Learning Opportunity in The Gambia

Posted on: May 05, 2014

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With the vision to transform The Gambia into a dynamic middle income country by 2020, the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration, and Employment, (MOTIE) and a large number of other ministries and agencies, in coordination with NGOs and the private sector are involved in trade-related policy formulation through the National Committee on Trade.

A number of trade-related needs and constraints are perceived as crucial and the MOTIE has received the mandate of building national capacities to enhance compliance with the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). The executing branch for accomplishing this task is The Gambia Standards Bureau (TGSB). TGSB aims at building industrial and trade capacities in The Gambia by providing an essential framework for industry to maintain domestic and foreign confidence in goods and services produced to improve market access and thus facilitate The Gambia´s integration into the global economy.

There is no discussion about what constitutes a “regulation”, a rule or directive issued and maintained by an authority, and therefore a rule with which compliance is mandatory. The term “standard” has however got a different meaning compared to earlier use and definitions. In most countries where standardization was an activity organized as a part of the public sector, standards were often used as substitutes for regulations, and in these cases called “mandatory or obligatory standards”. Use of this concept is now dissuaded. In conjunction with the negotiations on the WTO TBT agreement, “standard” was defined as a document with which compliance is not mandatory. Standards are nowadays voluntary in comparison with regulations.

As standardisation has its roots in industry and technology, the main stakeholders are the economic operators on a market; producers and users, suppliers and customers, traders and consumers. Most of these operators belong to the private sector. The preparation of standards are therefore mostly done by groups representing these stakeholders and when consensus has been reached the standards are adopted and published, still voluntary for the operators to apply, use or implement. If the standard is a good standard, it will be used, if not the standardisation activity becomes a failure.

Standards, even if they are defined as voluntary, can contain provisions formulated as requirements and could therefore be used in contractual contexts (according to both civil and public law). A contract, agreement etc. can use the existence of a standard as a specification of how the clauses of the contract or agreement can be complied with; a reference to standard. This partnership between law and technology is now more and more used both by WTO, but also in regional integration initiatives to obtain trade without barriers.

This learning opportunity illustrated this partnership between regulators and standardizers, and gave participants a foundation for developing needed technical regulations in a manner that will result in confidence and acceptance both within The Gambia and abroad.

The learning opportunity includes three parts :

  • A 2-day event with participation of those who are working with preparation of technical regulations and standards
  • A project work (individual or in groups) during 10 weeks with remote assistance from the instructors
  • A follow-up event in May with project presentations and related feedback

The 2-day event took place, during the past month of March, at National Nutrition Agency (NANA), Bertil Harding Highway, Bakau, and was attended by 15 participants from the TGSB technical committees representing several authorities and the private sector.

The format of the learning opportunity was interactive with inputs from the instructor and dialogues among the participants. Exercises gave participants a chance to apply what they have learnt.

As a final part of the programme, participants selected risk areas for which they agreed to : Assess risks (RA) ; assess regulatory impact (RIA) ; explore existing international standards or ongoing international standardisation and propose appropriate government intervention (if any)

The following risk areas were selected to be analysed in six Gambian project teams

  • Electrical installations
  • Water
  • Fishery products
  • Import and export of plant material
  • Hygienic processes of food entities
  • Legal metrology

 The teams will present their results in the 20th and 21st of May 2014 during a final workshop dealing with agreements on Technical Barriers to Trade. 

TBT Programme, Avenue de Tervuren 32, box 31 - 1040 Brussels - Belgium - Tel: +32-2 739 00 00 - Fax: +32-2 739 00 09 - e-mail: contact@acp-eu-tbt.org - www.acp-eu-tbt.org