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‘West African countries urged to strengthen trade activities’

Governments in the West African Sub-region have been urged to strengthen quality infrastructure institutions to ensure credibility in its trade activities.

According to the Deputy Minister of Trade, Mr Carlos Ahenkorah, consumers are becoming more sophisticated in their choice of purchase, hence the need for conformity in the activities of assessment bodies through testing, calibration, certification, validation and verification.

He said this at the opening of a two-day capacity building workshop for quality assessment experts of the ECOWAS Regional Accreditation system (ECORAS) on the International Standard Organisation (ISO17021-1) yesterday in Accra.

The programme funded by the European Union and implemented by United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) attracted  experts from Ghana, Nigeria, Niger, Benin, Guinea, Cape Verde, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Guinea Bissau attending.

The minister indicated that accreditation bodies must provide assurances of credibility, impartiality, accuracy, transparency of outputs to give confidence that conformity assessment activities are no longer just certificates but an accredited certificates.

“To meet the desires and aspirations of these consumers and citizens the onus lies on governments to strengthen quality infrastructure institutions and build new ones to complete the cycle,” he added.

Mr Ahenkorah stated that the development of accreditation bodies in the sub-region is not only an issue of consumer protection and competitiveness but also an issue of macro-economic importance.

He said Ghana for example spent about one million dollars annually to obtain accreditation services from outside the country, a cost which had been passed on to consumers, leading to increase in price of goods and services which he said, should not be allowed.

The minister said the time had come for member countries to progressively develop a high sense of quality to products.

Mr Ahenkorah stated that the Ministry of Trade and Industry is in the process of establishing a Ghana National Accreditation Service (GhaNAS) to ensure conformity in accreditation and assessment activities in the country.

The UNIDO representative to Ghana and Liberia, Mr Fakhruddin Azizi said the workshop formed part of the West Africa Quality System Programme that focused on improving intra-regional trade.

He stated that the regional accreditation has had encouraging results over the last two years which represents better presence in the African and international accreditation bodies, adding that “17 certificates of accreditations have so far been issued in the Sub-region.”

He charged GhaNAS to speed up its processes and start issuing its first accreditation certificates to enable other countries to benefit from the recognition.

 “With the right skills, people are better prepared for active citizenship, better chance of funding and keeping good jobs and better equiped to set up own business to provide quality products and services.

Mr Azizi urged the participants to continue taking advantage of their vast human and natural resources to achieve higher level of socio-economic progress.

BY LAWRENCE VOMAFA-AKPOALU

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