Inadequate regional coordination

Inadequate regional coordination

Many West African countries have neither upgraded nor reorganized their national SPS systems in response to the introduction of the SPS Agreement. These efforts should be harmonized to ensure compliance with ISPMs and SPS standards of major markets. Harmonization of African national standards with currently accepted ISPMs and other international standards should expand Africa's market opportunities since products could then be exported without further intervention to all of the countries with the same standards.

Product rejection

The following cases of rejections and the accompanying rationales are indicative of the challenges that exporters face. These examples are principally cases of bans and restriction of export products in traditional markets, especially the European Union and the United States. Discussions with trade organizations in Nigeria, Ghana and Mali, indicated that cases of rejection are incontrovertible. In most cases, however, rejection results from the refusal of the exporters to supply evidence of certification by the regulatory agencies with the obvious implication that the rejected consignments may not have met national and international standards before they were exported.

There were significant rejections of imports from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean due to microbiological contamination, filth and decomposition between June 1996 and June 1997 (Table 3) (Henson and Loader, 2001). These rejections were attributed to the inability of these countries to meet basic heath requirements for food safety rather than the inability to test for compliance with more sophisticated standards such as those for pesticide residues and heavy metals.

Further evidence on rejection of imports from African countries is provided by a study of exporters in Ghana (Oduro, 2003). Ghanaian exporters have experienced problems with quality and phytosanitary requirements. For example, a shipment of cassava leaf exports was rejected in the UK because of the presence of insects. Reactive training of inspectors who could then identify the insects helped the country to overcome the problem.

National capacities and institutional arrangements

The need to increase consumer protection from health hazards, and the expectation that increased livelihoods will lead to greater demands for food, drugs and other health-related commodities, have led to the establishment of product quality monitoring and control services by public and quasi-public agencies. On the public sector side, SPS capability includes legislation, standards enforcement mechanisms, inspection and certification systems, monitoring and surveillance systems, management structures, trained staff, adequate laboratories and equipment, and communication systems. On the part of the private sector, there are complementary capabilities in production supervision, plant and animal health monitoring, and pest management. These systems together manage national food safety and biosecurity risks, and are expected to operate in a manner consistent with the country's obligations under the SPS Agreement.

The Senegalese peanut sector utilizes 60% of the cultivated land and 80% of the rural labor force in the country. In 2000, 60% of household agricultural income was generated from peanuts, and this sector made up 5% of GDP. Oil-mill peanut (peanut oil and oilcake) and confectionary peanut are the two major commodities from the peanut sector. Senegalese edible peanut products exported to Europe have decreased sharply in recent years, falling from 10,000 tons per year in the 1990s to approximately 500 tons in 2004. A major reason for the decline in peanut exports is stringent aflatoxin regulatory levels (4 ng/g for confectionary peanuts and 20 ng/g for oil-mill peanuts) in Europe. Aflatoxin contamination of edible peanuts occurs mainly in the field, and there is no method of detoxifying edible peanuts during processing at the factory. The agricultural practices for managing aflatoxin are well known and simple (Turner et al., 2005; Waliyar et al., Chapter 18). To follow these practices in the field, growers require support from extension services and incentives to market superior quality products. The cost/benefit analysis of Mbaye (2004) estimated that compliance with international standards for oil-mill production, and confectionary peanuts would accrue net benefits of CFAF 138 billion and CFAF 92 billion, respectively (US$ 1 = CFAF 490). These benefits would result from higher prices for the higher-quality products and the potential for more sales if the products met the quality standards of increasingly demanding markets. Increasing the role of the peanut industry-wide private sector would promote exports through institutional innovations, e.g., aflatoxin testing and certification protocols, training and adoption of good agricultural practices.

Development of trade regulations

The ability of a country to meet SPS requirements depends on several elements including the regulatory, institutional and technical frameworks. Appropriate national legislation for implementation of the SPS is at various stages of development in West Africa. Standards application is not enforced in a number of countries, but others have set up institutions for testing, certification and quality control that are applicable to both domestic products and imported goods. Countries that have evolved quality control and monitoring systems include Côte d'Ivoire, Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo. In Côte d'Ivoire, Benin, Nigeria and Guinea, application of standards to health-related products is compulsory, and Nigeria's environmental standards are compulsory as well. Most African countries base their standards on international standards, which implies that those standards are not substantially different from the international standards (Oyejide et al., 2004). Benin, Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria have standards based on guidelines issued by International Organization for Standards (ISO), The Codex Alimentarius Commission and the African Regional Standards Organization (ARSO). Ghana has a domestic quality standard for exports, while Guinean exporters adopt foreign standards when selling in foreign markets.

Nigeria and Ghana have a reasonably well established body of contemporary legislation and government officials who can administer these regulations. The acceptance by importing countries of the phytosanitary certificates issued by these countries is indicative of the competence of these countries in these fields. In both countries, regulatory agencies to set and enforce standards are in place and appropriate legislation has been enacted to back their operations. In fact, the local legislation relating to standards and technical regulations predates the SPS Agreement in both countries.

In relation to the health and safety of consumer goods in Ghana, technical regulations and standards for the imports are set by the Ghana Standards Board, which is a member of the ISO and the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The Ghana Standards Board was originally established in August 1967 as the National Standards Board and renamed in 1973. The standardization objectives of the Ghana Standards Board include the establishment and promulgation of standards with the objectives of ensuring that high quality goods are produced in Ghana for both domestic consumption and export, promoting standardization in industry and commerce, promoting industrial efficiency and development, and promoting standards to protect public and industrial welfare, health and safety. The Ghana Standards Board also is a member of International Electro-technical Commission (IEC), the International Organization of Legal Metrology (IOLM), and ARSO. It is the officially designated WTO-TBT (World Trade Organization - Technical Barriers to Trade) National Enquiry Point. The Ghana Standards Board is currently supported by the World Bank to seek accreditation of selected tests being conducted at Ghana Standards Board laboratories with the goal of improving the technical competence of the laboratories and improving trade.

The Food and Drugs Law of 1992 that established the Ghana Food and Drug Board invests it with the regulation and control of the manufacture, importation, exportation, distribution, use and advertisements of food, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices and household chemical substances with respect to ensuring their safety, quality and efficacy. The Board licenses and registers all manufacturers and their products and issues export certifications in accordance with international mandatory requirements. The Ghana Food and Drug Board's Quality Control Laboratory provides laboratory services in the form of quality evaluation of foods, drugs, cosmetics and chemical substances.

Enforcement mechanisms

The effectiveness of these standards agencies is weak due to constraints of inadequate equipment, availability of highly skilled technical persons, inadequate capacity in risk assessment, and a limited number of accredited testing laboratories (Waliyar et al., Chapter 31).

Inspection and certification systems

The application and enforcement of SPS by Nigerian standards agencies are based on a monitoring procedure covering food products and consumption. The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principle and a code of practices and general principles of food hygiene to manufacturing process are used in Nigeria. Similar activities also are conducted in Ghana, where there is no laboratory accredited by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to do the requisite tests. The Ghana Food and Drug Board also does laboratory tests. Some pre-shipment agencies operate alongside public standard agencies to effect the inspection and certification systems in the region. In Nigeria, some independent agencies are engaged by the government to verify the quality, quantity, price, financial terms and customs classification of goods imported into Nigeria.

Management structures

Although appropriate legislation is in place, the coordination and inter-agency cooperation mechanisms for the enforcement of these laws in ECOWAS are ineffective. Often the proper definition of roles and responsibilities among agencies is lacking. Public agencies responsible for standards belong to different supervising bodies, each with different targets. This separation may result in different actions for solving the same problem. Exporters also complain about cumbersome paperwork requirements and inefficient document handling.

Private sector participation

Appropriate recognition by the private sector of their role in effectively implementing standards and contributing to the enhancement of competitive production is lacking in many countries. Generally, the public and private sectors have not formed an effective partnership, which results in a lack of effective compliance with the standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment schemes required to improve both domestic and international trade. There are some examples of effective partnerships/cooperative agreements between public and private sector agencies in the region. Associations of manufacturers, traders and exporters also promote standards enforcement through self-regulatory practices. These associations are being used by National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in Nigeria to disseminate relevant information on SPS to their members. Such strong and healthy partnerships between standards agencies and stakeholders will enable the private sector to contribute to the standardization of the regulations they must operate under. Private sector organizations also could collaborate with public agencies to organize training and workshop activities that enhance public/private partnerships in food standard control strategies. Similarly the involvement of consumer organizations provides a strong lobby system that can balance pressure from industry.

Plant and animal health monitoring

There are complementary capabilities in production supervision, plant and animal health monitoring and pest management to monitor food safety and biosecurity risks in a manner consistent with the obligations under the SPS Agreement to facilitate the export of animal and plant products in conformity with the requirement of importing countries. Although legislation on sanitary standards appears to be firmly in place, the enforcement by regulatory authorities of phytosanitary issues is inadequate across the region. To promote the use of phytosanitary measures to ensure food safety standards, the 21st General Assembly of the

Inter-African Phytosanitary Council in Dakar, Senegal, drew attention to the enormous constraints and obstacles to the implementation of phytosanitary standards that exist in Africa, particularly in the areas of phytosanitary and plant protection regulation, capacity building in pest risk analysis, pest surveillance and phytosanitary inspection. Other areas of concern were certification as well as import control and transparency issues.


Food safety standards and the trade-off between these standards and agricultural export growth are currently at the forefront of the trade policy debate. How food safety is addressed in the world trade system is critical for the developing countries of West Africa that continue to rely on agricultural exports. In a fragmented system of conflicting national food safety standards, contentious globally accepted standards and limited capacity for certification, export prospects for the ECOWAS countries may be severely limited.

SPS regulations imposed on agricultural products affect trade patterns, the ability of exporters to enter new markets, and consumer costs. The number of SPS measures has steadily increased over time. These measures may be justified and appropriate compliance measures should be taken, but there are numerous inherent difficulties, detentions and complaints against food exporters from developing countries that reflect real SPS problems and that are not simply non-tariff barriers masquerading as SPS measures.

Significant donor resources are needed to strengthen national capacities. Large donors have a role in facilitating capacity-building programs. The Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) is a global program in capacity building and technical cooperation established by FAO, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the World Bank, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the WTO. Countries such as Benin and Guinea have benefited from STDF funding. The similarities between the countries offer the opportunity for cooperation at a regional level for harmonization of capacity building strategies. For example, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has received funding from the African Development Bank in 2005 to strengthen SPS capacity and harmonization in member states of this Regional Economic Commission. Local institutions can enhance the effectiveness of development assistance programs by increasing their relevance, cost efficiency and sustainability.

The relevant institutions in these fields, however, face formidable problems. Some of these problems include: (i) the existence of significant numbers of plant pests and diseases, (ii) the threat of introduction of other serious pests and diseases, and (iii) food safety controls, especially in local food distribution chains and for street vendors, that are either rudimentary or completely lacking. It is difficult, if not impossible, to make land borders impervious to uncontrolled imports of plants and animal products, movement of wild animals and the seasonal incursions of pests and domesticated animals from one area to another.

The way forward

The major challenge for West African countries relates to capacity inadequacy at both the national and the regional levels. There is an acute need for appropriate policy responses to deal with capacity constraints. A number of trade and trade-related capacity building initia tives for Africa already exist or are in the planning stages. National training programs should be designed to educate technical personnel in laboratories in both the private and the public sectors. Since capacity constraints are a cross-cutting issue, regional training programs would provide multiple benefits including enhanced regional cooperation based on a common understanding of the growing concern about the problem of food safety.

SPS Agreements should allow sufficient time for developing countries to adjust and implement new regulations and they also should be provided with appropriate technical assistance to enhance their expertise. West African countries also need to be pro-active in the enactment of legislation to adapt local standards to the requirements of external markets, i.e., national standards should be based on recommendations from the National Codex Committee. Appropriate provision should be made for the periodic revision of these standards based on changes in the export markets particularly for significant exports. Efforts should be made to ensure that details of methodology, risk assessment and other factors are taken into consideration and shared with exporters.

Export development organizations in West African countries need to concentrate their efforts on building infrastructure and disseminating information to improve standards compliance in specific sectors. In some cases, exporters are simply unaware of the available support to enhance trade promotion in spite of awareness-raising programs promulgated by the standards agencies. Trade agencies also need to build partnerships to help them comply with export standards and related requirements and to use available sources of advice and support from within the importing country. Development of adequate capacity in SPS and other regulatory issues will allow West Africa to compete as an equal partner in global trade and by so doing address the economic constraints that are the foundation of many of the region's development needs.


We thank the Canadian International Development Agency for supporting this research.


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