The West African Quality Programme (WAQP)
There is evidence that improvement in trade regimes can be a key driver of growth and economic development in developing countries - with resultant contributions towards poverty alleviation. Nonetheless, many developing countries including those in the West African sub region are yet to equitably participate in global trade. The key challenges cited include developing a competitive supply capacity – particularly given the existing low levels of industrialization in the agric-commodities sub-sector, and the dearth of quality assurance certification schemes to guarantee that products meet compliance with international market requirements, especially standards and technical regulations.
It is in this backdrop that the West African Quality Programme has evolved. For over a decade, UNIDO has played a lead role in the implementation of quality assurance certification programs in West Africa. Prior to the WAQP, UNIDO implemented a €12 million Quality Programme for eight West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) countries, funded by the European Union. Focusing largely on the agro-industry sector, the programme provided technical expertise in accreditation, standardization, metrology, product testing, and quality promotion aimed at improving the UEMOA produce quality assurance infrastructure.
Through the programme, UNIDO assisted in: establishing a sub regional institutional structure for coordinating standardization, certification and quality promotion; establishing modern national standardization institutes in each country; creating a sub regional accreditation body; training 500 executives/ scientists, 200 private consultants, 53 auditor-evaluators and 50 auditors in the region; adopting standards for 500 key products and giving easy access to international standards; developing a database for the standards and technical regulations of the eight participating countries; and establishing a quality awards system for the best performing enterprises.
Given the successful implementation and achievements of the Quality Programme, the European Union provided further funding for the expansion of the precursor quality programme, from 8 countries to 16 (15 ECOWAS states plus Mauritania) – appropriately named the West African Quality Programme (WAQP). The WAQP aims to foster compliance with international trade rules and regulations, in particular the World Trade Organization agreements on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) measures, through the establishment and strengthening of national and regional quality infrastructure for the entire West African region. WAQP was also streamlined to support the ECOWAS Common Industrial Policy and Trade Development of the region.
Working in close partnership with ECOWAS to ensure sustainability of programme initiatives and achievements, the programme continues to contribute to the development of an enabling business environment that allow enterprises to produce goods that meet market requirements, including public and private standards. A key programme goal is to upgrade quality infrastructure and services for the internationally accepted proof of such compliance. It is envisaged that ultimately, the cost of proving compliance will reduce given the potential economy of scale.
The €14 million programme, financed by the European Union has eight thematic work streams: trade analysis, accreditation, standardization, metrology, product testing, quality promotion, traceability and inspection.