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Strategic Programme 4 : Standards and Regulations

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2. Main challenges

How can Africa benefit from the Livestock Revolution? What options exist for trade, given entry requirements and trade preferences? What veterinary and food safety standards are required for different trade options? What does this imply for the control and management of TADs? Do the new conditions of trade and market access, and disease dynamics, particularly in light of emerging diseases, suggest that new options be sought? What are these options? Who are the likely winners and losers of different scenarios for the future, and how does this affect the poor?

These are some of the questions at the core of AU-IBAR's mandate that policymakers in Africa need to address. The challenges include:

  • How to ensure effective participation by stakeholders along the supply chain in the development of standards and promotion of compliance at different levels.
  • How to ensure that Member States adopt international standards and regulations and invest in monitoring their application.
  • How to increase returns for compliance with international standards and regulations at both national and regional levels.
  • How to mobilize, use effectively and further develop the available competencies and skills on the continent to ensure further development of the expertise base needed to support standard setting and compliance.
  • How to increase coordination mechanisms among different institutions involved in sanitary issues (animal health and food safety) at national and regional levels.
  • How to ensure that common or coordinated African positions on standards issues are promoted and that African perspectives are heard in the global arena.
  • How to ensure that private standards do not create insurmountable barriers for poor animal producers.
  • How to harmonize standards, regulations and procedures (surveillance, control and inspections).

3. Opportunities

The WTO's SPS Agreement allows countries to set their own standards, but emphasizes that the regulations must be based on science and should be applied only to the extent necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health. Moreover, they should not arbitrarily or unjustifiably discriminate between countries where identical or similar conditions prevail. The SPS Agreement encourages governments to establish national SPS measures consistent with international standards, guidelines and recommendations as established by reference International Standards Setting Organizations (ISSOs) recognized by WTO, namely Codex Alimentarius for food safety, OIE for animal health and IPPC for plant health. This process is often referred to as 'harmonization'. International standards are often higher than the national requirements of many countries, including developed countries, but the SPS Agreement explicitly permits governments to choose alternative ways of achieving acceptable levels of risk (termed 'equivalence'). Among the alternatives, governments should select those which are not more trade restrictive than required to meet their health objectives. Moreover, if another country can show that the measures it applies provide the same level of health protection then these should be accepted as equivalent.

Some of the opportunities that will guide the development of specific interventions in this programme include:

  • Expansion of intra- and inter-regional markets, and increased demand, including within Africa, for food safety and quality standards for products of animal origin among consumers and retailers; this includes opportunities provided by the rapid growth of supermarkets in Africa.
  • Increased appreciation of the importance of establishing sanitary measures at national, regional and continental levels to improve animal health, welfare and production, and protect human health.
  • Increased quality and science-based participation of Member States in international and regional processes involving standard setting bodies.
  • Desire by Member States and RECs to improve their ability to participate in and influence standard setting and compliance enhancement/facilitation processes.
  • Increased awareness by African countries of the OIE Mediation Process for settling SPS disputes.
  • Increased awareness that the enforcement of sanitary standards contributes to the protection of local consumers and animal producers from poor-quality imported food items or from dumping.