The role of standards in powering EU-Africa relations

The African Trade Competitiveness and Market Access Programme (AfTCMA) is a collaborative initiative established in partnership between the European Union and its Member States, and the African Union and five of its Regional Economic Communities.

The principal goal of the program is to bolster sustainable intra-African and EU-Africa trade, which it aims to accomplish by:


  1. Supporting African countries conform to standards and technical regulations, and
  2. Addressing market access constraints to maximize the export potential of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

The programme will be implemented through five regional components, complemented by a unifying continent-wide component aiming to connect the overall structure, ensuring coherence in support of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and economic integration. Each regional component corresponds to a Regional Economic Community.


The CEN and CENELEC Task Force Africa is working to establish the appropriate roles for CEN, CENELEC, and Members within the six components. It has been engaging in dialogue and partnership building with a wide range of regional and global partners: among them, the Pan-African Quality Infrastructure, including African Organisation for Standardization and the African Electrotechnical Standardization Commission; the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA); the five Regional Economic Communities (the East African Community (EAC), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS); and their traditional implementing partners - the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation UNIDO), the International Trade Centre (ITC), and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit.


In particular, CEN and CENELEC have been focussing on three key areas:

  1. Continental component. DG INTPA has invited CEN and CENELEC to contribute to the development of the continental component. Upon successful proposal and negotiation, a formal agreement is expected to be signed by end 2023.
  2. The East African component. CEN, CENELEC, and ITC are approaching the end of discussions to support the East African Community. The focus is on activities to enhance regional standardization, regulatory harmonization, and Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures (SPS), aligning with the African Continental Free Trade Area framework and the Africa Quality Policy. The start is anticipated in September 2023.
  3. The remaining components. CEN and CENELEC are discussing a broader partnership with UNIDO reaching agreement to jointly develop interventions for West, Central and Southern Africa components. If successful, CEN, CENELEC and UNIDO will establish a joint Program Management Unit to implement the programs. The contracts are expected to be signed in Q3/4 2024.

The coming four to six months will be a critical period for CEN and CENELEC, where the scope of their involvement across the different components will be clarified and developed.




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