US or EU regulations regarding movement of goods and vessels through ports. Utilisation of these methods of quality control and inspections minimise risk and provide long-term benefit to sub-Saharan countries that are looking to grow their economies and ensure sustainable success. It is worth noting that one size does not necessarily fit all – the different countries within the region each have their own conformity programmes in place. However, there are usually a number of ATIC service providers within each country that can offer assistance on the country-specific services needed. Although there is obviously a long way to go in addressing the other barriers to trade in sub-

Saharan Africa, the use of cargo scanning, conformity programmes, and pre-shipment inspections and verification will help reduce risk and make trade within sub-Saharan Africa easier and more profitable.

Issue 3 - March 2016 - August 2016

Issue 3 - March 2016 - August 2016

This article was featured in SABI Magazine Issue 3 - March 2016 - August 2016 .

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