L – R Sen Koue Bi Alphonse – Ambassador/ Director, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,Ambassador Kalilou Traore – Ivorian Ambassador to Nigeria Mr. Tersoo I. Orngudwem Director ,Product Certification Directorate and Mr. Usman Sheshe Mohammed – Deputy Director,Head of World Trade Organisation Unit

In a bid to strengthen bilateral trade relationships within the West African Sub-region, the Director-General (DG) Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Mallam Farouk Salim recently played host to the Ivorian envoy to Nigeria, Ambassador Kalilou Traore, and representatives of the National Bureau of Technical Studies and Development (BNETD) of Cote d’Ivoire at the SON Corporate headquarters in Abuja

In his opening remarks, the Director-General of SON, Mallam Farouk Salim, represented by Mr Tersoo I. Orngudwem, the Director of Product Certification stated that the meeting was long overdue, especially with the recent upsurge in intra-African trade which was indicative of the new era of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

According to Salim, the emerging influence of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the move by the African Regional Organisation for Standards (ARSO) to harmonise Standards for the building of continental capacity and facilitating trade between African Nations have made it imperative for bi-lateral trade collaborations between countries.

The DG indicated that although the meeting was convened at the instance of the Ivorian Foreign Affairs Ministry, it would allow for a robust exchange of ideas that will bolster the trade relationships through the collaborations of the National Standards Bodies of both countries.

In his remarks, Ambassador Traore revealed that the purpose of the visit to SON was to deliberate on how to advance from the present levels of cooperation and explore other ways to strengthen the existing trade operations between the two countries.

The Ambassador added that the visit will help in educating his team on the harmonisation of Standards, different processes, guidelines, and expectations concerning exports of goods into Nigeria, calibration of equipment, and other technical specification variances, between both countries and within the region at large.

Traore revealed that in line with World Trade Organisation (WTO) requirements, the delegation would like to find out about SON’s conformity assessment schemes, mutual recognition of National certification marks, product acceptability, and the removal of trade barriers to deepening bilateral relationships between the two countries.

The DG in his response enumerated requirements such as the Standards Organisation of Nigeria Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP) for goods imported into the country and the Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme (MANCAP) for locally manufactured products and services as programs put in place by SON.

According to the DG, “in the sub-region, there is a committee comprising of legal experts set up by ECOWAS to review and harmonise standards and technical regulations differences by removing barriers which date back to the colonial era affecting trade in the region”.

Salim added that the harmonisation team is tasked with building a framework that will allow for collaboration on a regional level for mutual recognition, such that if a product originates from Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria can depend on the certification of the National Standards Body in that country to allow such products into the Nigeria market and vice versa.

“This regional framework will facilitate the market accessibility of products that bear symbols/marks of standards or a test report from an accredited lab or standard body which are recognized and acceptable within the region,” he said.

The DG reassured further that SON is open to signing an MOU with BNETD for the acceptability of each Nation’s conformity assessment programs so that goods originating from both countries will enjoy a free flow of trade and patronage.

Members of the SON Management team present were Engr. Bede Obayi, the Director, NMI, Engr. Yahaya A. Bukar, Deputy Director Product Certification, Barrister Nura Imam, Deputy Director Legal, Mr Usman Mohammed, Deputy Director World Trade Organisation, and Mrs Chioma Chudi-Anaukwu of the WTO Unit, along with other members of staff in attendance.

The Delegates from Cote d’Ivoire present were Sen Koue Bi Alphonse – Ambassador/ Director, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abre Nantcho Tartin, Counselor Trade and Economic Affairs, and Dikongue Vivien, (interpreter), Gahe Lil Eln, Ouompie Elloh Cyprien, Kouassi Oufflet, Name N’dri Audrey, all Staff of the BNETD.

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