Jonathan Eze writes on the imperatives of metrology on trade facilitation in Africa
In every country, a national measurement system (NMS) exists to implement and maintain its metrology infrastructure. The NMS affects how measurements are made in a country and their recognition by the international community, which has a wide-ranging impact in its society (including economics, energy, environment, health, manufacturing, industry and consumer confidence).
The effects of metrology on trade and economy are some of the easiest-observed societal impacts. To facilitate fair trade, there must be an agreed system of measurement.
Metrology has wide-ranging impacts on a number of sectors. The effects of metrology on trade and the economy are two of its most-apparent societal impacts. To facilitate fair and accurate trade between countries, there must be an agreed-upon system of measurement.
Accurate measurement and regulation of water, fuel, food, and electricity are critical for consumer protection and promote the flow of goods and services between trading partners.
A common measurement system and quality standards benefit consumers and producers. Also, production at a common standard reduces cost and consumer risk, ensuring that the product meets consumer needs. In addition, transaction costs are reduced through an increased economy of scale. Several studies have indicated that increased standardisation in measurement has a positive impact on GDP.
In the United Kingdom, an estimated 28.4 percent of GDP growth from 1921 to 2013 was the result of standardisation; in Canada between 1981 and 2004 an estimated nine percent of GDP growth was standardisation-related, and in Germany the annual economic benefit of standardisation is an estimated 0.72% of GDP.
In Nigeria, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has been at the forefront in promoting standards and ensuring strict adherences. It is against this backdrop that stakeholders in the country converged on Enugu State, at the 12th AFRIMETS General Assembly, where how to deploy metrology to boost trade in Africa was the focus.
The forum was hosted by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON).
Consequently, SON, while announcing plans to boost trade within the region through metrology, also stressed that the imperative of developing, strengthening and upgrading the national metrological infrastructure to facilitate trade, enhance export, accelerate economic development and protect the environment cannot be over emphasised.
Significantly, Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, reaffirmed the state government’s support to deliver on its core mandate, including supporting the agency’s huge investment in the establishment of a National Metrological Institute in the state capital.
According to him, “As a government, we will continue to pledge our necessary support and assistance towards the attainment of SON’s quest to rid Nigeria of sub-standard products.
We have seen that the road leading to the institute is bad and we will definitely do something about the road, because we believe in this project to bring about the much needed development in the state,” he said.
Ugwuanyi stressed that the importance of metrology cannot be overemphasised, adding that it helps to bring about uniformity in trade and serves as a mechanism to ensure that the unsuspecting Nigerian consumers and Africans at large are not shortchanged of their hard earned money.
On his part, the Director General (DG), SON, Osita Aboloma, disclosed that the present administration has committed resources to human capacity development in metrology and instrumentation.
He added that his agency has over the last few years made concerted efforts at creating awareness on metrology services and their benefits to the nation’s economy and the welfare of her people.
The DG explained that Nigeria’s hosting of the technical committee meetings and general assembly of AFRIMETS was to further boost stakeholders’ awareness of the benefits of metrology to Nigeria and the African continent at large.
While restating SON’s efforts at driving the national quality infrastructure project, Aboloma said Nigeria’s membership of AFRIMETS and other continental and global standardisation bodies has been a deliberate effort in ensuring that the nation participates actively in inter-laboratory comparisons amongst National Institutes of Metrology (NMIs).
The DG also stated: “I must state however that we still require a lot more training to update the capacities of our NMI staff. We therefore look forward to more support from our development partners in that area.
“We have also committed huge resources into developing material capacity in collaboration with our development partners- UNIDO.’’
Also, two former DG’s of SON, Joseph Odumodu and Ndanusa Akanya-corroborated Aboloma, even as they justified the investment by the agency on the institute.
To Odumodu, standardisation must co-habit with metrology, accreditation and conformity assessment.
He stressed, “This project is a dream come true, and I can tell you that Africa will benefit immensely from this project because Nigeria is a very large economy.
“This National Metrology institute will provide services even beyond Nigeria. This project as soon as it takes off will actually begin to show that Nigeria has come of age as an industrialised economy.”
According to Akanya, “Metrology is as old as man, and it is the science of weight and measure. If you use a wrong measurement, you are cheating. People selling rice by the road side know how to cheat consumers because of lack of adequate measurement.
“But, now that we have got the infrastructure, our voices will be louder. We have to educate the society about the impact of metrology on trade. Those people weighing products on scale will be asked to bring their scales for calibration. We have got a whole lot of jobs to do, but awareness is key to achieving this feat”.
The Chairman, AFRIMETS, Mr. Denis Maturi- said the thrust of the event was to take its meetings to Africa, trying to create awareness on the impact of metrology in intra-African trade.
‘‘This project is in line with the African Union’s effort to facilitate trade within the continent,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, the Chairman, Governing Council, SON, Mr. Edet Akpan, said creating awareness in the science of accurate measurement in Africa and assisting in the development and strengthening of metrology infrastructure within the continent are necessary impetus for industrial growth through improved competitiveness of products from Africa.
Akpan who was represented by Mr. Ifeanyi Okoye, a council member of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) stressed that metrology is one of the components of Nigeria’s national quality infrastructure project that is central to the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of the present administration.
As for the Regional Director, UNIDO, Jean Bakole, SON’s metrology institute is the first metrology Institute in the country, stressing that the institute would help to add value to goods manufactured by Nigerian companies to gain acceptability in Africa and world over.
“The Institute will go a long way to add to the value of products coming out of the manufacturing industries. It would also ensure that all products coming out of this country are well calibrated to meet the required standards for African trade. This is a big achievement and going forward, we will need the best experiences from different African countries present here to drive metrology,” he said.
The Managing Director (MD) of Juhel Nigeria Limited, Okoye-described metrology as one of the essential infrastructure that Nigerian manufacturers have been asking for to enable them endorse whichever trade agreement the government intends to sign to boost trade in Africa and beyond.
According to the MD, ‘‘What the organised private sector operators are saying is that government must provide the infrastructure to support the manufacturers; and the metrology institute is one of the infrastructure needed.
“Metrology is one of the infrastructure needed by the manufacturers to showcase their products anywhere in the world.” Okoye also advised that, “NMI must be an institute that is recognised anywhere in the world.”