The African Union (AU) is a multinational body made up of 55 Member States from the African continent. The AU was officially launched in 2002 as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU, 1963-1999). In January 2011, with the aim to boost low intra-African trade, the AU Summit opted to fast-track the establishment of a Pan-African Free Trade Area under the theme “Boosting Intra- Africa Trade”. Today, the headquarters of the AU are located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a flagship project of the African Union’s Agenda 2063. The free trade area creates a market of 1.2 billion people with a combined GDP of $3 trillion. The AfCFTA aims at accelerating intra-African trade and boosting Africa’s trading position in the global market by strengthening Africa’s common voice and policy space in global trade negotiations.
The AfCFTA Secretariat administers its implementation and has officially opened in Accra, Ghana on 17 August 2020. Trading under the AfCFTA was originally planned for 1. July 2020 but was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, the official trading started on 1. January 2021. As of February 2021, 36 countries have ratified the AfCFTA agreement.
The PAQI platform was officially inaugurated on 30 August 2013 by the Director for Trade and Industry of the African Union Commission. Its members which include the African Accreditation Cooperation (AFRAC), the Intra-Africa Metrology System (AFRIMETS), the African Electrotechnical Standardisation Commission (AFSEC) and the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) have formalised their collaboration as cooperation partners of the Pan-African Quality Infrastructure (PAQI) Joint Committee by signing a Memorandum of Understanding. PTB supported the establishment of PAQI and its respective structures as the voice of quality infrastructure in Africa.
AFRAC, which was founded in 2010, brings accreditation bodies, cooperating sub-regional accreditation bodies and stakeholders together. Its headquarters are located in Pretoria, South Africa. AFRAC focuses on supporting industry by providing internationally recognised and accepted accreditation. These efforts facilitate trade and contribute to public health and safety as well as environmental protection.
AFRIMETS was established in 2006 with the aim of developing metrology activities in Africa and to connect the regional measurement system internationally. The 48 member countries are organised in 7 sub-regional metrology organisations that promote both scientific and legal metrology in their economic blocks and organises the participation of their metrology institutes in the regional metrology organisation (RMO) activities. AFRIMETS is particularly focused on supporting metrology and related efforts in Africa and aims to facilitate intra-African and international trade while ensuring public health and safety as well as environmental protection. AFRIMETS’ secretariat is located in Pretoria, South Africa.
AFSEC was established in 2008 as a result of a collaborative effort among stakeholders to respond to the need for the harmonisation of electrotechnical standards to ensure the reliable and safe operation of the evolving pan-African power grid. Since 2019, the AFSEC Secretariat has been located in Cairo, Egypt. It is hosted by the Egyptian Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy. AFSEC’s vision is to enhance Africa’s development and competitiveness through excellence in electrotechnical standardisation. This will be achieved by encouraging and engaging experts, young professionals, manufacturers, private sector, the academia etc. to be involved in developing standards through joining and participating in AFSEC Technical Committees.
ARSO, located in Nairobi, Kenya, is Africa’s intergovernmental standards body. It was founded in 1977 and its members are the national standards bodies. ARSO develops and harmonises standards and conformity assessment procedure intended to enhance intra-African trade capacity, increase the global competitiveness of Africa’s products and services and to improve the lives of African consumers. This continental standardisation body has the ability to positively influence the future prospects of Africa’s references in international trade.