The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was established in 1975 by the Heads of State and Government of fifteen (15) Member States as the Economic Community of the region. The treaty was reaffirmed in 1993. Some of the objectives of ECOWAS are:
The establishment of the Common Market.
Harmonization of Standards and conformity assessment procedures and measures with a view to reducing Technical Barriers to Trade.
Harmonization of national investment codes.
Promoting Integration Programs.
The promotion of intra-community and international trade as well as the strengthening of the industrialization process of ECOWAS Member States.
By Supplementary Act A/SA.1/02/13 of February 28, 2013, the ECOWAS Quality Policy (ECOQUAL) and its implementation framework were adopted. The adoption of this Policy was supplemented by the one of the Statutory Ministers of Regulation C/REG.19/12/13 of 17 December 2013, adopting the ECOWAS Regional Quality Infrastructure Scheme.
These various acts are taken in the context of the signing of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) and the progressive application of the Common External Tariff (CET) of ECOWAS. This will, for sure, require more competitiveness in the economy, full participation in intra-community trade and world trade.
One of the pillars on which this quality policy will be based is standardization.
By Regulation C/REG.14/12/12 on the Adoption of Procedures for the Harmonization of ECOWAS Standards, the ECOWAS Council of Ministers adopted the Harmonization of Standards in the ECOWAS Area (ECOSHAM).
ECOSHAM is based on the African model (ASHAM), and relies on the relevant ISO/IEC Directives. It also takes into account the WTO Agreements on TBTs.
As such, the following international principles guide this ECOSHAM process:
Non-discrimination, Transparency, Impartiality and Consensus, Category Prioritization, Effectiveness and Relevance, Consistency
As part of the harmonization of standards in the region, according to ECOSHAM, six (06) technical committees have been set up and are all operational to date. The committees: THC1 (Agricultural products), THC2 (Food products), THC3 (Chemical products), THC4 (Building materials), THC5 (Electrotechnical products) and THC6 (Tourism).
The technical process of harmonizing a standard is led by all the National Standardization Bodies (NSSOs) of our fifteen Member States through the six Technical Harmonization Committees (THCS) and the Technical Management Committee (TMC ) composed of the fifteen Heads of ONNS.