Strategic Programme 4 : Standards and Regulations

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Promoting development of, and compliance with, standards and regulations.


To strengthen Africa's ability to set and comply with essential production and trade standards relevant for animals and animal products (SPS, food safety and quality standards, and certification systems) that facilitate competitiveness of African animal producers to enter high value markets – within and beyond the continent.

1. The context

Safety of products of animal origin, trade and export of animal commodities and control of animal diseases are increasingly governed by international and domestic sanitary standards and regulations. African countries are increasingly under pressure to improve their veterinary services for the control and prevention of animal diseases, including zoonoses, as a prerequisite for entering the competitive arena of international trade in animals and animal products, but also to safeguard global public health. The need for compliance with domestic and international sanitary standards places increasing demands on the financial, human and technological resources of countries seeking to work towards or to maintain compliance with standards and to trade in animal commodities.

While the aspiration to enter the high-value export markets is a worthwhile target, it is clear that, in the short to medium term, the greatest gains for Africa, especially by producers of animal resources, will be the exploitation of regional and domestic markets within the continent. The greatest opportunity for this lies in the fast growing demand for animal products by urban consumers,whose expectation and level of awareness about requirements for food safety standards are consistently comparable to international levels. Consequently, despite the need to have an initial emphasis on markets within Africa, standard setting has to be guided by international parameters. However, national standards and regulations can also represent major barriers to potentially lucrative markets for many African animal keepers who are often unable to comply. Furthermore, private standards, such as those imposed by food processors and supermarkets, can also restrict access by animal producers to domestic markets and opportunities in agribusiness. Improved traceability and alert systems are key elements to ensuring consumer confidence in quality and safety characteristics of locally produced and processed food items.

Improved participation of African institutions in international standards-setting processes is important for Africa: currently, standard setting bodies are dominated by the developed world. Increasing participation of stakeholders along the value chain would not only enhance their capacity to influence standards but also increase their understanding of the benefits of compliance at national, regional and continental levels, thus fostering better adoption. Harmonization of sanitary standards across RECs will facilitate increased inter-regional trade on the continent and enhance the capacity for engagement within the international standard-setting process.

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.

4. Key Results Areas

To enhance the provision of safe food of animal origin to its population and to take part actively in the regional, inter-regional and global trade, African nations should strengthen their national SPS institutions in order to participate effectively in the development and application of international standards and regulations required for food safety, export of animal and animal products, and control of animal diseases.

The key results areas are:

  • Strengthening the capacity of Member States and RECs to contribute effectively in the formulation of international standards and regulations.
  • Improving coordination for common/coordinated positions by African countries.
  • Broadening participation of stakeholders in the animal industry in standards development processes.
  • Harmonization of cross-border sanitary measures.
  • Harmonization of policies, guidelines and modalities for implementing sanitary measures.
  • Building capacity among Member States to implement sanitary measures and monitor compliance with regional and international standards; and support to national SPS coordinating mechanisms for this purpose.
  • Developing national and regional traceability and alert systems.
  • Facilitation of RECs to establish formal agreement with the OIE.
  • Development of sanitary certification schemes.
  • Development of identification and traceability systems in pastoral areas.
  • Establishment of a secretariat to support coordination of animal health and safety standards.
  • Establishing regional food safety and veterinary offices in the RECs to ensure harmonized tracking of and support for compliance.

Outcomes and impacts

Strengthening the capacities of Member States and RECs in the field of standards and regulations will raise the ability to influence standard development process, facilitate trade and access to market, and enforce the standards for producers and consumers' protection.

5. AU-IBAR's roles and strategies to achieve desired goals

There is an increasing realization that trade in livestock and livestock products are vital for development in Africa. All issues that impede trade, including TADs and food safety, need to be addressed to access higher value markets – in and out of Africa. This task includes consideration of the need for regional guidelines for trade, not as standards inferior to international ones but as a means of achieving progressive improvements in sanitary standards for trade in livestock and livestock products. Efforts need to be made to define more clearly the technical, marketing, financial and sociological constraints to such trade and to identify strategies and mechanisms for overcoming them. Strategies that will underpin delivery of the objectives of this programme include:

  • Building expertise within AU-IBAR in order to have the capacity to support Member States and RECs.
  • Developing strategic partnerships with standard setting bodies and other relevant entities to deliver effective capacity development and support for Member States and RECs.
  • Analyses and understanding of the processes and requirements of the global standards and regulations environment to keep African stakeholders abreast of emerging issues, likely implications and needed actions at various levels.
  • Establishing effective mechanisms for implementing standards with peer-review mechanisms for compliance.
  • Establishing a forum for stakeholder networking and mobilization on standards and regulations.
  • Establishing a standing committee of AU Member State experts on animal health and food safety.

To reach these objectives AU-IBAR roles will be focused on:

  • Technical support and capacity building.
  • Coordination of actions that require involvement of multiple countries/RECs.
  • Partnership promotion.
  • Resource mobilization.
  • Facilitation of common platforms to enhance effectiveness in delivery of interventions at the continental level.
  • Advice and advocacy.
  • Facilitation of participation of African countries in standard setting bodies, e.g. Codex Alimentarius Commission, OIE, International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
  • Better coordination of common position for Africa (Africa speaking with one voice) and facilitation of participation in ISSOs activities.