By Bassey Udo
The African Quality Assurance Centre (AQAC) developed by the African Export–Import Bank (AFRIXEMBANK) will save Nigeria over $700 million losses in agro-export rejections when operational, the President and Chairman, Board of Trustees of the bank, Benedict Oramah, has said.
Oramah who spoke at the inauguration of the facility on Wednesday in Sagamu, Ogun State, said the facility, the first in its series in Nigeria, would ensure the production and export of quality “made in Africa” agro-produce from the country.
The AQAC laboratory ensure that products from Nigeria meets the required health and safety standards.
Oramah said the country had suffered a loss estimated at $700 million over rejected agro-produce, a situation, the AQUA is set up to address.
“Due to poor quality, over $700 million worth of agro-produce are rejected from Europe alone. About 76 percent of exports from Africa are rejected annually. We are working with a lot of organisations to create the framework for harmonisation of standards across the continent.
“The number of products recalled from European countries and the number of total rejections of African exports grew rapidly between 2020 and 2021, increasing from 67 cases to 338 cases annually.
“A report by the World Trade Organisation said only 24 African countries are eligible for food imports to the US, while 15 African countries are eligible for vegetable exports.
“Rejections at the borders are very costly and it affects export earnings as the export goods are often destroyed by the importing countries,” Oramah said.
The rejection rates, he said, demonstrate the lack of knowledge of the export content standard and the failure of African countries to conduct conformity assessment trials,” Oramah added.
He said AFREXIMBANK would continue to find local solutions to the challenges affecting facilitation of Africa agro-produce, adding that the bank’s approach was to find local solutions to the challenges to the promotional facilitation of African agro-produce.
“It is unacceptable that Africans have to travel thousands of miles to other countries to test and certify their agro-produce for the international market,” he said.
He lauded the Ogun state government for their support in making the AQUA facility a reality, adding that there was no country that aspires to become an export success without solid, quality infrastructure.
To participate effectively in the Agricultural Free Trade Agreements, there is a need for Nigeria to have a sound, quality infrastructure, saying the Ogun State government deserve commendation for making it possible for the bank to locate the facility in its domain.
On his part, the Ogun State governor, Adedapo Abiodun, commended the bank for its commitment to the financial and economic growth of the African continent.
Abiodeun said the bank has been very consistent with its multi-sectorial intervention across board, adding that the choice of Ogun State for the centre was multi-faceted.
“We are an agrarian state. We are the industrial capital of the country and the location is strategic to the busiest highway in the country. This centre aims to make the Nigerian agro-produce acceptable by ensuring the right quality produce are exported from Nigeria.
“This will stimulate economic growth and you can imagine the multiplier effect,” Abiodun said.
The Senior Vice President Africa of Bureau Veritas, Marc Roussel, who is the technical company to run the AQAC, said quality agro-produce was the foundation for ensuring food security in the continent.
Bureau Veritas is a global leader in testing, inspection and certification and Afrixembank’s technical partner on AQAC project in Nigeria.
Roussel stressed the need for quality products to ensure food security in Africa, pointing out that ensuring food security in Africa meant first succeeding in improving the productivity of the agricultural sector and the quality of its products.
“We aim at succeeding in building a strong agri-food industry and integrating it into the global supply chain. Sustainable agriculture is key to transforming Africa and the living conditions of Africans. Technologies, innovation and know-how is now fully available to support a developed agriculture sector,” Roussel said.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari in his goodwill message to the inauguration commended AFREXIMBANK for its commitment and contribution to the economic and financial development of the country.
The President who was represented by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo, lauded AFREXIMBANK for its contributions to the growth and development of Nigeria and Africa in general.
“Establishing and validating standards for goods produced in Nigeria is critical to improving market access, improving acceptability and in turn export capacity of the country. Quality assurance also puts us on the right footing as we continue to drive Nigeria’s industrialisation.
“The potential that the AQAC unlocks to Nigeria cannot be over-emphasised, or even more delighted to note. The inauguration of the project gives Nigeria an unprecedented advantage that will continue to maximise the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) potential,” the President said.
He said the country has commenced the implementation of the Nigerian National Quality infrastructure policy to put in place the necessary regulatory institution, and critical infrastructure to ensure global acceptance of Nigeria’s agro-produce,” Buhari said.