Botho research quoted by Business Daily Africa

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All has not been with Africa’s trade fabric amid standoffs over market access.

For example, Kenya’s milk has had difficulties over time in accessing the Zambian market, while the actual sell-by date of the Kenyan tea has been a subject of controversy in Sudan because of different standards.

And as the heads of state meet this Friday in Niger for the first extraordinary meeting of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the standard differences will remain to be the elephant in the room on implementation of the pact.

Zambia rejected Kenya’s milk more than a decade ago, saying it has a level of bacteria that’s beyond the country’s required maximum.

Zambia allows total bacteria count (TBC) of 200,000 while Kenya follows the international benchmark of one million TBC.

These differences in standards applied by member states can dampen a noble idea on the free movement of goods and services in the continent.

Harmonising standards

In light of this, World Trade Organisation (WTO) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) have started harmonising standards to break the bottlenecks that might hinder free trade of goods among member states.

Kenya is the second country after Uganda, to start implementing the project with the inception meeting and high-level stakeholder dialogue that took place last week in Nairobi.

The project, titled ‘Mainstreaming Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards (SPS) Capacity Building into the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme and other National Policy Frameworks to Enhance Market Access,’ (P-IMA) aims at harmonising different standards in the continent.

Standards and Trade Development Facility, an agency of the WTO, supports the programme.

The P-IMA framework is an evidence-based approach to inform and improve SPS planning and decision-making processes. It helps to link SPS investments to public policy goals including export growth, agricultural productivity, and poverty reduction.

According to a joint study the East African Business Council and Botho Emerging Markets Group, AfCFTA and Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) conducted, each has the potential to transform the operating and commercial environments for East African businesses.

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